The Dangers of Animal Idolatry

One characteristic that marks the decline of our culture is the way we personify animals, that is, elevate them to a human level and sometimes above a human level. Some cultures deified animals. A civilized people do not adore, as in venerate, animals. The Sumerians, Egyptians, and Vikings all had dog gods and people were subjugated to them. A people that venerates animals has misplaced the truth, forgotten their God, and detests its people. It’s been said the morality of a nation is reflected in the character of its women. If that’s the case then perhaps as the primary role of women has moved from child bearers to income earners, our dogs have become more important than children.

Horses once held the highest personified place in our society. We bet on them and gave them names like Man of War. We rode them and named them Black Beauty, Mr. Ed, and Flicka, but they didn’t intrude in our lives. At their best they were our beasts of burden, “Whoa Nelly,” and they increased our physical power until the machines of the industrial revolution replaced them. They stayed predominantly in the field; no one walked them up and down the street allowing them to defecate on a stranger’s lawn — although Amish horses do defecate on our highways, but we’ve given them a religious exemption.

Animals are animals, not people.   Although dogs are like people in one way, they are unpredictable. Recent research by geneticist Elinor Karlsson at the University of Massachusetts has shown there’s a huge amount of behavioral variation in every breed. If you don’t trust people, then you shouldn’t trust a dog either. Sadly, we have a violent dog endemic in America and like inner city violence, we just ignore it. Those who personify animals, any animal, with human traits and characteristics, should read about the dog-sitter who had her face ripped off by dogs just prior to Christmas in 2021, or the North Carolina woman who had her arms torn off by attacking dogs while out for a walk or the Oklahoma woman who was mauled so badly by dogs that police thought she’d been stabbed to death or the Alabama state worker mauled to death while investigating a dog attack. 

The most alarming part of the dog sitter story is the paramedics and police couldn’t enter the home because the dogs wouldn’t let them. The woman suffered and nearly bled to death on the floor for thirty-seven minutes, because police wouldn’t kill the dogs. They were afraid of the backlash they might receive from the community. A culture that puts an animal life on the same level as a person’s life, and that values an animal as much as people, is a declining one, and maybe even a dead one.

Remember the incident in Central Park? Amy, the culprit, would have reacted the same way whether the man was black or white or whether the person was a woman or man. Because in Amy’s mind, her dog reflects who she is, hence the man was attacking her personally. She had the dog unleashed, a park violation, because an unleashed dog represents freedom, that is, untethered liberty even though that untethered liberty might literally bite somebody. You’ve heard of parents living vicariously through their children; Amy was living vicariously through her dog.

Her dog reflected the person she is, in the same way pit bulls reflect the aggression of their owners. When I see a pit bull, I’m afraid. The real issue in the Central Park incident is the personification of animals, not racism. In Lancaster City, residents complain to police about kids making noise in the street while their neighbors have squealing and stressed-out little dogs that won’t stop barking. You can’t tell your neighbors their dogs have no right to keep you up all night or to poop on your sidewalk. Recently I saw a borough library posting of a Rottweiler dressed like a clown. Kids are supposed to bring their favorite book to the public library and read to the Rottweiler. Does the librarian realize what a Rottweiler could do to a child? Suppose the Rottweiler didn’t want to go to work that morning?

When I was a kid, nobody, I mean nobody allowed their dog to defecate on someone else’s property. Back in the day, they would have locked them up at Embreeville State Mental Hospital until the doctors felt their heads were screwed back on correctly. Can you imagine what people fifty years ago would think of people who went around picking up dog feces? Where I come from you might do that with an old digging shovel that’s handle was ready to break. Anyone who picked up feces, except for a baby’s dump, would never have visitors to their house for a picnic. They would be considered unclean.

How did this happen?

This adoration of animals especially dogs happened without our noticing it. The Me Generation, my generation, was overcome by their self-love. As Yeats says, “And what if excess of love bewildered them till they died?“ We got bored because there just wasn’t enough of ourselves to satisfy ourselves. Too much love spoiled us. Our self-love could never be requited. Overcome by our narcissism, the Me Generation continued to disappoint itself. It kept standing itself up. It never showed up for a date it had with its own manifest destiny as George Will’s Greatest Generation did. Will’s generation is noted for its love of country; the Me Generation is noted for its love of self. Who we thought we were, never showed-up. We felt God was too remote, so we turned to the closest thing besides our parents who we thought loved us unconditionally…our dogs.  We remembered Bambi and Lassie that propagandized man’s inhumanity to animals. We devolved to love the beasts of the field, the trees, and mother earth in an elevated animism. Environmentalism was spawned from our narcissism. If we didn’t have enough love to requite ourselves, maybe Mother Earth could. And who wanted dependents when you couldn’t depend on yourself? Who wanted children when you as a parent hadn’t yet reached adulthood, even though your age indicated you had? Children became out of style. An independent woman was stylish with her Virginia Slims cigarettes and Afghan Hound walking down the streets of Manhattan. As Gertrude Stein said, “The secret to staying young is staying thin.”

This animism has reached its zenith with our cultural fetish with dogs, where dogs are thought to have healing powers because their salty tongues lick their wounds (and their bottoms) and they heal faster. Dogs are personified with the best characteristics of humans. They are healers, comforters, and protectors. Dogs are also personified with the worst of human characteristics, as fighters and aggressors. We call them comfort dogs and walk them in Walmart and seat them on flights to Australia. The other day I had to tolerate one in a restaurant as he drooled a liquid puddle on the floor and panted beside my booth. I could smell the flea powder.  I may never eat Italian food again because of the olfactory association with the astringent smell of flea powder. While I ate my spaghetti and meatballs, our eyes met. His ears perked up as if to challenge me to say something to his owner. I failed to speak because I didn’t want to show my human privilege.

We protest euthanizing unwanted animals and executing murderers but advocate for abortion rights, the killing of innocents. Is this not a red flag for a declining culture? A dead culture? Dogs are victims, too, and the SPCA an institution of patriarchy. I compare our personification of animals, especially dogs, to Caligula making his horse a senator. Somebody should research the correlation between the infatuation with animals and the decline of cultures. A leashed dog is a passport to anyone’s private property. To have a dog is a rite of passage to fitness and the great outdoors. Your dog is your liberator. Dogs have decolonized the most wretched of the earth. Dogs have become our spokesperson. They tell the world who we are. They reinforce, no, they enforce our identity.

 Dogs became an international item recently when reports came out of Afghanistan that Army dogs were being left behind. This wasn’t true but nonetheless the animal shelters in Kabul were emptied and stray mutts were rescued before essential personnel  at risk from Taliban reprisals. Opinions were mixed.

“What would you say if I sent an ambulance to save my dog rather than to save your mother?” Conservative lawmaker Tom Tugendhat, who served with the British Army in Afghanistan said. “We’ve just used a lot of troops to bring in 200 dogs. Meanwhile my interpreter’s family is likely to be killed.”

Columnist Christine Flowers’ of the Daily Local News last straw with humanity came when she heard that these mutts had been abandoned. “But the thing that pushed me over the edge…was the news that dogs were being left behind, released from their cages and allowed to roam like strays through Taliban-infested streets”. Flowers actually made me feel sympathy for the Taliban who had to roam through dog-infested streets. Rabies is almost 100% fatal and not a choice manner of death.

Flowers made no distinction between army dogs and stray mutts. “Does it matter if they were military dogs or simply the pets who both worked with and protected American contractors and other citizens living in Kabul? Does the nature of the dog’s ‘usefulness’ to our country change our obligation to make sure they will not needlessly suffer?” Christine, the answer is yes. She continues, “Dogs are the reflection of innocent, pure devotion. As we grow up, we lose that. It’s replaced with narcissism, self-interest and calculation. Dogs have none of that.”

Christine, stop feeding your dog and see how devoted he is. If dogs do not have the human characteristics of narcissism, self-interest, and calculation, then how could they have ‘pure devotion’? Have we bred dogs to rationally pick and choose their emotions? It sounds like Ms. Flowers is elevating dogs to a Godhead position like Anubis the Egyptian God.

A Postmodern Lynching

The other day, according to a local Facebook group, a stray dog was hit in the local borough and the driver was lynched. Lynched online that is. The original post to the Facebook group was by a high school girl (HSG) who witnessed the event. I looked up her Facebook page. She has lots of pictures of herself. She takes pride in her appearance and doesn’t mind drawing attention to herself. She sounds the first alarm. She is the hero. She’s the head majorette in the parade so to speak. So anxious she is to take credit for the narrative. She is our Abigail Williams, the first to point a finger at Sarah Good. She thrives on drama. When those endorphins kick in she feels like a thousand tongues are lapping her body. The problem with drama queens is that the drama can’t be sustained forever. Eventually people lose interest and stop paying attention.  Once those endorphins shut off, the drama queen crashes. Our HSG drama queen does back off when one of the commentators accuses her of not doing as much as she should have to help the dog. The commentators reactions display many commonalities with Salem’s mass hysteria. It’s a digital whisper down the line that crescendos with the call for the driver’s torture and death.

According to the high school girl’s post, “I was walking and saw a dog get hit by a car… it was a White Pit bull (maybe) with a Red collar or harness thing (not a full harness but it’s had the multiple straps) I would say probably only a year old maybe even less. I ran up to the dog immediately and it had no pulse. Not sure of gender I have a (non-graphic photo of the dog if anyone thinks it could be theirs or any one they know)”

Right after her post, the administrator of the group gets the ball rolling when he mentions the license plate of the driver. “I hope she got the license number but guess her priority was the poor dog.”

It seems to me at this point that the locals are forming a posse. Time to saddle up and holster your six-shooters. A crowd morality is beginning to be formed. Becoming a member of a crowd serves to unlock the unconscious mind according to Freud. People act in strange ways.

The following posts reminded me of the movie The Ox-Bow Incident where some cowboys are falsely accused of being rustlers and hanged by a vigilante mob seconds before the sheriff who could have cleared them, arrives; and the high school girl’s original post reminded me of the girls who made witchcraft accusations in The Crucible.  People jump to judgement before they know the facts. If ever there was a case made for the recent anti-lynching law that Congress passed, these public comments would justify it. Many said that we don’t need a lynching law, that it’s outdated. As long as people have a lynching attitude, we need a lynching law.

No one in the group commented on or placed an onus on the dog’s owner who is legally responsible for the dog and its safety. The law is never mentioned. The law puts a damper on vigilante rule.  Here’s a history of the posts and I have labeled the individuals commenting, alphabetically.

Person A: “That breaks my heart!! People drive way too fast, and aren’t stopping for the stop signs either.. poor, sweet baby!”
Person A personifies the dog, giving it human characteristics, by calling it a baby.

Person B: “That’s terrible. What kind of person doesn’t stop??? I hope the person gets caught and is charged with animal cruelty. Too many people speed in this town. I’m always out walking my dog and see it way too frequently. This is heartbreaking.”
Person B prejudges the driver and questions the character of the driver. She already has a posse ready to go out and find the driver. She has the charges already filed. She assumes the driver was speeding. Besides judging the driver as a base character, she has charged the driver with animal cruelty and speeding. All she needs to do is find a tree and borrow a rope.

Person C: “Thank you for helping the poor baby. I don’t understand I hit a squirrel n feel  bad yet them keep going may they b caught or karma.”
Person C affirms the personification of the dog by calling it a poor baby. She wants us to feel compassion for the squirrels as well. She wants the driver to get caught or karma, that is, she wants him to get hit by a car too. Here she equates the death of an animal to the death of a human being.

Person D: “People make me sick  I hope the piece of shit who hit and ran that poor baby gets KARMA in a LONG DRAWN OUT TORTUROUS WAY.…”
Person D is sickened by the driver and labels him a piece of shit. She too personifies the dog calling it a poor baby. She too hopes the driver gets hit by a car, karma, but she also wants the driver to suffer. She wants him to be tortured. I can see her in the town square pulling the orange red tongs out of the furnace to apply to the driver’s skin.

Person E:  “Was it already dead or didn’t you care”
Person E even lashes out at the high school girl who posted the original post. Person E asks the high school girl if she cares if the dog was dead or alive. Here we have the case where even the person who reports the crime is guilty of the crime. Everyone involved must be purged and punished. Sounds like Stalinist Russia; best a hundred be killed than one guilty get away. E feels that the high school girl should have rendered some kind of first aid. The domestication of dogs has made them more secure but not safer. Approaching any animal in distress is very dangerous.

Person F: “It wasnt [sic] her- she is just sharing the post.. and also the person who got the dog off the road isnt [sic] the one who hit it. She ran to dogs side and helped get it off the road but couldn’t [sic] find a pulse. Why would talk at them they are the one.”
Person F defends the high school girl. It looks like people are beginning to take sides.

Person G: “Here is the dog running from 6th street towards 5th on Poplar. Please pass this around to help find the owner.”
Person G posts a video of the dog running down the street. She wants to help find the owner who she assumes cares about a dog that they have neglected since it is running loose. Person G posits all dog owners in her tribe, a protected class. In primitive times, dog owners might be in the high priest class.

Person H: “There was a woman looking for a dog all white people she said there was a phone number on the tag”

Person I: “Please report the kind of car to the police”
Person I brings our attention back to the driver and away from the owner of the dog.

Person J: ”Unless the driver was speeding, not their fault. But YES THEY SHOULD HAVE STAYED AND HANDLED IT PROPERLY. Animals dart out in front of vehicles. Sometimes it’s too late to stop.”
Person J is the first to be sympathetic to the driver. However, I recall when a postman stopped his mail truck in a community after he hit a dog. The community put the postal worker in the hospital for two weeks. I would stop and call the police if I hit a dog, but I wouldn’t leave my vehicle.

I recall when a mother of three was attacked and killed by a mountain lion in California. There were two funds set up: one for the cougar cubs and one for the children of the mother. The cougar cubs received over $100K+. The woman’s children received $14K.

Person K:  “very true. It very well could have been an accident. It’s just so sad they left it there to suffer.  Although, it sounds it didn’t”
Person K says that it “could have been an accident” although by use of the modal “could” she’s telling us that likely it was intentional.

Person L: “Shame on the driver!”
Person L is a little premature with the shaming. The real shaming should be waged against Persons C, D, Q, and S. Their comments are abominable.

Person M: “It amazes me how many people don’t even try to get out of the way of any animals on the road. Between working and driving home from work I drive at least 120 miles a day and I’ve seen it all.”
The only animals I purposely try to get out of the way of are people and turtles. To avoid other animals puts myself, my passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers at risk.

Person N: “Very sad for the fur baby and all involved. Sounds the police were contacted.”

The following comment is from the assistant of the man who hit the dog. It appears that three people from an elite New Jersey golf club were in the area for business. Perhaps they were in the area to invest in the community.
Person O: “The guy who hit the dog did not drive off. He pulled into the _________ parking lot so he could call the police and check on the dog. I know because I sat with him and the other gentleman while they waited for the police to arrive. It was not a pit bull but a smaller breed mix. Possibly terrier. He did have a red harness with white, tan and black markings. He was not neutered or microchipped. The police said they would hold him until the evening in hopes of finding the owner. They have a picture of him for anyone who thinks he might belong to them.”
The following comments were made after it was posted that the man had stopped after he’d hit the dog. No one apologizes to him for their comments. I wonder if he’s still interested in investing in the community?

Person P: “The person that hit the dog DID NOT drive off!!! He stayed at the scene, and called the police!!!”
Person P is the sheriff who arrives too late. By now, the driver is hanging from a tree.

Person Q: “So sad! It’s a shame we live amongst people that driver! Makes me sick!”
Even after Person P. , “the sheriff” arrived, Person Q still wants revenge. There must be blood. People make her sick and she prefers to live amongst dogs, I guess.

Person R: “I couldn’t imagine not stopping to try to help. I personally would be traumatized by it! Thanks for letting me know.”
Person S:  “I hate people I’m sorry I have to say that but it’s true”
Person T: “I’m so sick to my stomach where doggie now?”
Person U: “this is sickening”
Person V: “Hate that this happened. RIP sweet fur baby. I wish people would be more responsible with their pets to prevent things this.”
Person W: “sometimes dogs get loose it’s not the owner’s fault. Speaking from someone whose dog who got loose and got hit by a car and died. We’re very responsible owners but there was nothing we could do.”
Person X: “I had a fenced in yard as a kid and the dogs still got loose sometimes…  things happen.”
Person Y: “So terribly sad. Was the owner found???”
Person Z: “Thanks for stopping and doing what you could. It breaks my heart that people think so little of someone’s beloved pets.”

Person A1: “Thank you for taking the time, and compassion to help this poor Dog …. RIP sweet, innocent Doggy”
Person A2: “I grabbed a terrier there in the same spot. An older lady came out maybe 2 doors down and I walked it to her. I was sadly thinking why have a puppy if you do not have fence or a long leash…and can hardly walk. Not to be offensive it just really seemed…”
Person A3: “Awe, this breaks my heart.”

What else breaks your heart Person A3? Does the three-year old dead Black child in Philly used as shield against bullets by her drug addict father break your heart? Does it break your heart that your neighbors were ready to destroy the life of an innocent man who accidentally ran over a dog? Does your heart break for his wife and children who might stay up at night worried whether some nut will come from the borough to torture him? Did you see what Person D said? She’s your neighbor. How many saved strays will quiet her soul so that she can rejoin the human family?