Is your dog your sibling too?

Introduction

This blog will be a little different from the last ones, as this one will be a photo blog about the relationship that exists between humans and their pets. As stated in the previous blog about Anthopocenes that humans are now the leading forces behind changing the world, humans now also have control over what species will live and survive and which ones will become extinct. Not only do humans use certain animals for what they are worth, such as cattle, they also elevate some animals to an almost human level. Some pets are even treated like children, I’m sure we all know one or two people who do have children pets.

This blog will investigate the relationships between companion species/pets and humans with regards to D. Haraway’s reading The Companions Species Manifesto (2007), as well as give a photo journal of some of my family and friends companion species relationships. Namely; Sandisile and his dog Sparky, Heather and her dog Cino, Maggie and her dog Jesse and  Amy and her horse Colour.

Haraway’s notion of the ‘companion species’

The concept of companion species was first brought to into use by Donna Haraway. She used the term as an exploration into the historical emergence of animals who are not meat, lab, wilderness, war dogs, vermin or pariah dogs, but who are part of a very particular historical relationship. The historical relationship of dogs or horse and human beings. The relationship is not nice anymore because of it is full of waste, cruelty, ignorance and loss that is now involved. The joy, inventions, labour, intelligence and play is fading away (Haraway, 2007).

Master or rather slave relationship dynamic is a basis to all and each owes the other more respect. It is also a misplaced love, dogs are about the inescapable, contradictory story of relationships- co-constitutive relationships in which none of the partners pre-exist the relating and the relating never done done once and for all (Haraway, 2007). In her Companion Species Manifesto, Haraway considers “dogs as the most significant example of companion species, the cyborg being but a toddler in our world of inter-species relations”. Cell phones, for example, could be considered a companion species (Boulanger, 2004).

They cry, and must be picked up. They must be plugged into a wall at night to be fed. They must be upgraded, protected, and cared for. In return, they provide information, connectivity, love, compassion and entertainment. Living with animals, inhabiting their stories, trying to tell the truth about relationship and beginning a relationship in its own records is a wonderful and special thing to have.  (Haraway, 2007).

Jesse and Maggie

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Jesse is love squeezed by her Mama

Maggie is 28 years old and has been single for most of those years. Thought the years she has watched her friends get married, have children and have many girlfriends and boyfriends. So in order to fill that gap in her life she has six dogs. Each of her ‘children’ mean the world to her. All of them celebrate birthdays, come with on holiday with her and are missed everyday when she came to school to teach me Afrikaans. Around her friends she is known as a fun and caring person beasue of her many pets and their special and close relationship. In this photo she is with Jesse. Jesse was at the time her latest baby to the collection. Maggie had found her at the Animal Shelter when Jesse was six weeks old. Jesse came from an abusive household that had no interest in raising the pups or caring for them. Instantly Maggie’s heart went out to Jesse and they have become companions ever since.

Recently all Maggie’s ‘children’ have had to take a second step as Maggie has met a man who may love her as much as her dogs do. What was very important for Maggie was they the dogs liked him, in order not to make later disappointments, Maggie invited them onto their first date.

Colour and Amy

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Amy posing with Colour

Amy was dealing with anorexia for a while before Colour came into her life. Without him she had no one to console in, her friends had rejected her because they did not understand what she was going though. When her relationship with Colour started her confidence and body language with herself became healthy. She also managed to gain weight as she gained muscle. Not only did she realise that she has to take on the responsibility of looking after Colour but simultaneously start looking after herself too. She began realising that she needed to eat more and healthier so that she is able to ride Colour, her responsibility of caring for herself came from caring about Colour.

In many ways, Amy thanks Colour for saving her life, making her gain weight again, learning to remake friends as well as beginning to care for her body.

Sparky and Sandisile

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Sparky’s favourite pose

Sparky has lived with Sandisile for 12 years now. His connection started the day he chose spike from the SPCA. Sandi was then allowed to name his dog too. The name came from a tv series that 12 year old Sandi was into at the time, Sparky was his favourite character. Although there are four other dogs in the house now, Sandi has the best relation to Sparky. He explains this because he thinks that Spike thinks that the other dogs are idiots, Snadi and Soarky share a sense of humour. Basically Sparky is older and more mature than the rest of the dogs and sees things from a wiser level. Because of this Sandi and Sparky connect more on an emotional and intellectual level. German shepherds are supposedly also a very inelegant breed.

When going on holiday the whole family needs to take less luggage so that all the dogs and their toys may fit into the car. This is because the idea of doing something fun without the extended family does not appeal to anyone as fun.

Cino and Heather

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Jarred and Cino having a nap

Heather was out at a cafe with her two sons, Ryan(8 years old at the time) and Jaryd (8months old at the time). They met a man next to them who had just had baby Labradors. What had also happened is that Ryan wanted a dog very badly and Heather had already decided that she wanted a dog that was low maintenance in exercise, could socialise, was good with children and was not very hairy, she had already decided that she wanted a Labrador Retriever. It was then on this cafe day, while having a cappuccino that the three of them found and took home Cino.

Heather was very happy to have another female in the house as well as someone who could be intuitive and be compassionate and emphasise with human emotions. Heather almost considers Cino as one of her children because Cino demands love, attention, respect, gratitude and care. These qualities, she believes are then expressed onto others, just as they do with her own children. Cino also expresses her own emotions, when she needs to exercise and Heather has not walked her in a few days, Cino will let her know by rubbing onto her legs.

For Ryan, Cino is a playmate, someone who can play ball games with her and swim in the pool. For Jaryd, as they are a similar age, Cino is a sibling rival, they constantly need to fight each other for their mothers attention.Cino also only listens to Jaryd when he’s calling Cino for food. When Heather’s husband is away on a business trip, Cino takes on the role as protector and becomes more alert around the h0use.

Heather believes that Cino holds incredible healing qualities, when Heather is down she can always come to Cino be be consoled and feel revived.

Conclusion

Animals have in many cases saved many peoples egos, self respect and ability to love. Haraway is correct in saying that there is a special connection between companion species and human beings. By analysing the relationships between Amy and Colour, Sandisile and Sparky, Heather and Cino as well as Frank and G, one can clearly see that these companion species are more than just animals. They are family.

For other articles on Companion Species as well as other environmental issues, search the hashtag #DigEcoAction.

References

Boulanger, J. 2004. Bookslut Review of the The Companion Species Manifesto by Donna Haraway. Nonfiction. Available from- http://www.bookslut.com/nonfiction/2004_05_002059.php. (Assesed on: 14/04/2016)

Haraway, D. 2007. The Companion Species Manifesto: dogs, people, and significant otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.

Shelton, D. 2001. Pioneer pets: the dogs of territorial Tucson: a photo essay. The journal of Arisona History 42(4): 445-472.

Featured image: That Cute Site. 2014. [Online] Available from – http://www.thatcutesite.com/little-girl-hugging-her-malamute-dog/. [Accessed on 15/04/2016].

Jesse and Maggie: image provided from Maggie

Amy and Colour: Image provided from Amy

Heather and Cino: Image provided form Heather

Saudi and Sparky: Image provided form Sandi

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