What Can Humans Learn from Animals? How a Dog Changed My Life

In the complex tapestry of human relationships, disappointments are not uncommon, often arising from clashing needs and the art of compromise inherent in interpersonal interactions. Yet, in the animal kingdom, particularly among canines, humans find a different paradigm. Dogs, in their unique way, often place humans at the center of their universe, offering a form of love that seems to transcend species boundaries. For those seeking unconditional affection, the answer may lie not in human companionship but in the loyalty of… a dog.

A dog cowering in fear yet gazing longingly at a human is a heart-rending sight, common in animal shelters. Here, dogs frequently bear the scars of human cruelty. This phenomenon starkly contrasts with humans’ proclaimed superiority over other species. Humans, who pride themselves on being at the top of the species hierarchy, can paradoxically exhibit the most cruel behaviors towards animals.

The Misplaced Superiority Complex

Societies worldwide display a range of attitudes towards animals. While many individuals treat animals with respect and recognize their emotional capacities, others staunchly oppose anthropomorphizing animals, perceiving it as over-attachment or misdirected empathy. This divide extends to the point where organizations fighting against animal cruelty are sometimes labeled as extremist. Those dedicating time and resources to rescuing animals often face societal scorn, seen as eccentric for their compassion. If humans claim supremacy over other life forms, shouldn’t a fundamental respect for all life be a universal value? 

Humans, atop the evolutionary ladder and food chain, do not need to compete with animals for resources. Yet, instances of cruelty often stem from a fragile human ego, perceiving dominance over animals as a validation of superiority. This narcissistic trait in human psychology leads to the belittling of other species, manifesting in cruelty and sometimes even the killing of animals.

Tina Nord / Pexels

The Urge to Kill

Acts of deliberate cruelty towards animals, especially those involving premeditated harm, highlight a disturbing aspect of human psychology. There is no justification for cruelty. It is difficult to comprehend the reasoning of a person who deliberately plans a ‘punishment’ for an animal, devising tools and methods of ‘execution.’ Such behavior raises questions about the right of humans to claim superiority over all creation. No other species harms and kills for reasons other than hunger.

Negating animal dignity can be a form of defense mechanism designed to protect the consciousness from the discomfort of hunting. Excessive empathy indeed might have once hindered people from obtaining food when they had to kill personally. However, today killing is not necessary for survival, especially of animals that can bestow us with unconditional trust and love.

We recommend: Respect or Die: Why Human Survival Depends on How We View Nature

A Dog’s Heart

Dogs have served humans since the dawn of history, initially partnering with Siberian hunters. Their bond with humans was based on utilizing their hunting instinct, which they managed to control, showing absolute obedience. Today, a well-trained dog exhibits incredible loyalty to its owner. This can be observed in both aggressive breeds, which defend their owners relentlessly, and in so-called family dogs, who love spending time with their family in endless play or simply waiting for moments of affection.

There are stories of dogs showing signs of severe depression after the death of their long-time owners. In Kraków, a monument stands for Dżok (Jock – ed.), a dog who waited for a year at the spot where his owner died under mysterious circumstances. Hachiko, a symbol of boundless loyalty, is another example. He used to see his owner off to the train station every morning and wait for him in the afternoon. After his owner’s sudden death in 1925, Hachiko continued to wait at the station every afternoon for ten years until his own death.

Experience as a Source of Reality Perception

We do not know what goes on in the human mind, let alone the inner world of animals. Why do we assume that our lesser brethren do not have souls? And how do we know that, paraphrasing a movie title, dogs do not go to heaven? Religions originating from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam teach that humans are the highest divine creation. However, this does not necessitate belittling other species and is even a severe misunderstanding of the human’s responsibility towards the creation. Yet, assigning post-mortem life to animals is sometimes seen as blasphemous. However, the cultural and historical contexts of these religions must be considered. Even Jesus Christ was depicted in prophetic writings as the ‘lamb led to slaughter,’ a perfect and pleasing sacrifice to God.

Lesser Brethren

Among the pantheon of Catholic saints, Francis of Assisi stands out, widely revered as the patron saint of animals. A notable tale recounts his encounter with a farmer who was beating a stubborn donkey. Francis addressed the animal, which promptly heeded him. He then imparted to the owner a lesson in compassion: more can be achieved through love than force. While this legend ostensibly pertains to human relationships, it underscores a significant tenet in the Christian tradition: a special regard for animals and a primary duty not to harm them.

We recommend: The myth that humans are evil by nature falls

Ecology is Not Ideology

It is difficult to appease those who occasionally protest against the infiltration of the ‘leftist ideology’ into the Church, especially when the current pontiff, Pope Francis, preaches in synergy with political-social factions fighting for the natural environment. Engaging in discussion with people who take the Bible’s words ‘and have dominion over all creatures’ literally and without context is challenging and often provokes aggression. However, our imperative remains to leave the Earth in a state fit for habitation by future generations. The first step towards a life aligned with the principle of ‘do no harm’ should be to nurture our ‘lesser brethren’ with care. For if we, as homo sapiens, lack empathy for our most loyal companions, how can we profess to ‘love our enemies’?

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Translation: Klaudia Tarasiewicz

Published by

Krzysztof Zaniewski

Autor


A careful observer of reality, a musician, who likes philosophical considerations as a hobby, and professionally works therapeutically with children and youth, from whom he draws inspiration and positive energy. The proud owner of the dog Isolde, who is an example of unconditional love. A passionate admirer of Richard Wagner.

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