"The only animal that needs controlling"

Categories: Media
Sweetie New Orleans.jpg
Jamie Hook's account of three days with Minneapolis animal control officers in the new Rake makes a nice companion piece to the latest (and greatest) novel by D.C. journalist (and writer on HBO's The Wire) George P. Pelecanos, Drama City, about a former gangster-turned-dogcatcher who thinks that some people, like some dogs, are beyond saving. (He hopes he's not one of those people.) It's only natural for the comparison between real humans and real animals to generate parallels and metaphors, just as the literature of Animal Farm and Watership Down makes you take a second look at livestock and rabbits (both horses and bunnies can be seen in downtown Minneapolis). I've mentioned before that Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees remains the best film in years about war. But now the Humane Society and its "non-lethal" counterparts have descended on a region where many hurricane evacuees have said (again and again) that the authorities "treated us like animals." People also became animals, some say. Others found or lost actual animals they loved, while dogs were used to attack the living and sniff out the dead...

Hook mentions, with some irony, "the superiority of our species." My only problem with his piece (and with a lot of the evocative language around animals) is that it blows straight through the double-meaning of "superior." You'll have to read further to find serious questions about what we owe these beings at our feet, in Matthew Scully's Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, and further still for a serious consideration of whether they have rights. In the meantime, my favorite line from the way-underrated popcorn movie of the summer, The Island: "Just because people eat the burger doesn't mean they want to meet the cow."

Update Oct. 5: See also this July piece in Slate, "What's the deal with cat ladies?"

Photo: A yellow lab named Sweetie found by her family after being homeless in New Orleans for several days, photographed by Jennifer Zdon/Times Picayune (Sept. 8).

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