Who rescues who?

Here we have a 1911 story about a dog that, days after giving birth, managed to herd a mass of 3,085 sheep to their intended destination all by herself. (This reminds me of the recent story about the cat who traveled over 200 miles to get home.) “Left alone on Wagonaire mountain with 3,086 sheep by the death of John Sagoiday, her master, whose death occurred of heart failure one night, a female shepherd-dog two weeks later delivered to Manual Saunders, owner of the sheep, 3,085 of the animals, having lost only one during two weeks of privation. The dog’s achievement was carried out despite the fact that she was the mother of puppies only a few days old when her master died.” 

There are so many stories of this ilk, which I would describe as:

“[fill in the blank animal] does amazing thing [for humans].”

Google “dog saves man” and you’ll see what I mean. While these are much due expressions of gratitude, I wonder how many of these inspire useful behavioral manifestations of our gratitude. This article ends with an obvious plea for the adoption of dogs, detailing the thousands of animals that are annually “painlessly destroyed” in the London shelter for lack of humans to claim them. But is this the kind of story that should be motivating an adoption? “Save this dog, it might save your life or livelihood one day”? What if the dog you adopt doesn’t perform these miracles? Is it therefore deficient, or useless?

This is perhaps the flip side to the rhetorical move of emphasizing how much voiceless animals need us in order to motivate us to take some animal welfare action.

I believe this particular binary (someone must be the rescuer, someone must be the rescued) pits humans vs. non-human animals against each other.

After all—as with every relationship that is reciprocally invested in—we rescue each other.

Source: Our Dumb Animals 44.2 (July 1911).

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