To those of you that do not know him, please allow me to introduce you to Wabby the dog. Effectively the third member of our household, Wabby - my brother's dog - is an 11.5 year old Jack Russell. Because my brother tends to go on international travel quite often, our house is Wabby's second house. Calculations show that he is with us for 1/6 of his time. Almost like my much beloved army reserve duty back in Israel.
To those that do not know much about dogs, me included, here's a bit of a lesson given to me some two years ago by the family dog professor, Jo's father (to those of you that don't know, Jo's parents entire lives revolve around dogs). Jack Russells are a dog breed that was developed out of the terrier family for rat hunting purposes (which also applies to other rodents and pests, even to foxes). They are very much led by their instincts, and once they smell something interesting they forget everything else around them. They're also stupidly brave, often jumping up and down on dogs that could demolish them in a second or even horses.
Anyway, for someone who doesn't like dogs in particular - in fact, I would say that I dislike dogs much more than I like them, and I'm definitely afraid of them, Wabby is a bit of a contradiction. With his small size he is the last thing you'd be afraid of; in fact, when you play with him you can see how careful he is not to even remotely scratch you with his teeth. He is a pest, which earned him the titles of "microbe" and in general "the pest", but he is quite cute at being a pest, so we actually love him. Out of all the animals I've ever been in touch with, including my unsuccessful experimentation with owning a cat, Wabby is by far my most favorite pet. For all intents and purposes, he is family - and I'm sure some of you would say that he certainly belongs with us, intellect level wise.
A few weeks ago, on his last session at our place (yesterday, by the way, he started a new session) we bought him this squeaky toy from the supermarket. After all, he is locked in the backyard most of the day, doing nothing but barking his guts off at the neighbors dog - they can spend hours standing on both sides of the fence, effectively just a few centimeters from one another, and bark (quite a lovely tune to sleep to at night) - and dig holes in our garden. And I won't even mention the lovely gifts he leaves behind from time to time which I need to collect with a plastic bag.
From the minute we came inside with the gift still wrapped he could smell the plastic. He went berserk, jumping at the plastic bag where the toy way. Eventually when we gave it to him he took it to his territory outside and just squeaked the hell out of it with his mouth, paws, rear legs - nothing was spared in the war effort.
During the next couple of nights he wouldn't depart from his toy. We did not allow him to bring it inside, so he chose to just ignore us and sleep outside. Wherever he went to he would carry it with him, with the distinct faint squeak following him wherever he goes (for by now the toy's main squeaking functions were dead gone after all the abuse the toy had to go through).
By far the most interesting observation was his behavior towards the neighbor's dog. Instead of the usual barking, he would run along the fence squeaking his toy - boasting it - with the other dog answering back in barks. Now I've seen Wabby dreaming before - you can clearly see that he is in REM sleep and you can hear as well as see him barking in his sleep at some phantom rabbit in a green pasture way over yonder; but I have never seen an animal teasing another animal.
And my point is: I've said here before that we are not that different to animals and that in general, mankind is only superior to other animals in the sense that we can overpower them to do what we want: we eat cows instead of the other way around, and no cow is matadoring people in a ring with a red carpet between its horns. Other than that, we are the same; my behavior when I get a new toy, be it a new Xbox game or a digital SLR camera or a new PDA, is not that similar to that of Wabby's: I can not stop thinking about it with excitement, I use it all the time, I show it off, and eventually I get the point that it doesn't solve my problems on this earth and I move on (like Wabby did, too).
So yes, I am definitely having another stab at religion here. Especially those that come up with statements such as "pets don't go to heaven" and similar crap.
Actually, they're right: Pets probably do not go to heaven. And ignorance will always be bliss.