The Less People Care About Each Other the More They Care About Their Pets

In 2007 Americans spend about $10 billion on health care for their pets, up from $ 7.2 billion five years earlier. According to the New York Times, new York’s leading pet hospitals offer CT scans, MRIs, dialysis units, and even a rehab clinic featuring an underwater treadmill….
Barbara Ehrenreich, “This land is Their Land”, Metropolitan, 2008, p. 158

Poll: Most pet owners will give holiday presents to their animals.
From the news

As it is well known, to love another human being is not an easy task. People are self-centered and egoistic, they are full of their peculiarities, they carry with themselves their past like hero of Bunuel’s film “That Obscure Object of the Desire” carries a swollen sack of his beloved’s worn night-gowns. People’s stubborn otherness (their reactions and ideas which seem to us strange and even bizarre, their “petty” disagreements with what for us is just natural and habitual) takes away all the fun of being together. Human beings are often psychologically so complicated (even when they are intellectually simplistic), that it spoils the fiesta of love like a self-confident pimple a sea of shining skin around it. Love affair, love involvement, loving togetherness, unity of two souls, even unique love relationships expected to be for life are sometimes vulnerable to tiny emotional obstacles, like waters of the ocean cannot overcome the sharp edge of a rock on a sea-shore and fall back into its boundlessness.

All these headaches blissfully don’t exist in our relationships with our pets. With our dogs we feel ourselves younger and “pranker”, at certain moments we become their buddies, peers, children of the Earth. A good dog is a creature who entertains you without bothering you, who gives you emotional pleasure without burdening you with any obligation to pay back, who loves you unconditionally as only your kindergarten friends knew how to love. A good dog is good to us without reminding us that we are expected to be good in return. And because of this we care about them even more. While children may feel that we owe them, as if bringing them to the world implies a guilt that we must redeem; pets don’t think that we have responsibilities and obligations in relation to them – so, we feed them, caress them and care for their health by following disinterested pleasure of loving them and being dedicated to them.

To have a pet is like to have an ideal community at home, a parish without the ritual and fear of god, a glimpse of paradisiacal togetherness, a pure sublime “fun”. Yes, my pet is for my soul like Christmas tree decorations are for my eyes and a cake is for my heart on my birthday.

But like in fairy-tales the magic mirrors exist to show us the truth about ourselves, if we look at our attraction to our pet through the mirror of psychological knowledge we see something opposite of that sunny morning on the meadow where I am strolling or running along with my dog without any direction or goal, running as living, as a goal in itself, clothed but feeling blissfully naked, as Pasolini’s “angel” from his “Teorema” was with the dog belonging to the family of the factory owner.

The psychological difference between love for a person and for a pet is that love that is human on both ends tends to be determined by psychological wholeness while love toward a pet is by definition love on part of a psychological fragment. “That’s not true! – I hear an indignant chorus of dog- and cat-lovers, – “We love our pets not less than we love human beings, more, sometimes it is stronger than loving people!” Of course, love toward a trembling birch leaf, to borrow from Dostoevsky, can be much stronger than that of a leaf-eating animal, and in this sense it is also a god-sanctioned love. But the situation we are witnessing today in US is something else, when people care less and less about other people and instead invest their libido into loving their pets. They consider their pets as part of them, and pets are ready to be pieces in their owners’ game, while other human beings like to have their own games instead of being phantoms of somebody else’s imagination.

Many Americans today are hopelessly instrumental in their position toward other people while they passionately bond with their pets with which they unconsciously create a symbiosis of mutual identification that is based on projection of their narcissism into the poor dependent creature. Pets become parts of our bodies, appendixes to our soul and surrogates of togetherness. Our dogs have lost their freedom without being able to participate in our humanity. We have taken away their identity by paying them with artificial comfort of living with us on the sofa of our fake prosperity.

“Emma and Mama”

Contact between souls

Imitating one another

For the painter Lucian Freud, grandson of Zygmunt Freud, mutual identification between humans and their pets is one of the favorite topics.

Lucian Freud, “Eli”, 2002 (symbiotic ties between different species)