I recently had a birthday. While I almost never think about it, this year for some reason I was drawn to how much has changed in the animal world since I was young, like ‘kid’ young, which is when I started in dogs. Things that are mainstay now were unheard of then. Hydrotherapy after surgery was non-existent, that is when a guardian decided a surgery was warranted, which was not very often. A canine behaviorist? Never heard of them when I was young. And the main formula for training was not praise for good but punishment for bad. Getting a dog’s attention meant a possible clop on the head or jerk of the ‘choke’ collar, instead of teaching the ‘look’ or ‘watch’ command as puppy grows up.
Things have certainly taken a turn for the better. Most of us, then and now, considered the dog a member of the family. Currently we take that phrase much more literally than in the abstract form of days gone by when a pet was a member of the family, but only up to a point. It is nothing surprising to hear of people spending tens of thousands of dollars to make their dogs more comfortable and to offer a better quality of life. There are numerous modalities available for our companions from acupuncture to massage to chiropractic care. Nothing is off the table, not any more. Socially, it is acceptable for us to pursue whatever venue we feel we must to better the lives of our animals. That was not the case four decades ago.
The conversation has changed. Some speak of souls when we discuss animals and while not everybody is ready for that revelation (I am all on board.) it was not even a ‘logical’ thought process to say out loud when I was a teen. People would look at you like you were delusional. (Some still do.) To contemplate how a mother cow feels when her calf is taken away was simply dismissed as being overly sensitive and wrongly assigning animals feelings they cannot possess. (Anthropomorphism- which is a silly oxymoron since we are also animals.) We now discuss how to help animal companions through the grieving process, we talk to them and they answer us. We agree we are more alike than different, at least when considering emotions, behaviors and reactions. Even science has to agree on some of what was once considered outlandish ideas, such as vocabulary and tool use.
And we are still moving ahead. What will the next four decades bring to the light? What will we understand in the future that does not fit in the now? What laws will change? Will animal abuse and child abuse be of the same weight in a court of law? What will the men and women of science find to be true that is currently unbelievable to some?
Whatever comes next is part of the unknown, a new frontier. A place where we as a species can continue to evolved and so can others, making life much richer for all.
And somewhere out there in the future someone will remark about how archaic we were in our thinking that we consider cutting edge today. Our great, great grandchildren will say, ‘Remember? Back in the day they used to think animals couldn’t talk and….’