I think there's something in most cultures about the ideal of loving all of God's creatures. It's not something I aim to do in my everyday life. Lately, however, I'm amazed at the amount of love we can show to pets. We're dog-sitting for a friend while she's out of the country on vacation. The dog is a 9 yr old golden retreiver who epitomizes "man's best friend". Even with his age, he always wants to check out where we are going, makes sure that anyone passing by our front window gets barked at, and loves to play any time we're up for it. And surprisingly, I'm hugging and playing and looking after this dog like I never thought I would.
I say suprisingly mainly because while I was growing up we never had any pets in our house. My mother was allergic to pets and for quite a few years we didn't have the space for a dog that would need lots of room to run around. At times I've even wondered what drives people to spend thousands of dollars on their pets. Now I understand.
I don't know if I would spend my life savings to care for a dog, but I do know that I would go out of my way to ensure that my charge is well taken care of and is comfortable. Interestingly, we've been treating this dog like a child (mainly because he loves to act like one). But it has come so naturally that both my wife and I are amazed that we haven't wanted a dog for much longer.
I was talking to a friend the other day about how it's almost a bit odd that Americans love their pets so much. We're both familiar with Indian culture and very few pets are kept in that country. In fact, even though most Hindus claim to look out for all creatures, they show very little care for any of the animals living in the street. The cows roaming the boulevards are simply a nuisance and all anyone does is to make sure they don't hit any of them (hard) with their cars or motorcycles. And the dogs? More like mangy mongrels. They live off the scraps of families and the lack of a quality diet really shows. I venture to say that, on average, the rich folks in India seem to care less for the animals in the streets than the people that are forced to live in shacks in the streets.
And here we are in a rich country with so much disposable income that entire business models are built around people's love for their pets (let's forget about the disaster of pets.com for a moment). So is the amount of love shown tied to the amount of money available to spend? Well, it's certainly a part of it, isn't it? Here in America we have this strange confluence of historical partnership with animals and enough money to continue supporting that partnership. I dare say that applies more generally to the West as well. This may be the case in certain pockets of the East, but from my experience it's more of an anomaly than the norm.
So anyways, enough with the philosophizing. Time to take the dog out :)