Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 6, No. 2, 2007
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Diane Gordon
Robert Rotondo
Dan Stefik
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
David Solway
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward




The word pet in French means flatus, gas or wind. I live in a mostly French city, Montreal, which is why I’m usually smiling.


It was not an uncommon display of public affection. The woman, in her late 30s, not plump by today’s standards and not unattractive, was frolicking with her dog -- a handsome, pedigreed Dalmation -- on one of the grassy knolls in Adoncour Park. Despite the sun, there was a chill in the April air so the owner, let’s call her Diane, made sure her 4-legged friend was buttoned up in a smart foul weather coat.

In what must have been in the spirit of levelling the playing field, Diane suddenly dropped to her knees which facilitated lifting the dog’s front paws as it began licking her unexpectedly very available rosy cheeks, at which point she began to speak in half-dog, half-baby talk while hugging and squeezing The Loved One with every ounce of her immense humanity. It was obvious to my untrained eye that only in death would they part, that this was one dog, unlike many of the planet’s two-footed creatures, who had it made for life, just as it’s a fact that thousands of children routinely starve to death everyday.

As my mind began to force the conjunction of these two not necessarily incompatibles, I began to wonder what it is that we love when we love our pets -- and what in general attracts so many of us to pet hood -- beyond the affection they elicit, the loyalty they lavish, and superb company and distraction they provide. Canadians spend an astounding 4 billion dollars per year on their pets, while it costs only $34/year to feed a starving child.


The hour is late, I’ve had a long day, a late supper. From my posture to expression, I don’t like myself and crave unconsciousness in the form of sleep. I have just slipped out of underwear the Tide box is eyeing suspiciously, when Rex, as usual, insouciantly enters the bedroom. In deference to the dog-hominoid bond that my wife enjoys as much as I, there are but two things I ask of my pet at this unedited time of day: that he keep his tongue to himself, appetite settled on the chicken bones I have set aside for him, and that his regard of me exhibit the accustomed vacuity and dumbness that distinguishes his splendid species. I do not want, under any circumstance, to be judged or be made to feel self-conscious by my ‘beloved’ animal friend. The moment this man’s best friend begins to show even the vaguest shadowings of intelligence, the kind that might require no less than a million years for evolution to make manifest, it’s pet cemetery for Rex – no court of appeal.

If there is a universal law that provides for what is inviolable in our relationships with our animal kingdom favourites, it reads like this: of all that we ask and expect of our pets, what is non-negotiable is that they be totally and incorrigibly stupid. Prior to their well documented behavioural endearments, their affecting stupidity is what we first love about them, and to such an extent that the moment this stupidity is even vaguely threatened, there will come to pass – overnight -- a pet holocaust the likes of which this planet has never known, and pet cemetery will constitute an unbroken line from one end of the earth to the other.

It is hardly a coincidence that as we become more civilized, that is more estranged from our natural selves, we find ourselves more dependent on and involved in the lives of our pets, for what is often disparaged in human nature is countenanced in pet play. There is a philosophical case to be made that we make our values most explicit in our relationships with our pets. I, for one, must confess that, based on evidence that includes servings of Heidegger and dog chow, the only time I find myself in the truth of my being is when I’m in the company of Rex, the unwitting guarantor of my authenticity.

Since we are almost always good to our pets and indifferent to most human suffering, we shouldn’t be surprised that we invariably delegate our best laid plans to the reserve clauses of language which for the most part have no bearing on what’s happening on the ground, that same ground where our dogs have buried the meaty bones we have provided them.

No less than our pets that are wired to be dumb, we are dumb-wired to the fate of almost everything outside our personal sphere of activity. Sadly, it is all too predictable that if the senses haven't been engaged by whatever it is that is under consideration of the mind -- the organ of reason – the latter is likely to treat it and all objects of pure thought as abstractions that have no purchase on reality. Beam our pet loving Diane to a refugee camp where there is no avoiding hunger, squalor and disease, you can be sure that the monies she would otherwise allocate to her pet will be redirected to some real someone whose real suffering has touched her to the quick.

The reason our pets have it good while so many humans have it bad is because we are remarkably indifferent to suffering that doesn't register on or upset the senses -- a state of affairs that is not likely to change unless we make this astonishing fact that which most deserves our attention. At which point, if we're lucky, we'll be capable of identifying the exceptional among us, who have learned to refuse their natures, and for whom conscience means to act in accordance with what is right.



 = shared webhosting, dedicated servers, development/consulting
Care + Net Computer Services
Couleur JAZZ 91.9
E-Tango: Web Design and lowest rates for web hosting
Armand Vaillancourt: sculptor
Available Ad Space
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis