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My Dog’s
Trade Policy

Travis, Floyd's 117- pound Great Pyrenees

Photo by Annie.

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by Floyd Kemske

I never thought I would see this happen, but my dog has become an advocate of trade restrictions. He used to take the side of free trade, but that was before it began to affect him personally. These days, he sees the rising influx of cats as a threat to animal domestication as we know it.

He had heard that the Census Bureau now reports cats outnumber dogs in this country. Most of the commentators say this is a sign of changing lifestyles in America. My dog attributes it to a decline in basic values, and he believes it heralds the end of our country’s capacity to compete in the area of home animal-raising.

There is just no reasoning with him when he gets like this. Dogs, he insists, created the market. It’s unfair for cats, which happen to be cheap and easy to service, to just waltz in and take it away. For generations, dogs have been the first place animals in our homes. Now cats come along and parlay a lower standard of living into a major market share.

My dog thinks we should have anticipated the results of all this cat-dumping. People used to have cats just because they were cheap. Now the damned animals are trying to develop the high end of the market with exotic and expensive varieties. My dog says we should have seen this coming. Cats never would have been able to try such a thing if we had no leash laws, he says. They are able to invest so heavily in product improvement, he says, because they don’t even have to provide for their own defense.

And dogs, of course, have always been more expensive than cats. But there’s a reason for that. They have led the way in animal-raising innovation and value for the dollar. There once was a time that when people thought of cats, they automatically thought of animal shelters and free pets. But, I ask you, when you think of dogs, what do you think of? Breeders and papers, of course.

And while we’re on the subject of papers, cats don’t need them. You give a cat a box with some kitty litter in it, and that’s about the extent of how much you have to change your life to accommodate it. Compare this to life with a puppy, which almost always means home delivery of The New York Times, whether or not you read it. My dog insists, of course, that there is no comparison. You’re supposed to disrupt your life when you acquire a pet, he thinks. That’s what living with an animal is all about. There’s no such thing, he says, as a free pet.

He always brings it back to particulars, of course. That’s the way he argues things. He always brings it down to a personal level. Would we be willing to give up face licking and stick fetching, he wants to know, just so we wouldn’t have to go through house-breaking? Sure, cats don’t have to be trained to the location of doing their business, but when was the last time you saw one bark at anybody?

You don’t actually raise a cat, or even care for it. You just bring it home and shout at it every once in a while when it scratches holes in your slip-covers. If we’re all going to own cats, my dog points out, we’re going to lose our capacity for raising animals in our homes.

And who ever heard of licenses for cats? Rabies vaccinations? Obedience classes? Hell, cats hardly even eat anything. They are low-commitment animals. My dog rests his case right there. That’s the trouble with this country, he thinks. We won’t make a commitment to our pets. Yet it is the American dog that has made this country such a great pet-raising power.

To deal with the problem, he says, we need a well thought-out national pet policy, one that recognizes our national interest in the matter. We cannot rely on cats, he insists, to observe voluntary quotas. We’ve tried that in the past, and it hasn’t worked.

This kind of thinking is surprising when it comes from such a staunch defender of free trade as my dog. But he thinks that cats have such an unfair and unnatural advantage in the current market that dogs should be afforded some sort of protection until they can become more competitive. Given the chance, he insists, dogs can learn to use kitty litter and fetch sticks. Then we’ll see who gains market share.

This essay was first published in Dog Fancy, November 1992.

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