Dogs vs Cats: Let The Great Debate Begin

Cats are sad:

But Ryan Kearney greatly prefers them to dogs:

Even leading dog-brain guy Brian Hare, who has an academic and financial interest in promoting the intelligence of dogs, concludes a Wall Street Journal piece—titled “Why Dogs Are Smarter Than Cats,” no less—by writing, “And what might the genius of cats be? Possibly, that they just can’t be bothered playing our silly games or giving us the satisfaction of discovering the extent of their intelligence.”

Nail on the head right there. Cats don’t rush me the moment I enter a room and put their paws on my chest or sniff my pant leg or shove their snout into my crotch or bark loudly or lick or bite me. Dogs alone do—which, in a way, is why so many people love them. Dogs are almost certainly the world’s most affectionate species, giving their owners what (most) humans, out of self-respect, cannot: mute devotion.

Elsewhere in the piece, Kearney claims to hate dogs. His main reason:

Few of us, relative to our ancestors, use dogs for hunting. Which means that, aside from several obvious niche uses (guiding the blind, sniffing for bombs or drugs, chasing down criminals; I draw the line at “therapy dogs“), we now rely on dogs for only one thing: to be our living stuffed animal, something to cuddle with when we’re feeling sad or wistful or lonely. That is all we ask of them—that they always be there when we need them—and they happily oblige, since we also happen to feed them in the process.

Some find poetry in the simplicity of this transaction. I see human neediness, if not weakness, and perhaps even exploitation.

Our oldest hound, Dusty the beagle, would not qualify as a dog on these grounds. She’s like Snoopy in her beagleness. Yes, she howls loudly whenever I arrive home. But the affection? Not so much. What I love about her – dustyivyand it’s been clear since she was eight inches long in my hands – is her ornery independence, her contempt for the lubrications of dog love, the minimalism of her gestures of affection, the constant insistence that all that really matters to her are her twice-daily meals. I know my place. Only a couple of times have I felt her need me badly. Once was when she got entangled in another leash on the beach and couldn’t move. That howl was different and it was directed toward me. Then there was a recent occasion when she was clearly feeling poorly – a urinary tract infection – and for the first time clambered up to sleep next to me on my pillow. I was so moved. It only took fifteen and a half years for her to open up.

Eddy, our younger hound-mutt? An open wound of vulnerable affection. I’d be reluctant to generalize about a species whose individuals seem to me to be as unique as humans are. As for cats, my mind is indifferent; my body, alas, gets hives and my face blows up and I have trouble breathing.

Recent Dish on dogs here.