Deconstructing Dog Lovers

Even though the reliable affection of a dog is a comfort to many
humans, some continue to view the bond between pets and their
owners as a ‘meager substitute’ for relationships with other
people. In an essay for
American Sexuality Magazine, University
of North Carolina-Chapel Hill professor Alice A. Kuzniar says
that ‘dog love’ can also be seen as ‘natural,’ and ‘unaffected
and genuine, even as an ideal of harmony.’

‘Taken seriously,’ Kuzniar writes, ‘[pet love] calls for us to
redefine bonds of privacy, succor, and habituation.’ Humans rise
early to walk their dogs before work, nurse them when they get old,
and lean on canines for companionship in times of need. Such mutual
devotion has long given dogs qualities that go beyond those of a
simple pet. Dogs don’t occupy a single role for humans, Kuzniar
observes; rather, they are able to simultaneously act as ‘guardian,
lover, companion, or child.’

Regardless of the role they play in our lives, the relationship
between dogs and humans can be seen as a kind of ‘evolutionary
trick,’ according to Jon Katz, who writes the ‘Heavy Petting’
column for Slate magazine. Katz quotes John
Archer, a psychologist at the University of Central Lancashire in
England, saying, ‘Being attached to animals is not, strictly
speaking, necessary for human health and welfare.’ Archer’s
research suggests that dogs are ‘social parasites’ — expert
manipulators of human emotions who’ve broken countless wills with
downcast faces and soft whimpers.

Katz points out that, in spire of their parasitic tendencies,
dogs do offer more than any simple stomach bug. We give dogs food
and shelter, and in exchange, they give us comfort and affection.
Dogs have adapted to humans, and in turn, humans lavish affection
and creature comforts on their dogs. ‘To grasp this exchange
doesn’t trivialize our love,’ Katz writes, ‘it explains it.’

Go there >>
On Intimacy with Dogs

Go there, too >>
Why People Love Dogs

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