You might think that we have reached a new level of pet pampering, given our new habit of blow-drying Serena’s paws several times a day. She does seem to like it. And we do pamper her.
But we’re doing this on the advice of her vet, for on three paws she has some sort of bacterial infection —that first appeared to be a fungus among us (ah, it feels good to write those words; I don’t get to use that wonderful term often enough). We’re reluctant to give her antibiotics, so are trying to clear up the problem by reducing the moisture that breeds bacteria.
By the way, as my fingers were poised over the keyboard to begin writing this post synchronicity popped up in the guise of a phone call from a Pet Medical Center employee. She wanted to know how Serena’s paws were and if we had any questions about her treatment.
Never in my life have I gone to the doctor and then gotten an unsolicited callback from his or her office enquiring about my condition. One day may all Americans receive as good health care as our dog enjoys.
When I am kneeling on the floor with a blow-dryer, dutifully warming each of Serena’s infected paws to a suitable temperature, not too hot and not too cold, just like Goldilocks would have wanted, I can’t help but think of the Discovery Channel program that we’ve been watching in bits and pieces: “Living With Wolves.”
Serena is a close relative of the wild wolf, but her pampered pet status makes this lupine ancestry seems more distant than it really is. Wolves don’t repose on futons; Serena does. Wolves don’t have a dinner prepared for them each night that features dog food topped with finely chopped broccoli and parmesan cheese; Serena does.
However, an interesting recent article in TIME magazine, “Honor Among Beasts,” describes how an ethologist discovered that there is lot more going on in dog play than is readily apparent. Marc Bekoff’s research found that the familiar “play bow” (hind end up, forelegs stretched forward, eager expression on face) is common to wolves and coyotes as well as dogs.
Further, the play bow is just the beginning of a complex series of interactions between playful animals. The article says, “Canine play is actually a complex social interaction in which the participants constantly signal their intentions and check to make sure that their behavior is correctly interpreted. Dogs that cheat—promising a playful bite but delivering a harsh one, for example—tend to be ostracized.”
This is right in line with the theory of evolution, which predicts that animals other than humans also would have some form of morality, albeit more rudimentary than that of Homo sapiens.
Thus it really isn’t so strange to treat our pets like people. In the grand scheme of evolutionary history, they’re not that far removed from us.