Category Archives: Animals
Letters To A Natalist World: What Every Parent Needs to Know in Terms of Social Child Behaviors (MOVED!)
Woops! This blog post has moved. You can find it at its new home HERE.
I recently ran into the old ethical question that pits the life of a pet and the life of a stranger against each-other. I’ve seen the question before, some time ago, and had forgotten all about it until I came across it again just today. Now I can’t seem to get it out of my head.
The ethical question, if you’re unfamiliar with it, takes many forms. Sometimes the set up is that your dog and a stranger are both drowning and you can only save one or the other. Other times, it’s a burning building with the same problem. I even saw one version where you’re approached by a freaking angel who tells you it will kill one or the other and you must choose which will be spared. Many times though, the question just skips the setup (as it’s irrelevant and people always try to use it to dodge the question anyway) and goes right to the dilemma at hand: If one or the other had to die, which would you save?
I’m inclined to think that anyone who would save a human stranger, be it an adult or a baby (as is the case in some versions of the scenario) really shouldn’t be allowed to have a pet. As I say this while having a pet, then you could, I’m sure, guess that I would save my dog.
Most people who choose to save a human will do so with the reasoning that a human, even a stranger, is more important than a dog. I disagree. People are more inclined to favor our own species, but we do so for emotional reasons. All values that we place on other species are entirely subjective. We tend to favor humans simply because we ARE humans. We have a bias in favor of the species that includes ourselves. If a dog could speak to you, it might very well have a contrary opinion, insisting to you that dogs are actually more valuable.
As for subjective values between species, I’ve certainly never seen dogs wage wars or commit genocide, so I find any claim that humans are better to be just a little bit flawed. And with a population of over 7 billion, humans are hardly an endangered species in need of preservation. I can’t find any objective rationale to favor the human over the dog (or cat, or what have you.) I don’t think that any life form is intrinsically more valuable than any other. All values we place, we place based on our own biases and needs. So I’ll put subjective values on species completely out of the way, ignoring that 1. I am human myself and therefore tend to favor humans, often without being conscious of it, 2. personally happen to prefer the company of dogs over that of humans anyway, and 3. acknowledge that the most horrific acts committed on this planet were (and still are) perpetrated by humans, whereas dogs are comparatively innocent as a species.
With cross-species value out of the way, I’m left with what is, to me, the real question: To whom do I owe the greater level of responsibility? If you’re not an animal lover and don’t understand what I mean, replace “your pet” with “your child” (or a child you are babysitting or is otherwise under your care.) When the scenario is your child vs. a stranger, few people would have trouble with the choice at all – they would pick their child. Sure, people would talk about subjective emotions, their bond and attachment with their child (as well as with their pet) and their personal vested interest in the child’s survival, and I don’t doubt that they mean what they say. But the real factor here is, or at least aught to be, responsibility.
This isn’t just a dog vs. a human scenario, it’s specifically my own dog vs. a human stranger. When I took my dog into my home, I was making a contract with her. She became my responsibility. It is therefore my duty to keep her safe and healthy, to love her and care for her, and to protect her and keep her happy. It doesn’t matter one bit that she’s a dog, she’s my responsibility all the same and in a way that no human being, who I do not even know, is, just as a child would be to a parent.
So I say again, anyone who does not save the pet should not have a pet at all as they do not take their responsibility seriously. Ask anyone who works at an animal shelter, and they will tell you that there is, sadly, no shortage of such irresponsible, speciesist people, who get a hold of animals that they then fail to take care of and renege on their responsibilities to.
This question isn’t just some absurd hypothetical, however. I actually have chosen my dog over other people. If you have pets that you take adequate care of, so do you, whether you’re aware of it or not. I’ve had my dog for less than a year, but I’ve spent quite a lot of money on her already. I’m not sure exactly how much money I’ve spent to her benefit, but it has to be on the order of a few thousand dollars by now. When I paid for Molly’s plane ticket, her veterinary care, her food, her toys, her training classes, my pet deposits, and so on, I was spending a great deal of money on a dog that I could have otherwise spent donating to charities that keep the world’s starving fed or could have gone to medical research and treatment or could have helped people pay their rent to stay off the streets.
Of course, I’m not thinking about any of this as I go through the checkout at the pet-store, but that’s still what I, and every other responsible pet-owner, is doing. People who spend money on their children are doing the exact same thing. How much money have you spent on your animal friends or on your kids? Do you feel guilty about it? You shouldn’t. I don’t.
Sure, I have, to a certain degree, a level of responsibility that I owe to every human being on the planet, whether I know them or not. I don’t deny this. However, it’s not the same kind of personal responsibility that I owe to my dog. I do still try to help my fellow human in any way that I can. I have done volunteer work and donate to charities that aid humans. But at the end of the day, if I had to pick between the two, I’d pick my dog over a stranger every time. Morally, it’s the only acceptable course of action that I see.
Forget candle-lit dinners in snooty restaurants, give me a slightly burnt steak in the woods.
A few days back, my boyfriend, dog, and I ventured into Pike’s National Forest for dinner. It was a decent drive on the dirt paths winding up the mountain, and one we’d taken before. We finally stopped near the top of one very high hilltop, deep in the woods, where few people go.
We set up camp, including a tent I purchased second-hand from Rocky Mountain Recyclers. Mostly, we wanted to test it out. It set up quickly (and later, came down quickly) and appeared as though it would serve us well. Boyfriend sprayed it down with a water-resistant coating to protect it, while it was up.
Although we brought the tent and set it up, we had no intention of actually staying the night. We only wanted to test out a few things, and see what we might need later. For one thing, we didn’t have a bear canister, or any means really of avoiding attracting animals. As a result, we didn’t bother to bring a number of things we’d typically need for an overnight stay (although we do have emergency packs, just in case.)
Setting up a fire was easy. The boyfriend had called the ranger station earlier that day to confirm that there was no fire ban and find out what rules were in effect. The woman on the phone said that it was preferable that we use an existing fire site (not necessarily an artificial fire pit, but somewhere people have burned before to avoid further environmental impact.) There was a large ash pile near where we set up. It looked like someone had a large bonfire there. But there was too much ash for that site to be any good for cooking, and it was full of shell casings and broken glass.
However, we quickly found another fire site nearby where it looked as though someone had buried a small fire pit. It was perfect. We cleared the layer of dead plant matter, made a rock circle, and collected dead, dry pine needles for tinder. There was some trouble getting the needles to stay lit. It was probably an oxygen issue. We’ll try making a teepee of small twigs and placing needles around it next time to encourage more air flow. This time, however, I took some dryer lint from my emergency kit (I had earlier poured a very small amount of lantern oil on the lint before packing it) and placed it under the needle bundle. It worked quiet well and we were off. We had no trouble keeping the fire going after that, as there was no shortage of dead, dry wood about. Boyfriend employed his ax, but I found little need for it.
Once the fire had been burning for a while and we had some good coals, we set up my small, metal, campfire grill. This was actually the first time that I’ve been able to use it since I bought it. It was sturdy where it stood, but next time, I think we’ll sink the legs into the dirt a bit more. The steaks cooked beautifully (the boyfriend saw to that.) I like mine juicy on the inside, and crispy on the outside, and that’s exactly what I got (my steak was even on fire a little bit.)
I tried a few experiments. Before we left home, we prepared two baked potatoes wrapped in heavy-duty tin foil. We placed these directly on the coals. It was taking forever to cook. At one point, we put the foil bundles on top of the grill, but then quickly moved them away from direct flame (a few sticks I placed earlier caught larger than I intended) when we remembered the relatively-low melting point of aluminum (about 1200F, if I recall.) It might have worked better if our tin foil bundles hadn’t leaked. I had to keep adding water. Next time, I think we’ll double-layer the foil. Still, what we eventually got was delicious even if the potatoes were a bit firm and bacon pieces a bit burnt.
The lazy bannock did not work so well. Somehow, I got it in my head that I could just use biscuit dough. I tried some wrapped around a stick, and some rolled into balls and placed on the grill. It all just melted.
My last experiment involved an aluminum water bottle from the dollar store. I wanted to see if I could boil water without melting a cheap water bottle. The outside of the container did blacken, but didn’t melt. I was able to safely boil water without any problem. Next time, I think I might be able to boil the water farther away from the fire to avoid charring the bottle. In any case, it’s nice to know that, in an emergency, I can boil water in a sturdy container that only cost me one dollar.
Molly was pleased with the whole trip, it seemed. I placed a blanket on the ground for her, and put food in water in her folding doggy dishes. She was more than happy to take our leftover potatoes and steak. A few times, she wandered a little ways into the woods, which worries us as there could be dangerous animals around, but she always returned to us quickly when called. She doesn’t much like to be alone anyway, and was probably just following a smell and didn’t realize how far she’d gotten. Eventually, she happily settled on her blanket.
As it grew later, the temperature began to drop. My boyfriend wandered over to where he’d rested his gear against a tree, and retrieved his sweater. Just as he pulled the sweater over his head, Molly stood and growled. She lowered he head and body slightly and her hair stood on end. She crept forward slowly, towards the direction where my boyfriend was standing. Immediately, my boyfriend grabbed his shotgun and aimed it into the woods. I flipped the knife I was holding. We still aren’t sure if Molly saw or heard something threatening in that direction, or if she was just growling at the boyfriend because something about the sweater bothered her (she once threw a barking fit the first time she saw the boyfriend with shaving cream on.) We assumed the worst and were on high alert for a bear or mountain lion or possibly a hostile human, possibly attracted by the food or by us. However, we never saw anything.
As it began to grow dark and cloudy, with the temperature dropping and with starting, followed by some light rain, we packed up quickly, fearing a storm. I was amazed at how quickly we got everything back together, even though we didn’t really have much. The fire was thoroughly out (Boyfriend poured something like two gallons of water on it, and it was never a big fire anyway,) and our tent was down, our food and chairs were stowed in the Pathfinder in no time. Then we drove down the mountain, pleased with how well the roof lights my boyfriend had installed were working.
It was a smoky, dirty, a bit of work, a bit out of the way, imperfect, exciting, and fun outing. It was a great way to enjoy dinner.
Yesterday, my family ventured to Bear-Creek Dog Park. We’d been there a few times before, and quite enjoy it. The park is HUGE. It has an area for large dogs and small dogs, as many parks do. There are clear areas, wooded areas, and a mountain-runoff creek running through for the dogs to play in. There are free donated balls is a basket, a bin of shopping bags for owners to have no excuse not to clean up after their dogs, drinking fountains for humans and dogs, a restroom with a lockout for dogs to wait in, benches, and picnic tables.
It’s nice to bring Molly out. She certainly enjoys the change of pace. Being outside is fun for her, there’s a lot to see and smell and the socialization with humans and dogs is good for her. As for myself, I enjoy seeing Molly have a good time. It’s also nice for me to get to a park, and one with so few children (no screaming!) It’s fun to look around, identifying different dog breeds is if I was at a car show and pleased to see models that I like. I get to see and play with more dogs than I could ever take in to my own home, and that’s quite nice. The other owners have nice chit chat about our dogs, training, care, and so on. Really, a good time is had by all.
Yesterday, it was hot. Whereas other days she either avoided the creek, or tried to cross it by hopping on rocks and avoiding getting her paws wet, she spent most of her day in the water yesterday. All we had to do to keep her entertained was throw her Frisbee in the water and she would jump happily jump right in after it.
We noticed that Molly is very non-confrontational. If another dog so much as came near her toy, she’d approach slowly to see if the other dog would take it. If another dog did take it, she wouldn’t try to grab it but would simply follow the dog around and wait for the dog to drop it so she could get it back. There was one dog in particular who would take Molly’s Frisbee, and then trot away from her casually. The owner said that dog is probably not really interested in the Frisbee but just likes to be chased and has actually learned to run slower just so other dogs could keep up. As for chasing, Molly was happy to oblige.
At one point, another dog a bit larger than Molly invited her to play by wagging his tail and bowing, but also by barking and growling, which Molly evidently found intimidating. When the other dog would bark, Molly would run over to either myself or my boyfriend for safety, but wouldn’t bark or growl back. The barking dog simply found someone else to play with.
The three of us then wandered the huge park, playing fetch as we went along. By the time we had circled the park and returned to our car, Molly was already mostly dry. Happily, we use a dog tarp in the back seat of our Pathfinder, so a moist and slightly muddy dog isn’t a problem, although we really should have brought a towel (Douglas Adams would be displeased to know we forgot one that day.)
It was a fun day. We’re always smiling at that park as we just have a great time. Best of all, it’s free. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon with our dear Molly.
Yesterday, my family hit the Waldo Canyon Loop Trail. We hadn’t been able to go hiking in quite a while, due to conflicting schedules and other plans, so it was nice to get out.
My Boyfriend found the trail using AllTrails, and downloaded the map, which is a nice feature of the app. We had an embarrassing amount of trouble finding the trailhead, as the dropped pin on Google maps was about a mile off. After we passed the dropped pin, we pulled into a small parking lot on the side of the highway to turn around. After driving around a bit, unable to find the place, we realized that parking lot we turned around in was actually our trail head – doh!
Once we got going, and hiked far enough for the highway to be out of earshot, we quite liked the trail. We enjoyed the thick woods as well as the scenic views. The trail itself seemed well-maintained, which I surely appreciated. There was evidence that a tree had fallen onto the trail, but had been cut and moved out of the way. Further down, there was a nice bench made of polished logs made by a local scout troop
This was the first hike that Molly wore her dog backpack for. It fits a bit awkward on her as she’s too large for a small, but a bit too petite for the medium-sized pack that I bought. Still, it didn’t seem bother her at all, and she loves putting it on as she knows it means going somewhere fun (we’ve had her wear it to the dog park to get used to it.) It was really nice not to have to unpack ourselves to give Molly food and water when she needed it, she had that herself. In one side of her pack, she had her water, on the other side, she had her food and a collapsible bowl with compartments for food and water. You can carry your own things now, dog!
Sadly, as we had a late start, we weren’t able to complete the trail and had to turn back early. It was getting dark by the time we made it back to our car. It would be nice to return to this trail another time.