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Friday, February 5, 2016

Asians and pets

Our dog, a Cairn Terrier, died a little over a month ago. When it happened, I was the only one with dry eyes. I can't help but wonder if this is because I'm half Asian. Asians don't usually have pets, and don't seem to bond with animals.

You just don't see many people of Asian descent out walking their dogs. I'm not sure to what extent it's nature or nurture, but I have to think there's at least a little bit of nature there. People of (especially Northwest) European descent do seem to get attached to their animals, and it seems to be part of their almost pathologically outward-directed altruism.

It's sort of akin to the way they're also willing to take in stray humans these days.

Asians just don't have that soft-hearted (and softheaded) altruistic thing going. To date not a single leader of an Asian country has said to the Europeans, "Hey, you guys are hogging all the Africans. Please, send us some." Or "We'd love to take in some of your excess Syrians. After all, Islam is the religion of peace."

There are exceptions to the animal rule (though none to the refugee rule). I thought hard, and came up with one example, which I pointed out to my son: "My Japanese-American cousins seemed to like their Labs."

He immediately retorted, "Yeah, they like 'em medium rare."

Anyway, I was inclined to feel sad about the dog, but my sadness was somehow overwhelmed in the face of everyone else's greater sadness, so I remained dry-eyed.

We just got a new dog. I don't plan to eat it, nor do I plan to use it in dogfights.

However, I suspect I'll bond with it less than the other members of my family do, and that may have something to do with the fact that I'm half robot.


whorefinder said...

Muslims and Eskimos are both pretty famous for their dislike of dogs, too. I'm assuming when you say Asian you mean Eastern or SOuther Asian, but Middle Eastern Asians don't like dogs either.

Orthodox Eskimos in LA and NYC are known to hiss---yes, openly hiss--if people walk their dogs in their neighborhoods. And Muslims in Britain have hung signs about hating dogs.

It seems you're right: dog loving may be an exclusive Northwestern European thing, and it has spread to America because of their genes becoming dominance here.

Dogs have also been seen as "low brow" throughout history even by cultures employing them. While cats got to live indoors with humans (to kill the mice), dogs have long been relegated to the outside doghouse--both for their larger size and because of their dirtiness. So people who kept dogs in their homes were seen as dirtier and probably poorer (didn't even have the land for a dog house!).

The Irish had a lot of close dog-human connection. Being poorer, they often had them in the homes. The Great Irish Wolfhounds were once so large that, at one point in history, Irish midgets would literally ride them into battle. There were Gaelic poems written in honor of dogs and such. So since a large swath of America was settled by the Irish, their genetic love of dogs probably carried over.

So, in other words, like blue eyes, love of dogs---not just use of them, but love of them---- may be the minority in this world.

John Craig said...

Whorefinder --
I was actually referring to East Asians (I'm half-Japanese), but I suppose the same would apply to South Asians. I'd never heard that about the hissing before.

When you think about it, most dog breeds seem to have Anglo-sounding names -- wolfhounds, terriers, bulldogs, shepherds, retrievers, etc. -- so it makes sense that the ethnic groups who bred them would have grown affectionate toward them. But there are Japanese breeds, like the Akita and the Shih Tzu. And the (real) Eskimos used huskies as sled dogs.

I've actually grown to appreciate dogs; they're incredibly loyal, affectionate creatures, and I totally get the affection people feel for them. What I can't stand are cats, which are narcissistic creatures who -- as it is often said -- will eat you within a day of your dying, whereas a dog will stand guard over your body until it is starving itself.

Baloo said...

This is interesting and I hope you expand on it. I'll probably reprint it myself, because it just occurred to me that the dog as pet thing shows up in Japanese anime, but not as much as you'd expect, all things being equal. I considered once that it might be an Indo-Eurpoean thing, because the ancient Persians had hunting dogs, I believe. OTOH, dogs aren't popular in India, and they're mostly Indo-European. Could it have to do with the fact that dogs are extra-handy in helping hunt the kind of game to be found in ancient Europe?

John Craig said...

Baloo --
Interesting questions. First, I'd distinguish between dogs as tools an dogs as pets, though I'm sure dogs-as-pets were an outgrowth of dogs-as-tools. I would think that dogs would be helpful in helping hunt animals all over the globe. Wolves will fight bears, and prey on all sorts of ungulates, which are pretty much found all over.

Another thing which hadn't occurred to me until recently. I grew up hearing that African animals are not domesticable, and always just accepted that. But keep in mind, it takes a certain amount of brains to practice animal husbandry to the point where a formerly wild species becomes tame. Remember, all dogs were originally wolves, and wolves as wolves are not domesticable either. But once they've been bred for generations to be more obedient and tame and helpful, then things are different. Could that be the case with African animals as well? Sure, you can't ride a zebra; but what if you took some zebras, and bred them for docility and obedience for generations, would they then be suitable as transportation? And all domesticated cattle were once more similar to water buffalo, i.e., dangerous animals. But couldn't water buffalo be bred similarly? And African wild dogs? And so on.

Mark Caplan said...

Pet dogs are genetically engineered through natural selection and intentional human breeding to look and behave in ways that make humans want to take care of them. Babies are too, and in some of the same ways as pet dogs. So it's interesting that some ethnic groups are emotionally susceptible to baby entreaties but immune to doggy entreaties.

whorefinder said...

@John Craig:

Yes, Islam and Judaism both have religious texts that insult dogs. Much like their mutual ban on pork, the religions have an antipathy against canines.

As to the English naming---although people have bred animals for thousands of years, most modern dog breeds emanate from 19th Century England, where it became somewhat of a hobby and somewhat of a business for the English to breed out the more vicious qualities of dogs and make them better for ladies to have as pets, as the English wealth in 19th century allowed for women to take them on as pets. Before, dogs were strictly used for hunting and protection; now (in the 19th C.) they could play with children.

The English had first begun a fascination with breeding/genetics with horses for racing---the term "thoroughbred" actually means a horse's lineage can be traced to a small group of racing horses in England from the late 18th and early 19th century. From there it spread to dogs.

Overall, English scientific thought in the 19th century gravitated towards genetics/breeding. Charles Darwin and many other naturalists of England noted how traits got passed down in animals and hypothesized about long term breeding in humans and then to evolution. (This paragraph is all from Steve Sailer).

It also may have a bit to do with weather. Northern Europe, Japan, and upper North America get cold in the winter, and dogs would often sleep in people's beds to provide extra warmth. In the middle East and southeast Asia, the natural warmth would make this unnecessary.

John Craig said...

Whorefinder --
Interesting, thank you. You know a lot more about this than I do, that was a good history lesson. I'd never known how the term "thoroughbred" had developed. And I'd never realized how Darwin started thinking about evolution, though that makes perfect sense. (And I read Sailer, too, I must have missed that.)

Rifleman said...

Notice the pain and moral outrage in the author of this story.

Chai the Elephant (37) one of two elephants at the center of a controversial move from Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo to Oklahoma City in 2015. Chai and Bamboo arrived at their new home in Oklahoma City last spring. The Oklahoma City Zoo announced over Twitter that female elephant Chai was found dead in the elephant yard, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on January 30, 2016.

On the Oklahoma City Zoo’s Facebook page, among the more-prevalent postings were ones such as, “Elephants are not born to spend their lives in captivity. Not in a circus, not in a zoo. If you love animals don’t put them behind bars.”

There were also posts expressing support and sympathy for the zoo and the other elephants.

“That’s to be expected,” Henson said. “It’s an emotional subject.”

She said zoo staffers also were emotionally affected by the death of Chai.

“There’s a lot of hurting hearts at the zoo,” she said.

Yes, it might be misplaced altruism among West European types.

Notice also their love of adopting non-White children. Who else does that?

You can't keep White women off little black children, esp the boys. And Chinese girls are a favorite of the well off White liberal.

John Craig said...

Rifleman --
Yes, it's hard to believe that the love of animals, the push for animal rights, and the desire to adopt children of other races don't stem from the same instinctive impulse. It's an admirable impulse, but when it comes at the price of harm to one's own race, it's pretty obvious that it's not a smart evolutionary strategy. And when you see the other races self-righteously take advantage of the impulse, it's infuriating. Whites just seem to accept it when they're told that they're the worst people in the world, that everything they ever accomplish is due to white privilege, etc. And it all seems to come from that same instinct.

Think of PETA. How many nonwhite members does it have?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your pet. I just read an article about a man who makes his living walking dogs, in NYC. He does well, never having thought too much about such a business. This man was a former dancer, he has three employees, and he himself works 25 hours per week with his business. Interesting article. I was thinking that that kind of business could be a way to exercise, walking.

- Susan

John Craig said...

Susan -
I think NYC is one of the few places you could make a decent living doing something like that, people there will pay all sorts of outrageous sums for stuff like that. And yes, that would definitely qualify as an active job.

Mark Caplan said...

I feel sorry for dogs whose masters walk them while fully absorbed in social media on their cellphones. I'm fond of dogs but I'm too squeamish to pick up and bag their deposits as dog owners are supposed to do in my neighborhood. I'm sure I'll get a robotic dog as soon as the Silicon Valley whiz kids bring a credible one to market.

If the passing of your little Cairn Terrier didn't mist your eyes, I don't suppose this story of Kaiser's final journey will either:

John Craig said...

Mark --
'Fraid not. Sounds like a great dog, but no, I remain dry-eyed.

Ha, robotic dogs….how about a robotic girlfriend?

Mark Caplan said...

How about a robotic girlfriend?

Not sure what I'd do with a another one.

John Craig said...

Mark --
Make the first one jealous, that's what I do.

Samuel Nock said...

I agree with John on the North Asian attitude towards dogs, and animals generally. Also, the distinction discussed above between East Asians (essentially calousness or moral indifference) versus South Asian and certainly Middle Eastern, where there is aversion and hatred of the animals.

In East Asia, as with many other things Western, there does appear to be some impetus to "immitate" the West: the more advanced Chinese cultures (Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and parts of mainland China) are beginning to have more developed animal rights organizations and movements. But I do have to admit that I have always found the phenomenon a bit "forced" or unnatural for precisely the reasons John alluded to: it isn't really a part of the East Asian make-up, and it strikes me as artificial and to a great degree emulative of the West without being truly organic. Also, whereas dog culture in the West, particularly on the animal rights side (not merely pet culture), is relatively mainstream and ordinary, it does not consist mainly of outcasts and marginal people. In Asia, I have noticed that the dog rights movement is more of an outsider thing, and seems to a great extent to be the attempt to create a surrogate family. It is to some extent simply a sign of rebellion against their own culture rather than any deep-set inborn moral sense (in my view).

In mainland China there is also starting to me a much more pervasive pet culture that is entirely immitative of the West. Successful Chinese want to be seen as having the trappings of the "modern", "advanced" world, and that means immitating Western Europe. Again, when I see recent dog / pet culture in China, while it is in some sense a step forward in that people are not abusing dogs, I still find it artificial and a bit forced.

John Craig said...

Samuel --
Interesting observations, and everything you say rings true. I haven't been to Asia since 1968, but I do remember the way the Japanese would imitate Westerners in various superficial ways, and it all struck me as pretty mindless and silly. There was a sense that whatever Westerners did was "cool," and so certain fashions or phrases or mannerisms would be aped, but it was pure mimicry, and not at all "organic," as you aptly put it.

I hadn't known about the animal rights movement being part of misfit culture, but that makes sense too. It would be a way of establishing "moral superiority" while criticizing the host culture. In a way, that mindset is not all that different from liberalism in the US.

Anonymous said...

I dunno about the Orthodox "Eskimos" in Williamsburg, but your typical non-Orthodox "Eskimos" are as into animals as much as any Westerners. I speak from experience and observation.

Conatus said...

Yeah good post. I have had similar thoughts on many occasions.Like when looking at pictures of Muscovites feeding stray dogs at subway stops.
I am on my fourth dog and on the occasions I had to put the other three down(had the vet kill them) I describe myself as sobbing like a peasant woman uncovering her son in a mass grave in Kosovo.
Recently I walked with Japanese woman in the dogpark. She is a regular and has two lab mutts. She screams at them regularly in Japanese. She has a thick accent and came over when she was about 40. While we walked and talked she expressed amazement at the tears of another dogpark regular, a macho guy who had lost one of his two big dogs.
She could not quite grasp the emotional attachment(projection?) this guy had for his dogs, a repository of all the thoughts HE HAD HAD and placed in the dog's head. Really the dog was thinking 'feed me' but to this guy (and to me) it is thinking our thoughts.
It is just much more fun that way.

John Craig said...

Conatus --
Thank you…..I actually think that dogs DO get attached to their owners; they've been bred to think of humans as the alpha males they follow, and there are lots of stories of dogs which will faithfully trot out to meet the train of a long departed owner, or risk their lives to save a member of the family, etc.

My post was more about the difference between Caucasian and Asian attitudes towards pets. I'm a little surprised at that japanese woman; if she's not attached to her pets, why have them in the first place? Pets are supposed to be for people who want something to lavish affection on; she seems to regard hers as recalcitrant, dumb employees or something.