Monday, March 15, 2021

What Charlie Sykes Does Not Understand About Cats and Dogs and The People Who Own Them

I listen to a lot of podcasts, but my favorite is the daily Bulwark podcast hosted by former Wisconsin radio host and current Never Trumper, Charlie Sykes.  

I have a lot of admiration for Sykes.  Unlike other right-wing media types who enriched themselves by embracing Trumpism, Sykes refused to cave on his conservative principles.  In the end, it cost him his audience, his radio gig and, no doubt, a lot of money.   But to Sykes, integrity and intellectual honesty matter.  This world needs more people like Charlie Sykes.  

There is something else you should know about Charlie Sykes. He likes, no LOVES, dogs.  He has two or three dogs, I believe, German Shepherds.  He is constantly talking about his dogs on his podcast and posting pictures of his dogs on social media. 

Charlie Sykes w/Eli (posted on Twitter)

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I too like dogs.  I grew up in the country, in southeastern Indiana.  We had dogs and cats as did nearly every farmer who lived in the area.  When I moved to Indianapolis in my 20s, it was the first time I found out that cats and dogs, and their respective owners, are supposed to hate each other.

Moving into an apartment after graduating from college, I had to choose to be either a cat or a dog owner.  Because one can leave cats alone for days at a time and you do not have to walk them during the brutal Indiana winters, the choice of becoming a cat parent was easy.  It was one of the best choices I have ever made.   

The problem with Sykes is not that he likes dogs.  The problem is, as a dog owner, he seems obliged to roundly dismiss those of us who are cat owners.  The only cat owner he appears to tolerate is frequent Bulwark guest, Tom Nichols.

Now, with adult hindsight, I realize there are differences between dogs and cats, and the people who choose to own them.  Dogs offer undying loyalty and constant affection.  You are the center of their lives.  They want to be around you 24/7.  Cat owners do not need or want that from their pets.  But dog owners sure do.  If dog owners are insecure about whether they are loved and appreciated by the world (and many are), a dog tells them in no uncertain terms that they care about them even if no one else does. 

Cat owners, on the other hand, know they are loved by family and friends. We do not need to be constantly reminded of that by our chosen pet.  It is not that cats do not offer affection.  Indeed, I have never owned a cat who was not friendly or did not enjoy spending time with me.  (As I write this, my cat Thelma has entered my home office and is asking to be petted.)  But those moments of affection are MOMENTS because, unlike dogs, cats have lives apart from their owners.  Because a cat’s show of affection is periodic, it has much more meaning than a dog’s constant slobbering admiration of its owner. 

On one of last week’s podcasts, Sykes complained that other Bulwark writers, Sarah Longwell and Jonathan Last, dissed dog owners who post pictures of their pets on social media.  Longwell said dog owners do that because they are trying to “humanize” themselves.  Longwell has it wrong.  Dog owners know they are human.  They are just not sure they are human beings who are loved.   They post pictures of themselves with their pets to prove that another living, breathing mammal cares about them. 

Social media is filled with photos of dog owners with their pets.  Yet when cat owners post pictures of their pets, which is quite often, they rarely include themselves in the picture. Why? Because we cat owners know the world loves us.  We do not have to prove that fact. 

But that fact contains an exception.  We cat owners are not universally loved.  Dog owners do not like us.  Dog owners’ dislike toward us though is not because of who we are, but because of jealousy. Dog owners hate that we do not share their insecurities, that we cat owners do not need validation from our pets to convince ourselves that we are loved. 

Are cats better than dogs?  Absolutely not.  But are cat owners better than dog owners?  Probably.


marksmall2001 said...

I was going to post a sharply critical reply to your post, but my cat, Delilah, thought that would be too cruel.

MLee said...

After hearing Charlie Sykes mention this on his podcast yesterday I had to find/read it. AGREED.