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The dogs get to be lazy when I’m not.

20140723 Warm day

I’ve been ruminating lately on how good lives take hard work. Some labors are more visible than others, which doesn’t make them inherently more or less valuable, just different.

During SPARCS2014, Ray Coppinger spoke of how he finds it cruel and freakish to reduce dogs, with their evolutionary history as working animals, to the lazy lifestyles of modern pethood. When you take the “work” away from the working dog, the drive always remains, as a matter of biological coding. Apparently, there’s no such thing as true retirement either when your existence is valued on the basis of your work. Even Coppinger has remained awfully busy as an emeritus professor. Yet I’m keenly aware of his age and accompanying stature because I don’t think he’s allowed his thinking to change much in light of emerging research, scientific and historical.

As the meaning of “work” has changed over the course of anthropological history, we need to rethink canine labors within the context of cynological history, too. I’m not arguing that human or canine laziness is actually laborious, or anything nonsensical like that. But I must acknowledge the complexity of human-animal relationships by admitting that dogs’ roles are at least as versatile as the human conditions to which they are attached.

As I currently work largely from home or outside in spaces where dogs are not free to enter, pet inactivity is necessary to enable this kind of productivity, which does end up mutually beneficial. My lifestyle, my worklife — similar to that of many people the world over — is compatible with the comfortable idle of these dogs. I rest assured that the Bows are equipped to age, change, and adapt to these pet roles, just as so much of canine-human evolutionary history has been about how these two social species develop in accordance to each other.