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Are dogs people, too?


My good friend Paul and I agree on most of the important things in life … politics, sports, Mexican restaurants.

But we have a major difference of opinion about dogs.

While both of us love them — I’m not embarrassed to admit that I broke down and sobbed when we had to put our Yorkie to sleep last year — we disagree about what they are.

His opinion is that dogs are like people and unlike, say, living room furniture, shouldn’t be considered property. My position is that dogs certainly are property, and the only difference is that your couch will not wake you at 5:30 in the morning to go the bathroom.

But now Paul appears to have science on his side.

In a New York Times op-ed piece last Sunday, a researcher reported the results of his two-year study of canine’s brains under the provocative headline, “Dogs are people, too.”

“The ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child,” declared Gregory Berns, a professor neuroeconomics at Emory University.

The professor certainly is not the first one who has tried to compare the feelings of humans with other species’. One neuroscientist conducted an acclaimed study in which he found that mice laugh when tickled. A Norwegian researcher wrote a paper claiming that fish have emotions, although perhaps he was referring only to Norwegian fish.

Having never tickled a mouse nor seen a cod cry, I can only go by personal experience when it comes to the “dogs are people” question. And my personal experience is that all those claims that dogs are loving and loyal is just so much wishful thinking by people who have seen too many Disney movies.

If one of my dogs wagged his tail when I came home, I never for a second believed it was because he loved me. It was because he had learned I was the only one in the house who could reach the shelf where the Milk Bones were kept.

Attachment? If they knew there was a pork chop in it for them, any one of my dogs would have deserted me and gone to live with Michael Vick.

In spite of that, I love dogs and am adamantly opposed to any form of cruelty toward them, such as making them wear cute little outfits. I’ve long been an advocate of harsh penalties for any anyone one who dresses a dog in a costume for Halloween.

But I’m sticking to my opinion that dogs are not people and any suggestion that they are is an insult.

To dogs.


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