Opinion by Chloe Herbert
I’ve had a pet since the moment I was born. Our first family pet was a beagle named Lady, and I’d curl up alongside her in her dog bed during my nap time when I was a toddler. She was always willing to chase after my brothers on my command. She would stand between myself and anyone who tried to hug me, which annoyed my grandmother endlessly whenever she came to visit.
Today, my family has a chocolate lab, a goldfish, a duck, two chickens and several cats. Yet I’ve never considered any one of these feathered or furry creatures to be a true member of my family.
While scouring the T.J. Maxx clearance racks a few weeks ago, I overheard two women discussing their dogs’ lavish lifestyles, custom clothing, expensive medical procedures and fresh haircuts. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. The mental image of my rowdy, excitable pooch standing still long enough for someone to dress her was hilarious. But those ladies spoke with such seriousness, and I couldn’t help but wonder just how highly they regarded their pets.
T.J. Maxx customers aren’t the only people who think too highly of their pooches — of 221 responses in the Nov/Dec survey, 90.5 percent of Marian students think that pets should be regarded as family members.
I fear that we as a society are walking a dangerously fine line between cuddling cute pooches and thinking that they truly care about us. We’ve forgotten that animals lack the capacity to love. They cannot experience any human emotion either. Dogs (cats and goldfish, too) don’t have immortal souls like people do, and if you think that your dog can show empathy because he licks your tears away, he’s probably just curious about the salty water running down your face, not sympathizing with you as you mourn the death of your good AP Biology grade.
The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans spend an absurd $490 million on Halloween costumes for their pets. That could cover four years of Marian tuition for 10,889 girls, and yet we’re using it to dress up furry little creatures who can’t even trick or treat.
Pets do have a place in our homes. According to Catholic teaching, animals and humans alike were created in God’s image and likeness and were made to live in harmony with one another. As God’s creatures, they should be treated with love and kindness, but not as beings equivalent to people.
I know that my pets probably “like” me because I give them food, shelter and scratch their backs, not because they genuinely care about me. And it’s always comforting to come home after a difficult school day, especially when you have two tests and didn’t have time to eat breakfast that morning and you inevitably have second lunch, to a dog whose face seems to be saying “Hello! I’m so very glad to see you!” But she’ll never be able to relate to having to conjugate verbs in the Spanish preterite tense or listening to her stomach growl during a lecture over the lunch block.