Turning inner space into outer space

February 15, 2011

Of dogs and humans

The candle light vigil held Sunday night in memory of 100 sled dogs slaughtered at Whistler brings to mind a question asked so often in these situations. Why do people become so emotional about the maltreatment of animals, but not so much about humans?

Anyone who keeps up with the news knows that hardly a day goes by without humans brutally killing and raping each other by the dozens and the hundreds. It’s reached the point in Iraq where suicide bombings are so common that they are barely noticed unless the death toll reaches three figures. Conflicts in Africa see entire villages wiped out after every woman and girl has been raped. The horror has become so common and so unstoppable that we wind up averting our eyes if only to protect ourselves from the trauma of taking it in.

So why is it different for animals? The first argument, of course, is that there is no difference. Many animal lovers have compassion for their fellow human as well. They give donations to Amnesty International. They support UNICEF and the Red Cross.

But getting beyond that, there is still a difference. Animals — especially dogs — form a bond with humans that makes us feel we have something in common with them. They definitely have personalities. We can’t say for sure if they have emotions, but they do things that sure seem like they have them — affection being the one that really gets to us.

As pets, dogs can be dependent to almost the same degree as children. And there is no denying their innocence. Even the most vicious pit bull is not seen as the guilty party.

Humans, on the other hand, are often viewed as the authors of their own destruction — at least the adults.

So there you have it: innocent, child-like beings who give us their equivalent of love and who would not harm us unless corrupted by other humans. No wonder we hold candle light vigils when they are harmed.