Peacegal's Reviews > Dominance and Affection: The Making of Pets

Dominance and Affection by Yi-Fu Tuan
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Oct 26, 2011

it was amazing
Read from January 06 to 10, 2014

What does it mean to be a pet? Pets are a condition of disposable income and comfort. A pet is coddled and pampered, but ultimately has no rights of its own. A pet can be bought, sold, given away, and even killed by its owner. This fascinating and truly unique book looks at animal, plant, environmental, and human pets.

The desire to manipulate nature into pets seems a uniquely human trait which remains constant throughout time, place, and society. Seemingly anything can serve the function of a pet—the author argues that some adults even treat their children more like lifestyle accessories--that is, pets. If this argument sounds too harsh, just look at the entertainment magazines. A celebrity who is fading or has suffered a tarnished reputation can redeem herself by having a bayybee. Suddenly, she's in the headlines again and prior transgressions are forgiven. The child can be passed on to a nanny and only trotted out when the star has a photo op. One needs to only visit a family restaurant or other public place to see that some parents see their young children more as pets or trophies than as growing human beings that must be taught to function in society.

The author isn’t afraid to “go there” and discuss what most of even the more radical animal rights groups will not—the subject of animal pets. We all love pets, but is their condition justifiable? Like Bonsai trees, most pet animals have been so molded and sculpted away from their original form that they are hardly recognizable. The author uses fancy goldfish as an example, which have been bred to be so malformed that they may have difficulty swimming. For example, the Telescope goldfish is so hobbled by its strangely protruding eyes that it can swim into objects and become blind. Fancy pigeons, too, have been stretched and compacted into such bizarre forms as to defy belief. But of course, dogs are the pets with which we are most familiar. There are dogs whose snouts are so pushed in that they have difficulty breathing. There are dogs whose eyes protrude so much that they are constantly weeping fluid. There are dogs with so many skin folds that they are prone to nasty skin infections. The English bulldog is so bizarrely formed that she must deliver her pups by Cesarean section. The health and comfort of the animal takes a backseat to what humans consider beautiful or interesting.

Beyond the bodily forms of the pets themselves, their dependent condition ensures they are at our mercy. People treat their pets with the same wide range of behaviors with which they treat other objects of property, such as cars. Some are loved, pampered, and looked after with great concern. Others sit outside in all weather, are never given any sort of preventative or diagnostic care, and then are disposed of when they get to be too much of a hassle. The author states in the text that the majority of Americans keep their dogs for 2 years or less. It would be interesting to see if this is indeed still the case. It certainly is with the fighting breeds, which are a highly liquid asset, both because of the animals’ own unpredictable behavior and the young, transient owners most often attracted to these breeds.

Like any good nonfiction read, this book is filled with little facts the reader will take away and ponder. We get a sense of the beginning of the circus show when we read of the trained wild animals that preformed in the gladiator rings. We also read that It was sometimes argued, by the Eastern church for instance, that animals were the incurable depraved instruments of Satan.
1 like · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Dominance and Affection.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

01/06/2014 marked as: currently-reading
01/10/2014 marked as: read

No comments have been added yet.