The expression “It’s a dog’s life” means that life is hard; unpleasant; unrewarding, and apparently has 16th century origins when dog’s were working animals and treated as such. It was also the original title for the book about Ray “Who Said I was up for Adoption?”, because of the blatant contradiction between a “dog’s life” and Ray’s life!
While the expression is still used today, it is interesting to consider it’s validity. Using Ray as my study subject, what really is “a dog’s life”? Is it that hard; unpleasant and unrewarding? The obvious answer is “Hardly!” Ray has a very good life by any canine standard, but it does pose some interesting thoughts.
Ray is dependent on us for his food. Is he? Really? If we did not feed him, he would, without any doubt whatsoever, be hungry for only so long and then he would scavenge. Whereas we may consider scavenging less than desirable, I would suspect that Ray would see it simply as a survival process and adapt very quickly.
Ray is dependent on us for his health. To achieve a reasonable life-span then he probably is, in that he gets regular check ups, a healthy diet, and medication as necessary… but that is putting our perspective on health onto Ray. I really do not think that Ray has ever considered a “reasonable life-span”. In fact he has almost certainly never considered any life-span as being a factor! Without our involvement in his well being, he could well live a rather short life. We know for certain that if his heart-worm had not been treated in 2013, he would not be alive today, but Ray has no life expectations. That’s a human perspective.
Ray is dependent on us for his social needs. I think that is highly unlikely given his reactions now to other people and dogs.
Much as Ray seems very happy living with us and regularly shows affection, I would suggest that, from his perspective, he really does not need us. He would probably like us to make his life comfortable but… he does not need us!
So what is “a dog’s life”? I would suggest that it is one in which he can adapt from good eating to scavenging at a moments notice, and think little of it. I would suggest that it is one in which a health condition is simply accepted. Treatment could be intuitive drinking more than usual, eating more grass, and any other plant perceived to have a benefit of some description, and resting up as necessary.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be so adaptable and, instead of complaining about the increase in public transport costs, we just recognized the need and moved on. A big complaint here is the rising costs of housing, such that “What young couple can possibly afford to buy their own home?” There are many countries around the world where young couples have never been able to buy their own home without saving for 5-10 years.
Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of complaining about “yet another increase in the cost of gasoline”, we just looked at our car (or two) and appreciated that we did have the freedom to drive wherever we wanted.
We do have perspectives that dogs do not have, and have mental abilities beyond their understanding. We can project a typical life-span, and it is our survival instinct to consider whatever services the medical profession can provide but, beyond that, I would suggest that dog’s have developed in some ways rather better than us.
They do not compare themselves against others; are not in competition for “bigger” or “better”; do not worry over what should be worn; feel no pressure re new year resolutions; have neither the desire nor the inclination to impress; will play under pretty much any conditions, and will not reject another dog based simply on its size, color, breed or overall condition.
Of course this is a rather simplistic view because the world is what we humans have made, and while it is tempting to suggest that being a dog could be much more rewarding, it would be an unrealistic position to take.
Dog owners will know, however, that dog’s have many advantages over us mere humans in their perspective on life in general but, while we really would not want to be “in their shoes”, simply thinking about “A dog’s life” can make it seem attractive.
Hard? Unpleasant? Unrewarding? I really don’t think so!