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Working animals

companionship as a job
companionship as a job

There is a movement by activists to end the use of animals for any purpose including companionship called animal rights. I mention it often because it threatens our ability to live and work with dogs and horses. But a friend pointed out that one of the arguments best used to promote the follower's goals is that animals shouldn't have to work. That tenet on its face appeals to many. It needs to be addressed.

Humans are animals and work is a part of a meaningful life for all of us. Very few of us work acquiring food and shoring up shelters as a daily activity anymore in favor of dividing labor so we can all work at what we are best and share the bounty. This involves trade standards (money) and complex communications that we believe other animals don't have while also saying that we believe non humans do have some rights to what? In this instance we exclude the need to work.

This is interesting because animals who live without human companionship do spend the day not only acquiring food and securing shelter, but avoiding predators and facing exposure to extreme weather. That is real work; life threatening, grueling, heart breaking and painful work. For the activists in mind, this is fine and dandy. No intervention necessary.

But for animals who exchange pulling a cart, or walking alongside a blind man or assisting a police woman with her rounds in exchange for no longer worrying about food or shelter or even medical interventions whenever needed, this is somehow not a good deal. This is interesting most of all because it's a deal I make for myself every day. I work for and with animals in exchange for a paycheck and medical insurance that secures my food and shelter. I don't worry about frostbite or losing my teeth or going bankrupt if I need surgery. And I'm lucky that I'm both suited for and enjoy the work I do. But I've taken many jobs that I don't consider "fulfilling" or even fun just to avoid exposure the very natural conditions to which my activists friends would banish my dog and horse. Not on me nor my non human companions do I wish the ravages of pure nature.

So my horse and dog "work". Now, my particular horse does not pull a cart of passengers through a lovely park and my dog does not need to catch actual rabbits for us to eat. But they both agree to hang out within the boundaries of the land I own and respond when I call. They accept my grooming and medical attention with patience and they eat what I provide. I embellish their meals and actively research what is good and enjoyable for them but it's not like they can go out and get a special mint leaf or chase the cars as they might like to. But they also don't have to cross predator territory to get a drink of water in hot humid temperatures that used to kill people by the hundreds. On occasion, my companions are asked to do something with me like walk down the road or go to an event. I work on ensuring they enjoy our time together but if I could ask them if the few things I ask that they don't truly enjoy, are worth the free room and board, I have confidence in their answer. I also have studied animal behavior academically and professionally so I could tell you how to measure their acquiescence and enjoyment. It's surprising what some animals like to do. Its not much based on what people like or the weather we think is most comfortable, either.

So what is work? Work is participating in a community that provides advantages. And if you truly respect animals you understand many of them choose those advantages just like a person would. The only people who buy the argument that non humans shouldn't work, are those who don't know that life is work or of course, people who don't want to "work" themselves. And not contributing to the community in which you live, is something me, my dog and my horse can't understand.

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