As I drove along yesterday, I listened to part of an interview with a theologian, James Alison, on the ABC radio program, Encounter. I was struck by his claim that the idea of 'companionate marriage' - a loving relationship between two people who like each other - only emerged in the seventeenth century in Europe. He said that previous to that time, men lived separately from women and didn't socialise with them. Of course, as he so delicately put it, the two sexes came together for 'procreation'.
I took this to mean the two genders didn't really understand each other, or respect their similarities and differing strengths, until they began to live as couples and spend time together.
That made me think of the changes that are currently occurring in the way we relate to our dogs. As long as dogs were in the backyard, out of sight for most of the day, we didn't realise how much they are like us, in their emotions, intelligence and needs. But now that many of us live 24/7 with dogs, we realise we need to respect them and treat them well.
And we like them. In fact, we have learned to love them.
This development has been recognised in Australia, in many ways. An article in The Age newspaper yesterday reported that Lifeline Australia, the crisis support telephone service, now offers support to people grieving the death of a pet.