I was in Ottawa yesterday and had a chance to visit my cousin. I saw her walking a dog and since I knew she didn’t have one, inquired as to its provenance. It was a poodle and he looked to my experienced dog-eye, to certainly not be a puppy. “Rescue dog?”, I asked. “No”, she replied, “We got him from a family that didn’t want him anymore”. “What’s wrong with him?”, I asked. “Nothing”, she replied, “He’s quite sweet and well-mannered, but the lady who owned him got a Great Dane as a Christmas present, and the two dogs didn’t get along, so she decided to get rid of this one”. “How old is he”, I asked. “Five”, she answered. “And it was so hard for her three children to let him go” she added.

Now, regular readers of this blog know that I’m pretty practical when it comes to animals. The four dogs we’ve owned have all been working dogs with a specific role to play, usually security and companionship. I eat just about anything including horses, and have no particular sentimentality around the notion of “pets”. But, even to me, the idea of the cavalier and whimsical dispensability of sentient beings, is offensive. Dogs in particular have a unique relationship with human beings. Not everyone is aware that the dog is the only species ever to actively seek out a symbiotic relationship with Man. All other domesticated species have been forced into that role. But the dog’s early ancestors, for whatever reason and through whatever instinct, recognized the value in allying yourself with the Top Dog.

One may eat all manner of animals, and use animals for all kinds of work – such is the nature of life – but I also agree that how a society treats its animals is a mark of its level of civilization. Same for individuals.