A friend of mine lives in Vancouver’s Olympic Village.
She is a delightful woman who happens to own a Whippet, an unusual-looking dog but a great companion. As all dog owners in Vancouver, my friend is required to purchase a permission slip from local government in order to keep her dog. Bureaucrats call that a “dog license.”
As I’ve discussed many times before on this site, a “license” is simply government permission to do something that is otherwise deemed illegal, in this case the act of “owning a dog”.
Submitting to the licensing scheme for your dog does not prevent the petty bureaucrats of the State from harassing you, of course. Take the act of walking your dog as a perfect example.
My friend walks her dog regularly in the green space inside Olympic Village.
There is an area specified where dogs may run off-leash, but it is an enclosed area with gravel for the dogs to run on. This is bad for Whippets because running on gravel causes their feet to bleed.
The solution? My friend runs her dog off-leash.
Yes, it is horrifying, perhaps even diabolical, for a person to let their little dog run around without a leash so I can see why the petty (dare I say pathetic) souls infesting the Vancouver Bylaw Enforcement Division go after such heinous criminals.
If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
—Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson
One of these pathetic souls, not content to toil away at her useless job from 9 to 5, sits in her window where she patrols the neighbourhood with her binoculars, desperately seeking an offender to report.
When she finds someone, such as my friend running her dog off-leash, she immediately phones her fellow enforcers at the Bylaw office and demands they “deal with” the offender(s).
These folks take Bureaucrat’s Rule Number One to a whole new level, I must say. Everything in their world is subordinate to the rules, which must be enforced with ruthless intent.
“Don’t you know I could seize your dog?” screeches one of these mewling crybabies.
“That’s against the rules!” screeches another.
“You can’t just do anything you want, you know!” bellows another of the control freaks as she writes up a ticket and hands it to my friend. It falls to the ground when my friend refuses to accept the bylaw infraction. Instead she simply walks away from the petty tyrant.
Good for her.
There is no crime here. There is only mindless enforcement of a rule that is far more important than the people it is supposedly there to protect.
Dog owners (pet owners in general) are far more healthy, socially well-adjusted, and contentious than their non-pet-owning counterparts, such as the petty and anti-social enforcers of “The Rules”.
Don’t take my word for it. But you ought to pay attention to the numerous studies performed on the many mere citizens who happen to own pets.
“We observed evidence that pet owners fared better, both in terms of well-being outcomes and individual differences, than non-owners on several dimensions,” said lead researcher Allen R. McConnell, PhD, of Miami University in Ohio.
“Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.”
That is from a study titled “Friends With Benefits: On the Positive Consequences of Pet Ownership” performed by psychologists at Miami University and Saint Louis University and reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology®, published online by American Psychology Association (APA).
The report makes it quite clear that pet owners are healthier both physically and psychologically than non-pet owners.
“[T]he present work presents considerable evidence that pets benefit the lives of their owners, both psychologically and physically, by serving as an important source of social support,” the researchers wrote. “Whereas past work has focused primarily on pet owners facing significant health challenges … the present study establishes that there are many positive consequences for everyday people who own pets.”
So to those petty and dictatorial enforcers of stupid bureaucratic rules (and especially to that nasty “woman” who sits in her window and phones in reams of complaints daily) I would suggest this:
Get a life.
Get a job that is actually productive for society instead of your current meaningless and harassing daily chore.
Leave those of us who are productive citizens alone to enjoy our pets for half an hour at the end of a long day. It’s a joy for us… until your enforcement goons come along to threaten both us and our pets.
Lastly, read this study on the benefits of pet ownership. You just might learn something beyond your mindless and meaningless harassment of we “mere citizens” who own dogs.
From the study linked above:
In three studies, we observed that everyday people enjoy wellbeing benefits from pet ownership and that these advantages are stronger when pets fulfill one’s social needs. Study 1 demonstrated that pet owners often experience greater well-being (e.g., greater self-esteem), exhibit healthier personality characteristics (e.g., more conscientiousness), and show attachment styles that are less negative toward the self (i.e., less fearful, less preoccupied).
Although not every measure showed differences between pet owners and nonowners, the differences that emerged showed pet owners fared better. In light of this initial demonstration, we sought to examine in Studies 2 and 3 when pet ownership might be especially advantageous, and in particular, we more directly explored how pets might serve as social resources for owners.
In Study 2, we found that pets providing greater social needs fulfillment were related to better owner well-being (e.g., less depression, less loneliness, greater self-esteem, greater happiness). Moreover, these contributions to owners’ well-being were independent of human social resources. Thus, pet owners benefit more when their pets fulfilled social needs, and the benefits existedregardless of one’s level of human social needs fulfillment.
In fact, in Studies 1 and 2, we repeatedly observed evidence that people who enjoyed greater benefits from their pets also were closer to other important people in their lives and received more support from them, not less. These studies provided strong support for the complement hypothesis but not the hydraulic hypothesis. That is, pets generally complement other forms of social support rather than compete with them (or serve as surrogates when other sources of social support are deficient). In addition to providing strong support for the complement hypothesis, we found in the present work that people with healthier personalities seem to extend their general social competencies to relationships with their pets, and that pets with healthier personalities fulfill their owners’ social needs better.
Finally, we experimentally documented in Study 3 the ability of pets to provide social support for their owners. In this study, some pet owners were induced to experience feelings of social loneliness and isolation to observe how thinking about one’s pet mightalleviate the negativity that results from social rejection. Whereas those in a control condition felt worse following this rejection experience, those who thought about their pet did not experience reduced social needs fulfillment. Indeed, thinking about one’s pet proved as effective as thoughts about one’s best friend in staving off the negativity that results from social rejection. Thus, this final study provided causal evidence that pets can serve as effective social resources for their owners.
Although the present work suggests that the average person does not rely on pets at the expense of other human relationships for social support, future research should explore whether pet owners who choose interactions with pets instead of seeking human social support (or who prioritize their pet at the expense of human relationships) suffer consequences to their well-being.
Because the participants in Study 2 were recruited from public locations (e.g., dog parks, animal shelters), it is possible that pet owners who choose to isolate themselves may exhibit different (and perhaps more negative) psychological tendencies. However, some people may face limited human social support not because of choice, but rather as a consequence of less-than-ideal circumstances.
For example, individuals with illnesses that reduce mobility may face limited access to social support, and for them, pets may offer one of the few available avenues for companionship (e.g., Allen & Blascovich, 1996). With these possibilities in mind, we acknowledge that the present findings may speak more to the consequences of pet ownership for everyday people than for people who are more socially isolated or facing health and mobility challenges, and future work should examine whether these special populations of people exhibit different patterns of behavior and outcomes from pet ownership.
This research also highlights the myriad strategies that can be used to satisfy the need for social belongingness. Loneliness and social rejection are painful to experience (MacDonald & Leary, 2005), but one’s friends and family may not always be present to provide immediate comfort (and, in some cases, they may be the source of social pain). How do people satisfy their social needs in the absence of supportive individuals? Recent research finds that lonely and rejected individuals may look at photos of loved ones, recall memories of social interactions, watch television, and sing or talk to themselves (e.g., Derrick et al., 2009; Gardner, Pickett,& Knowles, 2005; Jonason, Webster, & Lindsey, 2008).
The present research suggests that pets can also contribute to the fulfillment of social needs independent of the quality of one’s human social support (Studies 2 and 3) and predict better wellbeing overall (Studies 1 and 2). Moreover, this benefit of pet ownership is evident in everyday people, revealing that pets have a significant impact even in nonclinical populations or with individuals not facing significant life stressors.
In summary, the present work presents considerable evidence that pets benefit the lives of their owners, both psychologically and physically, by serving as an important source of social support.
Given our increasing understanding of the consequences of loneliness and social connection (e.g., Twenge et al., 2007; Williams, 2007) and how social support plays a critical role in stress, illness, and even mortality (e.g., House et al., 1988; Uchino et al., 1996), identifying when and how pets serve owners’ social needs is important.
Whereas past work has focused primarily on pet owners facing significant health challenges (e.g., Friedmann & Thomas, 1995; Siegel et al., 1999), the present study establishes that there are many positive consequences for everyday people who own pets. As our understanding of the psychological processes underlying perceptions of pets grows (e.g., Epley et al., 2007; Gosling & John, 1999), the present work provides valuable insights for the meaningful social support that pets provide for their owners and the attendant benefits these ubiquitous and consequential relationships generate.