On Dog, Persons and Commodities
The crimes of Michael Vick haunt me. I look into our beloved dogs’ eyes and I think of the atrocities that Vick and his partners-in-crime committed, and I shudder. “How could they have done such things?”
How could they? By seeing dogs as commodities, as objects to be used for their own convenience and pleasure. In this, they were like puppy mills which raise dogs in isolation and squalor purely for the sake of profit, or like the dog-slanderers who see dogs as creatures who “sleep 22 hours a day . . . drink from a toilet . . . .chow on dog waste. . .” [Regina Brett column, Aug. 10] They cannot see a dog’s humanity.
Humanity – in a dog? Isn’t that going too far? Perhaps. Perhaps it is only the product of a loving imagination. Dogs are not human; they don’t have our capacities nor our values and priorities for the most part. But it is not going too far to say that they are persons. They recognize cause and effect and the passage of time. They understand the language that is important to them. They make decisions – conscious decisions.
At bottom, dogs are conscious beings, as we humans are.
And that may be the greatest gift our dogs give us: Through our relationship with them, in recognizing what they are, we recognize what we are. We recognize that we are essentially conscious beings, not things to be manipulated.
What we sometimes fail to recognize is that we should therefore treat each other as conscious beings, not as commodities. In our relationships with one another, we should balance the welfare of others against our own as best we can, not merely use others for our own purposes.
P.S. Suggestion for the judge who sentences Michael Vick: Work out a deal. Grant a moderate reduction in his prison sentence (24 months reduced to 18 months, for example), in return for a donation of, say, two million dollars; half to be donated to animal welfare groups, primarily to support no-kill dog shelters; the other half to provide bountiful rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone engaged in dog-fighting (this to compensate for the difficulty that law-enforcement agencies face in infiltrating or otherwise gathering evidence on such groups).