On Scolding and Cognative Dissonance

I was walking Montana this morning when we came across two dogs off of their leashes: one little black curly-haired dog, and the other, a Golden Retriever. Their owner was a woman around my age with short pink shorts and a big blonde bun on the crown of her head.

Montana was trotting behind me on her leash when she suddenly came to an abrupt halt; I turned to see she’d tucked her ears back and had her tail between her legs because the Golden Retriever had approached her.

I tried to tug Montana along, but her instincts were obviously telling her to stay still, and her haunches were pretty dug in, and the blonde girl goes, “No, wait,” grabs the Retriever’s collar, and then kicks him in the chest. Hard. Like you’d kick a soccer ball. It was kind of surreal, this innocuous-looking sorority type choking her dog out. The Retriever squished his eyes up and winced.

I was absolutely horrified, and, of course, wanted to say, “Don’t kick your dog! What the hell is wrong with you?” But I didn’t. Because it probably wouldn’t have helped.

But it raises the question, whose job is it to speak up for those who can’t defend themselves? As a society, we get all up in arms about doing our best to mitigate the weakness of those we view as our vulnerable members. Child molesters are considered the scum of the earth for this reason, as are wife-beaters. And everyone’s temporarily enthusiastic about the anti-bullying movement.

And this puts animals–where?

I’ve absolutely had low moments with Montana. When she was only a few weeks old and would cry and cry all. night. long., I did not empathize with how terrified she must have been to be separated from her mother and alone for the first time in her life; instead, I lay there thinking, “Jesus Christ, will that dog shut up.”

There was more than one walk in her childhood where she’d be so bratty on a walk that I’d hoist her up, stick her under my arm, stride back to our apartment, and then push her in her crate, absolutely fuming about how she would not cooperate with my plans for that day.

But those situations are now few and far between, in part because her behavior is much improved (although she has the annoying habit of standing between your line of sight and the television as you’re reclining on the futon, and then dropping socks on your face) and also because I think P and I have come to appreciate her as a creature of incredible love and incredible loyalty.

If P and I take her outside together, and one of us walks away, Montana throws a fit; she sees it as her job to keep the pack in tact, goddammit, and she’s not leaving anyone “behind” without a fight.

She trails us from room–to room–to room–because obviously she sees our presence as the best thing she’s got going.

If she drops a sock on your face 10 times, and at no point do you throw the sock or play with her, she doesn’t hold a grudge; she’ll just curl up next to you and try again the next day (well, after blocking your view of the television for several moments).

I think I’m pretty casual in my vegetarianism. When people ask me about it, I chalk it up to being a habit, but it really is more than that–on some level, I do find eating meat, and the meat/dairy industry in general, totally morally abhorrent. Taking advantage (is that a sufficient euphemism for “torturing” and “killing”) of weaker beings is morally abhorrent.

I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance who revealed that she shows cows, pigs, etc., in the way that one could show a dog at Westminster. (That’s what they do on farms, I guess.)

Someone asked her what happened if her family ate their pigs, or cows, and she reared back and said, “Of course not! They’re our pets.”

I asked, “But you eat other pigs and cows?”

“Well, yeah,” she said. “Because they’re not ours.”

And one of those phrases slipped into my head–you know, phrases like, “not the brightest bulb,” or “not the sharpest crayon in the box,” or “not the sharpest tool in the shed,” and then I thought, “No, this is the power of cognitive dissonance, right here.”

So yesterday I ordered an iced coffee and forgot to ask for soy milk in it. I watched the barista pour in the cow’s milk. I took a few sips, and decided that, really, I couldn’t do it. Just couldn’t do it. Donated it to P.

ETA: stupidest conversation with a non-vegetarian as of late:

Guy [at a restaurant]: You’re a vegetarian.

Me: Yes.

Guy: You know, I was vegetarian for a week. And then I just got really angry. Like, I was driving down the road, and I was feeling all road-ragey, and I thought, you know, maybe I just need some meat.

Me: [incredulous stare]

Me: Okay.

Me: [turning to talk to someone else]


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