Dog Sweaters and Bees
People and their pets. There is definitely a fascination there that ventures into the bizarre. I’ve heard of pets as companions, but never thought of them as social distinctions. I suppose that it shouldn’t strike me as odd—if people can distinguish themselves with an expensive car, they should be able to do so with different dogs, too. I always thought of dog clothing as being something that our modern, American, individualistic culture invented. I had no idea that animals were forced to suffer in embarrassing Christmas sweaters long before my time and in France. I wonder how animals feel about that? If it were me, I’d be mortified, but maybe somewhere in the dog’s pack mentality it sees clothes as an identifying characteristic of its pack, in which case the clothes might translate into a sense of belonging. I don’t know, maybe I overestimate the dog and it really is just an ugly sweater.
Societies that advocate for animal protection, which Bulliet would likely label as a direct result of a postdomestic society, are described as a part of the “Civilizing process” in this text. Of course, that protection extends only to certain animals. This is the line I found most intriguing:
“Stray cats and dogs quickly lost their standing as pets and became recategorized as “wild” animals, which in many instances also meant that their status shifted from that of an animal worthy of protection to one of an animal that had to be eliminated.”
This rings especially true to me—I thought of the ASPCA commercials with that sad Sarah McLachlan song. How many of those poor, mistreated animals would be seen as vermin outside the homes of their abusers? There does seem to be a certain hypocrisy here.
Also interesting to me is this different categorization—acclimatization, or the adaptation of a species to a foreign environment. If we think about things in terms of wild, domesticated, and acclimatized, then certainly it can also be said that these stages represent a varying degree of human intervention, with wild being none at all and acclimatization being complete intervention (It wouldn’t be there at all without people). There is also the implication that acclimatization involves simply bringing a species somewhere and letting it adapt. How does this idea mix with genetics and the idea that we can influence the genetic level to get desirable traits? Does that make acclimatization a somewhat archaic idea, made obsolete by the study of the genome?
Because my domesticate is the bee, I thought it would be a good way to multitask by ending on it. I found it interesting, though not surprising, that Darwin describes the Bee as being immune to selection attempts by humans. He says this because it is too hard to keep one species of bee from mingling with others. This isn’t something true of insects in general—we know from the silkworm that insects can indeed be changed by human intervention. My question is this—does that make the bee the ultimate exception in the history of domestication? People live with bees, we consider them a domesticate, and yet the bee exhibits no change as a result of this relationship. Before, we agreed that this change in the species as a result of human contact was a requirement to be considered a domesticate, in much the same way that dogs got floppy ears and silkworms lost their flight. If bees aren’t altered by human contact, are they really a domesticate at all? I’m finding myself asking the question again—what is domestication? Is there such a thing as an all-inclusive definition or, as is often the case in other fields, are there just exceptions?