San Francisco is a city like any other in America where pets are held captive by the tens of thousands, becoming the platonic love slaves of addled people who think pets are just little human beings with a hair condition.
But only in San Francisco (so far) is there a movement to come up with a politically correct word to describe in more kindly terms the relationship between pets and their human beings, or vice versa. This is somewhat akin to the word games played a few years ago by people who took exception to any reference to "my wife" or "my husband," believing those descriptions tended to indicate ownership.
Some few male and female brutes probably think it is ownership and treat their mates like property. But that is not the general meaning of "my" in reference to two people who gladly possess each other. Love amounts to two people giving each other title to their respective hearts in a community-property sort of way.
Some animal lovers are troubled by the term "pet owner." Some of these people have previously suggested "pet companion" as a new term for "owner." That may work for some with a guilty conscience or even for some people like me who are weary of waiting on the temperamental little prima donnas like a slave. "Companion" would probably be a promotion over the servile role we now have.
It is puzzling, therefore, that some of the pet fanatics of San Francisco are now suggesting the term pet "guardian." That term for owner would tend to demote most pets. A guardian suggests someone who must oversee a socially and mentally compromised individual who can't be trusted to look after himself.
Maybe that is necessary with some unfortunate human beings who need help and watching. It is probably even true of some animals. But it is not true of all animals. Many of our pets could survive quite well on their own in the wild if we didn't rationalize our incarceration of them by calling ourselves "guardians," pretending we don't keep pets for our own selfish reasons. There is nothing more pretentious than robbing another creature of its freedom and trying to hide the fact by calling yourself a "guardian"-- someone so obviously superior he dares manipulate another life.
But that is consistent with the attitude of these alleged animal lovers, these people who take animals prisoner. They not only take steps to prevent the escape of their little hostages but regulate their companion's habits against the creature's will. They deny sex to their dogs and their cats. They won't let them date -- for the selfish reason that the humans fear becoming guardians to too many animal companions.
They refuse the animals the junk food of their choice. In California, some guardians even force vegetarian diets on carnivores, feeding dogs ground grain and soy beans and pythons freshly killed potatoes instead of live mice.
We who read history and pay attention to public affairs know "guardians" well. Some tinhorn despot like Saddam Hussein or the cold male supremacists running Afghanistan is always placing whole nations in protective custody, rationalizing that the people are just foolish children who need a guardian.
Similarly, some among us now want to paint over their paternalistic domination of pets with a different name for doggie dictatorship.
But even that is a lie because the guardians most of all should know that we who take charge of another life soon, of necessity, make ourselves more servant than master. People who create prisons become prison guardians -- servants to criminals, feeding them, caring for them. Similarly, as the "owner" of three cats, I have become a servant to three serial killers. When I want to keep them in, I do. On the other hand, if I didn't serve them, they would starve. Without me and the toilet, they would die of thirst.
And so, if you are freaked by the legalistic term "pet owner," don't assume that gives you the right to keep yourself above the animal and signal its alleged social incompetence with a precious word like "guardian."
If you need a new word, try something that accurately describes the relationship with your pampered beneficiary. Your pooch is a pet. You wait on it hand and foot. Thus you are a pet toady. You would be presumptuous to assume a title as lofty as guardian.
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