Friday, November 4, 2011

On meat, pets, grief, and the our complicated humanimality.

Pet Lovers, Pathologized -

In popular culture, celebrities who take on animal causes are seen as a bit crazy — rich versions of the “crazy cat lady,” or dog-crazy Leona Helmsley. Not coincidentally, they are usually women. And, our relationships to the animals with whom (or rather which,to be grammatically correct) we live is given very little status in our society. Despite the proliferation of “cute” pet pictures and anecdotes on the Web, actual displays of affection toward one’s pet or companion animal, or grief expressed over their illness or death, is looked upon with ridicule.
I disagree with the assertion that grief over a pet's death is looked upon with ridicule. If there's anything that my facebook friends (myself included) do consistently it's commiserate and offer solace to friends who've lost a loved one, including a pet. I can't recall anyone ever saying to someone who just lost a cat or dog, "Get over it, dude, it was just an animal." Whether we're dog- or cat-lovers, we can even empathize across types because we know what it is to bond with an animal.

If anything, and here I know I risk sounding like a nutter, but I think people who get obsessive and mark anniversaries of a parent, grandparent, or some other loved one's death with chest-beating and moaning are the ridiculous. Everybody dies. Some die in old age, some tragically young; we grieve and remember them, but self-inducing depression and making a spectacle of yourself about it are things that make you look neurotic -- far more than the perfectly understandable feeling of loss after a pet's death.

We are animals. Naturally, we bond more closely with our friends and family than we do with animals of other species, consequently we will usually grieve more deeply for a human loved one's death. But, we are animals. We eat, breathe, sleep, excrete, play, seek shelter, procreate, and experience the world around us in ways that are far more like other animals than most are comfortable admitting.

This is all my long-winded way of saying maybe we should let ourselves grieve for our non-human, animal friends a little less self-consciously, and for our deceased human animal loved ones a little less pitiably.
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