Animal Culture

Do you own animals so that they can get a job done?

It’s always a good reminder to have a conversation with someone from another country who has animals for different reasons than I do. I give my animals jobs. But my dogs aren’t full-time watch dogs! Sure, if I’m alone at home, I don’t correct them for letting out one growl if they hear a bad noise outside. But that rarely happens… While waiting in line at an office yesterday, I talked to a man from Istanbul. He started a conversation with me because I had my big poodle with me whom I’m developing as a guide dog for the blind.

We talked about animals for quite a while. He kept saying things like:

“My dog back home – people change to the opposite side of the street when they walk by our house, because they’re so afraid of him. He’s big. Such a good dog. Really strong and aggressive – nice to me though! But he growls at anyone coming by my place.”

When I talk with people who drop these kinds of comments about their dogs, I take it with a pinch of salt. He raised that dog to be a ferocious guard dog because he has a farm and he mentioned that his neighbors were no-good people. It would be different if he didn’t want his dog to be a guard dog and the dog barked at people anyway. I never allow my pack to bark like that. But for this man, it’s culturally different. In many places (especially places with farm dogs), if the dog doesn’t bark and act as a great guard dog, they give him away.

Horses are also still used on farms – naturally. Whereas in a “main stream” situation, dogs and horses are bought as “recreational”. We buy them so that we can have a great relationship with them, have fun, teach them things…

I love comparing the many different worlds domesticated animals live in – some better than others. Even though I wouldn’t want my dogs to act the way the dog in Istanbul acts, I don’t really frown on the situation. The dog has a job to do, and that’s the only reason he’s there. It puts a twist on how we view our animals and reminds us of how we evolved together in the first place: trading food and shelter for work.

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