As I watched a documentary available on Netflix, Nature: Animal Odd Couples, I had a light bulb moment, and I feel compelled to share.
In the pet industry, there is a term that never really sat well with me, it’s known as “Pet Humanization.” The industry believes that the reason some people choose premium products that mirror our own standard of living for their pets is because of this phenomenon.
They say it is our tendency to reflect our needs onto them, and that this explains the trend toward higher standards for pets in nutrition, veterinary medicine, quality of enrichment (toys), and even behavior and interaction.
What I learned from the documentary is that complex cross-species relationships have likely been occurring (unbeknownst to us) for thousands of years. The documentary goes over some examples that are occurring in captivity, including a coyote and his lion pal, a yellow lab and a cheetah that are the best of friends, a deer that grooms her blind golden retriever buddy every morning. The golden retriever actually regained his sight, and even after that the bond continued.
There is also the touching story of a blind horse and a goat that were inseparable – the horse relied on the goat to get around. Sadly, the goat deteriorated quickly after the passing of the older horse. He lost his buddy.
The most amazing odd couple was that of a goose and a tortoise. The goose follows the tortoise everywhere and strikes at anyone that comes near her. The goose is the tortoise’s bodyguard. Geese build lifelong bonds so the goose is securing lasting companionship, and the tortoise enjoys prime time feeding where no one dares compete with it for food. Sometimes there is no pay off other than friendship – as in the golden retriever and the deer, or cheetah and lab.
It would be arrogant for us to believe that this just started happening around 2012 (the release date of the documentary). Instead, it is more likely that this has always happened in nature, and that the potential for other animals to build complex cross-species relationships to help each other improve their quality of life is a natural occurrence that we’ve only just started paying attention to.
Catching Up With Nature
Now – back to humans. We have been so self-absorbed for 99% of our existence, that we’ve only just started paying attention to other species. In China, a growing economy and increasing standard of living is resulting in a boom in pet ownership. China, it would seem, only recently started experiencing the mainstream value of pet ownership. Similarly, only 100 years ago we did not keep pets like we do today in America.
So what are we doing now? We are finally catching up with nature. We are building complex cross-species relationships with our pets. We are expecting their quality of life to be similar to ours. As such, we are raising our standards for what they deserve: the medical care they receive, the quality of their nutrition, etc.
We are not humanizing them – as the video points out, we do not own exclusivity on emotion. More research is showing that animals have always experienced emotion – we just started observing them. Humanizing? Is the deer “deerizing” the golden retriever? No, it’s just helping in whatever capacity it can because that is its nature.
We are not humanizing anything – instead, we are finally catching up to our own animal instinct for cross-species compassion, and thus our own humanity.
Personally, I can tell you 100% that Rey, Shadow, Roxy, Luna, and Rambo – the pets in my family – have made me more human, and not the other way around. In return, I will always strive to give them back as much of the quality of life as I can through our work at JustFoodForDogs.
In this context, please enjoy the video of Mr. G and Jellybean: