Be More Dog

(or) Domestication, the Ancient Contract, and Human Happiness 
(or) How to Keep Yourself as a Pet and be Happy.
A Work in Progress

The domestication of animals is sometimes referred to as "the ancient contract".  The deal is that in order to use animals for human purposes, we must provide for all their needs.  This includes not only what they need to live, but what they need to thrive and be happy.  In return some animals are slaughtered, or kept only so long as they can serve their function, and others kept lifelong as beloved companions.

People sometimes, even often, fall short of their obligations under the contract. Rather than depending on the animal's cooperation we can compel them through engineering, chemicals, force and selective breeding.  And we can fall short of our obligation to provide a happy life, or even a life worth living.  Most commonly, animals are left without freedom to pursue their natural behaviors and occupy themselves with the satisfying activities that make up a happy life.

This problem casts a dark shadow over the second contract, the one humanity has with itself.  As our culture allowed us to acquire knowledge and develop technology, we have also separated ourselves from being at the mercy of nature.  Each human has been signed up, by their ancestors, to the same bargain.  Your community will provide basic assistance with learning skills, getting around, and protection from disease, deprivation and violence.  In return each person is meant to find a productive role where they serve and/or protect their fellow community members--in many cases risking their lives to do so.

The problems humans have in achieving happiness often mirror the problems our domesticated animals face.  Our instincts come to us from far back in our evolutionary history, and they match rather imperfectly to the demands of a largely manufactured environment.  For these reasons the major findings of animal welfare science also provide guidance about how to improve the lot of modern people.  Because, unlike non-human animals we benefit from being both the captive and the keeper.  We can fulfill our contractual needs for a happy life, but only if we learn how to keep ourselves--and our animal natures--as a beloved pet.

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