My 2nd son, Robert, is the persistent type. After a year+ of cajoling, he talked me into doing something I’d sworn (like countless parents before) I’d never do: get a dog. Born two July 4ths ago, Mike is a petite Golden Doodle with a personality so sweet, trusting, and docile that I worry he’s in a mild coma half the time. We brought him home at four months old, and though his housebreaking is still not quite where it should be, I swear he’s made me a better person. As in morally better. Dogs, it turn out, are outstanding ethics teachers.
To start, dogs force you to be empathetic. They aren’t human, they have a whole set of behaviors we don’t share, and they don’t talk; there is simply no way to deal with them other than to try to grasp a situation from their dog standpoint rather than from your human one. Empathy, though, however cultivated, is a cornerstone of ethics: it allows us to step outside of our self-oriented perspective and give serious credence to the claims and rights of others. We are all good at this to varying degrees; dogs help us become even better. [Read more…]