A front page article in a recent local paper addressed a question which has been bothering me for some time, that of the reasons why some folks are so much more fond of our four-legged friends than others of us. The headline read, "Animal attraction--Why do animal stories get more traction than human suffering?" It seems a small dog, named Puddles was hit by a car. The dog was taken to a Des Moines veterinary surgeon who put a steel plate and seven screws in her leg and 75 staples near her neck. This was at the cost of $3000, with follow-up appointments to come. A local organization went on-line with the story and donations came in from animal lovers coast-to-coast, which more than covered the expenses.
The writer then went on to contrast this reaction to that of a public confronted with humanitarian crises, child abuse, and the like, which seldom get more than a passing nod. There were a number of suggested reasons, including privacy issues, that restrain public intervention in the midst of an on-going investigation. But then came the interesting part of the article quoting Rev. Nick Longworth, director of spiritual care services at a local hospital who professed to be a "dyed-in-the-wool animal lover." He says that people may find it easier to pour out affection for animals, because they're so uncomplicated. They aren't deceitful, vengeful or manipulative. Humans can ascribe to animals whatever thoughts and motives they want. We can and do give them credit for being benevolent and good. He added that we have a tendency to cast upon them the things we want them to be.
In contrast, relationships with humans--even children--are messy, complicated and frustrating. You project thoughts and motives onto another person at the peril of your friendship. An animal offers none of that resistance.
"It is paying attention to us, it has chosen to be with us," Longworth concludes. "To not have it ask you any questions, to not have it question you as a person--and it thinks whatever you want it to think--it's pretty cool. It's easy."
I find this a compelling train of thought which may give me some clues to my questions about the different attitudes people have toward the animals around them. More on the subject at a later date after I've had time to really think it over.
Meanwhile, I must tell you that I recently went with a group from Cottage Grove Place to a presentation by the famed Western songsters, "Riders In The Sky." If you've seen them in person or on TV, I don't have to tell you what a fine time we had. Their renditions of all the best-loved western standards, laced with their unique brand of humor, were unforgettable. It was a bit of a struggle getting there and our van driver brought us home through the heaviest rain I've ever seen, it came down literally in sheets, but it was well worth the effort!