I wanted to write this column about dogs. If you follow me on Twitter or have read my work elsewhere, you probably know that about me: I like my dogs. Though truth be told, I probably like your dogs, too. Because I just like dogs.
It's a common sentiment. Dog ownership has been going up markedly for a while now. There are some who worry that dogs -- and even cats -- are replacing human children as the objects of our devotion.
There's evidence to support the claim. Many young couples are more eager to have pets than kids. Expenditures on pet insurance have soared. One often sees dogs referred to as "furbabies" on social media. Two decades ago, my wife and I struggled to find hotels on our cross-country drives that would accommodate dogs (at least at a reasonable price). Now, many hotels compete for the attention of dog owners. Some businesses eager to hire skilled young workers have generous bring-your-dog-to-work policies, and some even provide "pawternity" care for new dog owners.
A survey by
And the problem will like get worse because, as Routledge notes, young people report much more anxiety and isolation in the era of the smartphone, which is why anxious college students increasingly request the support of "companion animals."
In his book "Them," Sen.
There's much to ponder and debate here. But it seems obvious that Routledge is onto something.
Which brings me back to what I wanted to write about. I post a lot of videos and pictures of my dogs, ZoÃ« and Pippa, on Twitter, that distorted and distorting window on the national conversation. I also follow many of the hugely popular dog-focused Twitter accounts (WeRateDogs, The Dogist, Thoughts of Dog, etc.).
Dogs -- and animals generally -- are among the few things that bridge the partisan divide. Tragedies are a partisan affair. If someone dies in a hurricane or shooting, there's a mad rush to score political points. Last week, a lovely young woman,
Even babies can be controversial since babies can touch various nerves, from abortion politics to the apparent scourge of "misgendering" newborns.
But dogs are largely immune to political ugliness. The angriest complaints I get about my dog tweets -- from people on both the left and right -- are that I'm wasting apparently scarce resources on dogs when I could be expressing my anger about whatever outrage the complainers demand I be outraged about.
This is one of the reasons I love dogs. Because it is an occupational hazard in my line of work to be constantly drenched in the muck of politics, dogs are a safe harbor. They don't care about political correctness. They don't want to Make America Great Again or join the "resistance." They just want to pursue doggie goodness as they see it.
It strikes me that all of these things are connected. The increasing nastiness of our politics is a byproduct of our social isolation. We look to politics to provide the sense of meaning and belonging once found in community and religion, which is why everything is becoming politicized. The problem is that politics, particularly at the national level, is necessarily about disagreement, which is why it cannot provide the sense of unity people crave from it.
And that's one reason why dogs are so appealing. In an era when everything is a source of discord and politicization, it's good to have something that stands -- and sits and fetches -- apart. Because they're all good dogs.
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