Question: What do you think is the most significant change that companion animals – dogs in particular – bring to society and/or our individual lives?
Answer from Cathleen Schine
I think the most significant change that companion animals – dogs in particular – bring to our lives is, ironically, an expansion of our human interaction.
Of course there are other important changes that dogs give us–an awareness of one’s ignorance of the complicated language of pee, for example; or a realization of how little room on a bed one really requires. And there is the intensely personal change: the sudden epiphany, the overwhelming love for a dog, a love that is unquestioning and undeterred by loud barking, muddy paws, slobber and gnawed chair legs. Inexplicable and boundless love. But I have a feeling people living with dogs have always had these feelings. What is different, perhaps, about living with a dog in this day and age is that dogs bring people together. In cities and even in suburbs, they’ve sort of taken the place of the church picnic or the social club or sitting on your front porch. Now, you walk your dog and you meet other people walking their dogs and you fall into conversation and you realize that you have lived two doors down from this person for five years and never spoken before. But because you have gotten a dog, you now have a neighbor as well. In New York City, everyone with a dog stops to talk to everyone else with a dog. It turns the city into a small town.
Cathleen Schine is the author of the internationally best-selling novels The Love Letter (1995), which was made into a movie starring Kate Capshaw, and Rameau’s Niece (1993), which was also made into a movie (The Misadventures of Margaret), starring Parker Posey. Schine’s other novels are Alice in Bed (1983), To the Bird House (1990), The Evolution of Jane (1999), She is Me (2003), The New Yorkers (2006) and, most recently, The Three Weissmanns of Westport (2010). In addition to novels she has written articles for The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review, among other publications.
For more of Cathy’s writing, you can visit her blog at cathleenschine.com