Ah, the benefit of pets. Extolled the world wide as some sort of cure all for depression, anxiety, loneliness, and whatever else ails you, these fuzzy creatures are just so cute and helpful. Aaaaand, I’m gonna have to call bullsh*t on that one.
Look, maybe I’m just averse to ANYTHING people promote as a cure all, but, as with meditation, pets just make my life worse. I don’t hate them, I don’t despise animals at all. I love them, which is why people going around and telling lonely people and depressed people to get a dog bothers me.
I’m no vegan, but that doesn’t mean I’m not aware that pets are at least semi-sentient beings, with thoughts and feelings and needs of their own. Dogs and cats and horses and pigs and many others are intelligent beings. Sure, they’ll never cure the common cold, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be treated with respect.
Say you meet a person who is lonely. Would you tell that person to get married, or to adopt a kid? (If you would, I hate you and you should go away, seriously, because you are a problem.) But we tell people who are lonely or depressed to get a dog or a cat or some kind of fuzzy thing they can pet. Why?
I’m sure it’s just because we’ve seen all the studies on the news about how pets are these amazing cure-alls for shut-ins and others. And we smile because it alleves us of the burden of having to take care of our fellow man. I’m sorry, but, yes, most of us are that shallow.
It would be nice if, before condemning an innocent animal to servitude to a person who might not have the means to actually care for it, that we take a step back and examine our actual intentions. I know we all like to think more highly of ourselves than we should, but let’s, to quote M, “take [our] ego out of the equation and judge the situation dispassionately.”
God, I love that quote. It’s my life’s verse. Judi Dench’s M is the best ever. *le sigh*
A pet is a responsibility. It is a HUGE responsibility. Some people cannot afford that responsibility. And some people who suffer from mental illness, might have long periods of time where caring for a pet is more of a strain on them than anything else.
Again, why do we tell people to get a pet? If we really look into it, if we step back and examine our motives, we will see that we haven’t even considered how wrong this is. It can be bad for the pet, they can end up abused or neglected. It can be bad for the person, they might feel guilty because their depression, or whatever is going on, makes them unable to care for their pet. Many people with mental illness are unemployed and how are they supposed to pay for the food and the vet costs?
In all honesty, it would be better to tell the shut in to “get Jesus.” It’s just as guilt inducing and just as costly, but at least Jesus isn’t real. He’s not going to suffer when the person is unable to care for the animal.
Just like religion, telling a person to get a pet takes the burden off of us to help them. “Well, I told them to get a dog. I can’t help it if they’re lonely. They should have listened to me.”
Animals should not be used to assuage our guilt for not helping the needy, for not bringing human comfort to them because we don’t want to make time for that. This will end poorly for both the person and the animal. But, you won’t hear those non-success stories because we don’t like to talk about them.
Pushing pets on people is just like pushing religion on them. When it works, we have them in front of the camera, or the congregation, to tell how much their lives have changed because of the pet. Or is it the religion? No matter, in our eyes, it’s all the same.