Here are some of the reader responses the newspaper received in reaction to the Jon Katz interview. One of them was apparently written by a dog, no less!
I have dog sat several times for people. I live in their house for a week or two.
I take care of the dogs. I feed them, give them water, walk them & definitely play with them. And guess what? When the owner comes home, those dogs go absolutely nuts!
They missed their owners. They may like me, but they completely love the people they really live with! –okgo
Until dogs can talk, the author's opinion can never be more than a theory.–Seamus
There was a time when I would have agreed with you but I believe you are completely wrong. My parents went away for almost a year while my father had a lung transplant. They left their little poodle "Lady" with friends. Lady did just fine with the new keepers until the day my parents came back home. When they walked into the room Lady almost fainted and then began to bark and squeal and dance and dance and so on. She was so happy to see my mom and dad that we began to fear she was going to have a heart attack and tried to calm her down.
This went on so long that it was more than seeing a past food server but genuinely missed my parents. I will never forget that experience.–HLW
Hellooo? His name is Katz. The arch-nemesis of canines.
Jeesh. I don't buy it.
Now go cough up that fur ball.–Dr. J
My husband & I recently visited friends we hadn't seen in 4 years. Their little Yorkie went wild over me and ignored my husband--I had cared for her a lot when she was younger and injured and when her "parents" vacationed, my husband was always there but not involved with Zoe. It was pretty amazing and her mom human told me that Zoe only acted that way for a very few favorite people. 4 years! What a memory.--Sean
As a golden retriever, I take great umbrage with this column (yes, goldens are smart enough to read and type). I am almost 14 years old, and have lived all over the country with my person/master/whatever you want to call him. He hasn't left me that often, but the few times he has, I most certainly missed him. and I most definitely love him. I've gotten sick before, and he's made me better. I needed both knees reconstructed so I wouldn't be in pain, and he took a second job so that we could get the surgery. I'm living with cancer now, and he's taking me to chemotherapy...and it's going into remission. Everything he gives to me, I try to give back 10-fold, and it's not just because he's got the food. Take it from me, dogs form attachments, and dogs love.--Julie
What about the dogs that manage to find their way back to their family after weeks, months, even years of separation (sometimes on their own, even!)? These dogs bypass new homes that could feed them and give them attention, focused on finding their proper "pack." What about the dogs that refuse to leave their master's grave/house/whatever despite other people offering food? It may not be love as we typically define it, but I would at least call that attachment.--Ella
Dangerous article to write in a city known for being dog lovers. I'd jump in the lake to save my dog every day and twice on Sunday.–Leonid Radzvilar
This is from Katz’s own website and describes his dog: "While Katz is trying to help his dog, Orson is helping him, shepherding him toward a new life on a two-hundred-year-old hillside farm in upstate New York. There, aided by good neighbors and a tolerant wife, hip-deep in sheep, chickens, donkeys, and more dogs, the man and his canine companion explore meadows, woods, and even stars, wade through snow, bask by a roaring wood stove, and struggle to keep faith with each other. There, with deep love, each embraces his unfolding destiny. "So, which is it, Mr. Katz?–Dan
P.S. Approximately 90% of the respondents insisted dogs can indeed love. Apparently, they felt Mr. Katz was “barking up the wrong tree” (I just had to write that!)
PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS:
As promised here’s an article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune in 2009:
Note to Jess Craigie: Your dog still doesn't love you. Yes, you jumped into the 40-degree waters of Lake Michigan Tuesday to save her. Paramedics said you were less than five minutes from death when they plucked you and Moxie, your 2-year-old mutt, to safety.
It was a foolhardy risk. But, honestly, I'd have done the same thing if I thought my dog was going to drown. And my dog doesn't love me, either. I tell myself she does—that she offers me not just affection, but that rare gift of unconditional love. But in fact, said author Jon Katz, who has written extensively on the bond between humans and dogs, what she, Moxie and other pets offer is neither unconditional nor love.
"Dogs develop very strong, instinctive attachments to the people who feed and care for them," said Katz, speaking Wednesday from his farm in upstate New York. "Over 15,000 years of domestication, they've learned to trick us into thinking that they love us."
What about the nuzzling? The big, adoring eyes? The wagging glee with which they greet us? They're all part of what Katz refers to as the "opportunistic, manipulative behavior" that's second nature to dogs. Not to say that they're canine con artists. "It's just how their instincts have evolved," Katz said. “Dogs aren't deceptive any more than they're sentimental, loyal, nostalgic, witty or bitter.”
"They don't have a narrative mind or the language to have those sorts of human qualities," said Katz. Imagining otherwise is part of what he calls the "Disney Dog" idea so many of us buy into. Their attachment is, in fact, "extremely conditional," Katz said. "They'll respond to anyone who gives them food and attention. I have a wonderful Labrador retriever who's very happy here. But if you had hamburger meat on you, she'd gladly go to Chicago with you and never look back."
I'd been thinking about this subject all week, even before Craigie took the plunge for Moxie. Since Friday, we've been taking care of Scout, the beloved mongrel of my vacationing Tribune colleagues Barbara Brotman and Chuck Berman. And she's shown no sign of pining for them—no loss of appetite or energy, no unsociable behavior.
"Dogs don't 'miss' you when you go away," said Katz, whose conclusions are supported by university studies of animal behavior. "They might get anxious and confused, but don't mistake that for loneliness or mourning. As soon as they find someone else to take care of them, they forget you pretty quickly." He added, "I don't mean to imply that dogs aren't great. I love my dogs. But I don't need to pretend that they're like people. That doesn't do them any good. Dogs are happiest when you treat and train them as dogs, not children." I'll remind Barbara and Chuck of that should they ask for the return of their faithless mutt.
But meanwhile, Jon Katz, moment of truth: Despite your unrequited love, would you leap into an icy Lake Michigan after one of your dogs?
"It's hard to say," he allowed. "I'd like to think I wouldn't; that I'd realize that human life is far more valuable. But watching my dog drown would be very tough."
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).