SO WHO IS GOOFING ON WHOM?
Humans and Their Animals, Pets & Their People
My dear niece, married to a veterinarian, writes to say “We don’t see the problems in the economy. People still bring in their animals, charge up big bills on their credit cards. We see old dogs that should have died ten years ago, can’t walk, barely see, too fat to move around – and their owners are ready to lay down thousands of dollars for hip replacements or heart operations. We’re not complaining: it’s great for business. But the rest of the world must think we’re crazy.”
Part of it of course is the replacement of affection for children, who are in the west increasingly seen as resentful, selfish, ungrateful, antagonistic, enormously expensive to bring up and educate…
…and honestly superfluous, when you don’t have forty acres to plow or pick cotton and need cheap labor.
Thus the birth rates head for the basement, even in Catholic Italy (where the Pope, who is not allowed to have any, keeps yelling “More children! O Faithful!”).
Thus, animals. It is often said about the stiff, proper, unemotional British…
…that “All of the affection in an English household is channeled through their animals”. They even buy airplane tickets for them and take them on holiday!
‘The latest research reveals that 12,000 pets have flown in business aircraft in Europe in the first five months of the year.
‘The study shows that of these over 1,100 have UK issued passports.
‘The report from Magnus Aviation, a UK-based private jet charter business, says that around 4 per cent of private flights it manages include pets – up from 2 per cent last year.’
(Excepting, obviously, the hapless beasts they choose to eat.)
Here we go. Two upwardly-mobile young professionals decide to travel the world. She is a nuclear physicist; he is a senior manager in a multinational bank. They are childless (not unusual in today’s world). An animal replaces the child, and all the expenses that go with one.
But they have Fifi, a favorite toy dog – a ugly bug-eyed yapping mutt they would never think of leaving behind. They fuss and they cosset, they cuddle and they primp. Fifi has its own bedroom, special bed, super food, amazing chew toys – few children in the world today are spoiled like this little canine.
The barren couple have a fab time jetting to Mexico, then Brazil, across the Atlantic to Morocco and onward through Europe, before ending their first-class jet journey, yapping, snapping little overbred Fifi in tow, in Hong Kong.
Deciding to celebrate they go to the fanciest, most expensive Chinese restaurant they discover on the web. They order a full range of expensive dishes – duck, ham, vegetable fantasies and fishy treats, and commanded the Chinese waiter to bring special dishes for Fifi. “Our dog! Food!”
What do you mean you already know the punchline, dear Ya Udah Bistro eater and reader?
Why look, it’s Fifi, prepared in the most delectable way imaginable, Chinese-style. (Imagine the tears and screams.)
As for the Chinese, they point and say the westerners are hypocrites. Us palefaces may be horrified at dog cuisine but we eat baby lambs.
Now for the record Management sincerely regrets to have to inform the valued patrons of Ya Udah Bistro that we do not have pooch or kitty on the menu at the moment, and if you wish to snack on a canine in Jakarta …
… you’ll either have to GO KOREAN or get down with LAPO TUAK, the ethnic Batak dog-soup joints. No, Ya Udah Bistro is a firmly Euro-Asian dining establishment, over two decades of serving Menteng and Greater Jakarta, now with a chic new air-conditioned branch in Serpong.
We serve premium chicken, fish, pork and beef, carefully selected and prepared hygienically and slowly, as befits fine cuisine. We are found in Lonely Planet and other respected global tour guides and gastronomical sites and our customers faithfully return, again and again.
Meanwhile, why do animals and their owners come to resemble one another so closely?
Is it simply a case of empathy?
“Science has the answer…” Yeah yeah science always thinks it has the answer and your notions are full of bull…
A neuroscientist tells Inverse this is no accident.
“People may choose dogs that look like them due to the mere-exposure effect, or the theory that we like things that we are familiar with,” Shannon Odell, a neuroscience Ph.D. candidate at Weill Cornell and host of Inverse’s Your Brain on Blank series, tells me. “We tend to be super familiar with our own faces from looking in the mirror, which might be why we like and choose dogs with similar features.”
So, what turns owner/dog into a pair of doggelgängers? (Sorry, had to.) That’s exactly what Sadahiko Nakajima, a psychologist from Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan, set out to find. In his previous research, Nakajima found that people were surprisingly adept at matching pictures of owners with the correct dog. What’s more, they could also sniff out the pairs of dogs/owners that researchers had randomly put together as fakes. It was impressive that people could correctly match pairs based on facial features alone, but Nakajima was interested in finding which particular facial features people were using to make their extraordinarily accurate assessments. Here’s how he did it…
Step One: round up a whole lotta dog owners and their pups at a dog enthusiast festival, take portraits of the pairs using techniques to remove extraneous influencing factors. The photos were all basic color portraits shot against a white background, cropped at the shoulders. The humans were asked to look straight at the camera and smile slightly (somehow, the researchers seem to have gotten the dogs to comply with the same instructions!) The resulting photos included 40 owners (an equal number of males and females) and 40 dogs of varying breeds that were randomly assigned to two test sheets. One included 20 real pairs of dogs/owners and the other showcased randomly matched pairs.
Here now, you can read the rest on your own time. We’re hungry!
And oh by the way before we settle down and dig in to the wondrous pasta, beer, roast meat, salads, wine and song at Ya Udah Bistro, here’s something that claims it’s largely accidental. Protip: this is not the hound of Mr. Vladimir Putin, nope.
Some fun-loving citizen of Kiev discovered that his dog had accidently assumed the expression of the leader of the Russian Federation. Or maybe it’s just that animals want to be celebrities as well.