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« Petroleum and Prevarication | Main | Men For All Seasons »

January 16, 2006


I greatly enjoyed reading your story about Jack the Doberman. I am a firm beliver that animals do have emotion and feelings regardless of what many would dismiss as projecting of "human" feelings. Morgan is my best friend, he my Boxer that just turned 9 years old a few days ago, he's been in my life from the day he was born, as his mom was also my baby. 9 is old for a Boxer and although he's very health I know the day will come when I must say goodbye to him, that sadens me a great deal. But what does make it a little easier is knowing that he does feel and think and he knows as well as I do that he is very loved and has a life that many dogs only dream of.

My essay, which was printed in Newsweek Magazine, was difficult at first to write. But the words started flowing and the experience became cathartic. I never really imagined however, the effect that the story would have on others - especially those that have pets that are getting older, or those who have had similar experiences. The responses have been overwhelmingly positive despite the fact that I have now heard equally heartbreaking tales. I am very glad that I could share my story with so many.

Thanks for sharing with us the extraordinary essay about Jack. Those of us who love animals and have had the privilege of reading your essay, will be invariably moved - as Karen says in her comment above and as I did in my post.

It has been an honor to hear from you about the process of writing this difficult story. You accurately and sensitively gave voice to what numerous pet owners and animal lovers have experienced but have struggled to express.

That was indeed a very touching story.

This is at most tangential, but I find animal ethics very troubling. We all do anthropomorphise animals, but to my knowledge (and maybe I'm just behind on the science) we have no way of knowing one way or the other to what extent animals share in the "human" experience. Do they think? (And do the related question, do human beings really "think" in any meaningful way?) Do they have feelings beyond like/dislike, pleasure/pain? And does that matter?

I've been thinking about this one since last spring when it came up in my philosophy seminar and I still don't have an answer. I think it's fairly obviously wrong to cause anything, including even just a mosquito, to suffer for the sake of causing it to suffer. But is it acceptable to kill an animal in order to eat it? (I'm not a vegetarian, at least not yet, but I think it's a legitimate question--you would never see people saying it's okay to kill other people to eat them, and I don't think *similarity* or *likeness* is a good reason in itself to differentiate behavior.) Does it matter how the animal lived, if it was treated with dignity? At least with the American Indians, they would use all parts of the animal they killed, and I think say some sort of prayer for it when they killed it... this sharply contrasts with animals being kept in cages and fattened up and then eventually slaughtered.

With pets it's less of an issue because they're (at the least!) extensions of ourselves and so we tend to treat our pets well--but the underlying principle is probably shared and important.

The other great thing about your story, Jonathan, other than that it's emotionally helpful to find relating experiences to your own, is that people might pay more attention to their pets because of it and maybe some animals on the verge of becoming dangerous will be more closely monitored and some harm can be prevented.

Yuck, that's a long and ugly sentence.

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