Marriage and the modern mutt


The pending divorce of Al and Tipper Gore has shaken the “marital community” to its foundation, but the New York Times reaches an intriguing level of marital advice today by suggesting we can enhance our marriages by taking a lesson from our pets.

She argues that we all have much to learn from the way we love our pets. People often describe pets as undemanding and giving unconditional love, when the reality is that pets require a lot of time and attention, special foods and care. They throw up on rugs, pee in the house and steal food from countertops. Yet we accept their flaws because we love them so much.

Dr. Phillips suggests we can all learn how to improve our human relationships by focusing on how we interact with our pets. Among her suggestions:

Greetings: Even on bad days, we greet our pets with a happy, animated hello, and usually a pat on the head or a hug. Do you greet your spouse that way?

Well, no, not exactly. But to be honest with you, a pat on the head has never worked well for Mrs. News Cut. Neither does putting her in a kennel at night or walking with a leash attached. Let’s just say that a dog is a dog and a spouse is a spouse and even the New York Times can engage in a desperate search to fill online space.

It’s true that the official dog of News Cut — Luci the Blog Dog — is an engaging personality and full of adoration for her masters, but the notion that dogs (and other pets) have a level of loyalty that mere mortals cannot duplicate is, well, nonsense.

The other day, for example, Luci was by my side, doing that loyalty thing, when a rabbit came by. No amount of calling, cajoling,bribing, or whining would deter the mutt from her desire to chase the rabbit.

Loyalty works only up to the point of temptation.

Many of the readers who bothered to comment on the article did a fine job of schooling the Times:

I think this idea is kind of ridiculous. The reason we easily forgive our pets is because we know that they lack the cognitive capabilities that humans posess. Pets don’t think beforehand of , for example, well if I do x, y, and z my owner may feel this way or that way. They are trained for certain actions and know those actions illicit a response, for example, pee outside or I will get into trouble. But spouses aren’t “trained” to be a certain way. They have their own thought processes and can reason and weigh the pros and cons of their actions, and the effect that those actions may have on their partner. That is why we more easily forgive our pets than our partners. In essence, our partners should know better, whereas our birds are mere birds.

Or put another way, not treating spouses like dogs is what the ’60s and ’70s were all about.