A dog is a dog, not a child

Published 10:02 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2017

By Susan and Biff Andrews

Sharks and bears aren’t mean and fierce — they’re just hungry. The same goes for mosquitoes and rats: just hungry.

Kittens don’t try to be cute. Eagles are just big hungry birds, not noble national symbols. Snakes have no connection to Lucifer, Dis, Pluto, Satan, yada yada yada. It’s all in your head, or your upbringing.

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Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics to non-human entities, whether they are animate or inanimate.

Concerning the inanimate, my father used to complain about “the perversity of inanimate objects” — the lawnmower that won’t start, the screw that falls in the bilge, the jammed knot that you just can’t get loose.

The lawnmower and screw don’t hate you; the knot isn’t trying to spite you. It just seems that way.

When it comes to Mother Nature’s critters, don’t make your French poodle wear a beret and a tutu — Fifi is French in name only. She probably came from a puppy mill in Coinjock. Your Scottie doesn’t need a tam o’shanter and a kilt. Same puppy farm.

Birds don’t chirp for your listening pleasure. It’s probably to attract a mate. Flowers aren’t beautiful and sweet smelling for you and your sweet patootie.  They’re out to ensure their own propagation. And fire is not “a good servant but a bad master.” It’s a source of heat, a cooking aid and an elemental fact of life, needed by longleaf pines to survive.

But it destroys stuff. It is what it is.

Dog owners: Your dogs would rather be rolling on a dead fish than sleeping in a perfumed bed. Dogs do that. They don’t wear human fashions. They don’t care whether their name is Poochie or Rover. And as long as their tummy is full, the taste need not be gourmet.

Cat lovers: same same. A cat would rather play with a wounded mouse or butterfly than a ball of yarn. It might seem cruel, but a ball of yarn doesn’t squeal or wiggle or flutter.

My Siamese cat looks like all Egyptian queens and Oriental princesses combined — regal, aloof, serene, noble — but she refuses to be held or put on any leash, God forbid. She would prefer a wounded bug to a freshly caught flounder any day.

So, the sun is not smiling down on you; the rain is not soaking you out of malice. Don’t anthropomorphize. Don’t torment your dog with sunglasses or clothing (although we make our dog wear a big red bow until noon on Christmas Day).

Leave the cat alone, inscrutable as she may be. If you want to know what a cat is thinking, read Rudyard Kipling’s “The Cat Who Walked by Himself.” If you think you understand cats, cat lovers and cat haters, read Adlai Stevenson’s statement of veto of “The Cat Bill” in the Ohio legislature on April 23, 1949. Just research “The Cat Bill.”

Slugs, porpoises, tiger swallowtails, and carrion-eating vultures — all God’s children have a place in the choir.

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.