Animal Representation- Dogs
Animals, especially domestic animals, have been considered as part of human life throughout history. Sequentially, human beings incorporate animals in their lives and represent them in various ways as a way of creating awareness of certain animal species. This representation occurs in all aspects of life and can include the media, and culture among other things. Specifically, human beings have exploited art and literature for the representation of animals they value as a way of commemorating these animals in the lives of humans. Accordingly, this representation impacts people’s perceptions of these animals thus increasing their importance to human beings.
This paper compares and contrasts three perspectives of dogs as represented in film, literature, and psychiatry. More specifically, the paper examines how the dog is presented as a teacher and father figure, as a helper, as well as, as a human in disguise. The paper provides an evaluation of the rationale behind these representations, as well as, the practical consequences of these representations.
The Dog as a Teacher and Father Figure:
“A Boy and His Dog”
The Novel, A Boy and His Dog, tells the story of Vic and Blood, two survivors of a war. Vic, the central human character in the film is in is the company of his dog Blood and they work together for their survival (Ellison and Corben 1-128). Together, the two characters search for food, clothes, and ammunition that is to be used for their survival. In the novel, the dog blood is represented as having telepathic abilities, which in turn, assist the two in their communication with each other. To understand the representation of the dog in the novel, one must also consider the human character Vic as his character assists in the representation of the dog. Accordingly, Vic is an orphan who understands neither the importance of ethics, nor the need for morality, and for that reason, he lives to satisfy his immediate needs (Lee 450). Portrayed as a telepathic dog, blood steps in to assist Vic in living a proper life. For that reason, the dog is portrayed as being a teacher and father figure. Blood educates Vic on and his sole purpose in life is identified as being the protection of Vic so as to keep him away from any possible harm or danger.
Additionally, blood is highly intelligent, thus qualifying him for the representation s a teacher and father figure (Sanders 121). To build on his representation as a father figure, Vic is highly rebellious, a character that is common to children. In a way, Blood is represented as having superior characteristics to his human friend. He is telepathic and intelligent, and the only thing he lacks is the ability to find food for himself. The representation of the Dog in this case is that of a guide and a teacher. The dog is presented as a creature that human beings can rely on, not only for companionship, but also as instructors and educators.
The Dog as a Helper:
Animal Assisted Therapy
Before going into the representation of the dog in animal assisted therapy, one must first understand the concept of animal assisted therapy. Also referred to as AAT, animal assisted therapy is a type of therapy that involves the use of animals for therapeutic treatment (Serpell 3). Animals are believed to have the ability to reduce stress and improve mental health in patients suffering from various diseases. Specifically, the dog has been one of the top choices of animals for the provision of therapeutic treatment in patients. The chief objective of AAT is the development and improvement of the patient’s psychological and social functioning for the betterment of their lives and health (Sarkson 15). Animals, especially dogs, have been identified as being useful for instructive and motivational efficiency for patients.
Dogs have been used for various therapeutic treatments such as treatment for schizophrenia, autism, as well as, other psychological disorders. Additionally, they have been used to provide motivation for patients under stress and decrease their depressive tendencies for better health. According to Becker, the temperament of the dog is important for therapy as it helps improve the patients emotional and psychological states thus increasing the possibility of healing (Becker 27). In this representation, dogs are brought out as animals that motivate people into living better lives. They are considered a tool for better living, and for that reason, are considered as the best animal companions human beings can have. In addition to this, research studies explain that dogs have a positive emotional effect on human beings, and contact with these animals reduce negative emotions in human beings. Recent studies on the issue illustrate that dog owners are more likely to live longer and happier lives, as opposed to, people who do not own dogs or any other pets for that matter. This representation of the dog suggests that the dog is a helper and an aide to human beings. Sequentially, the dog is seen as the only animal species that can provide unlimited assistance to human beings, hence allowing them to live better lives and heal from diseases and disorders.
The Dog as a Human in Disguise:
Goofy is a recognized dog cartoon character at Walt Disney production, whose first performance was as Mickey Mouse’s dog in the cartoon, Mickey Mouse (disney.wikia.com 1). A closer examination of the character reveals that he has anthropomorphic characteristics meaning that embodies a variety of human characteristics. His human characteristics are revealed in both his physical characteristics, as well as, his intelligence, which suggests that the character is more of a human being than he is a dog. Goofy’s mental and physical characteristics intertwine, thus giving him his anthropomorphic capacities (Beinman and Johnston 4). At the outset, Goofy is discreetly intelligent which may not be as evident because as a cartoon character, he is thought out to be a goof. He smart and reasons like a human being. His character as a dog is overwhelmed by his intellectual capacity as human in disguise, and he uses this human ability to communicate to both his friends and the audience (Miller 15).
Physically, Goofy’s representation as a human in disguise is revealed by a number of factors such as the fact that he walks on two feet and wears clothes and shoes, something that is, characteristically, human. As most analysts would argue, his physical appearance is also one of a human in disguise. For example, his head is considered as a caricature of a person. His posture, as well, also reveals a sense of being human, and for that reason, he is the perfect example of the dog as a human in disguise. The representation of the dog as a human in disguise is the most complex and influential representation of this animal. This is because such representation gives the dog a character that is beyond being human. Evidently, Goofy bears human characteristics which make it easy for his friends, as well as, his audience to accept him as a character (disney.wikia.com 1). This representation gives the audience the feel that they are dealing with a character that is similar in behavior as they are, thus making the comprehension of Goofy as a character much simpler. His anthropomorphic nature also allows the audience to understand human nature as presented by a dog, this in turn, builds on the significance of dogs in human life. Because cartoons are mostly created to be watched by children, the human character in Goofy is also used for educative purposes (disney.wikia.com 1). By imitating the character of goofy, the audience receive an in-depth understanding of goofy as a human character as opposed to his character as a dog. The representation of the dog as a human in disguise is an excellent representation of Dogs in human life. Dogs are seen to possess superior characteristics, thus enhancing their importance to human beings.
The representation of the dog in these three examples reveals a lot about human perception regarding dogs. Common knowledge suggests that just like other domesticated animals, dogs are mere pets that provide companionship to their owners. However, an analysis of the representation of dogs as presented above reveals the role of dogs as being beyond the provision of companionship. Dogs are not easily depicted as animals that add value to the lives of humans. For example, in the case of the representation of the dog as a teacher and father figure, it is evident that dogs can step in when parents and other instructors have failed. This, in turn, illustrates the importance of dogs to human beings and the contribution that these animals can make to the lives of those who own them. The representation of the dog as a helper in therapeutic programs builds on the importance of dogs to human beings. With this representation, dogs are brought out as having healing and motivational abilities, things that are important to human living. Dogs can assist human beings in easing their afflictions and for that reason, are a good source of motivation and uplifting. Lastly, the representation of the dog as a human in disguise implies that dogs exist beyond their animal characteristics. This, in turn, implies that having a dog is equivalent to having a human companion. This is because dogs will provide humans with the same things that other human beings can, thus their significance in human life.
The immediate consequence of the above representation of dogs is shaping of people’s perception of dogs in the human life. Sequentially, this will lead to the improvement of human-dog relationships in society. More human beings will opt for dog companionship, which will encourage the adoption of more dogs in homes. Additionally, another consequence of such representation will involve paying tribute to this animal species. Tribute will be in the form of the creation of more fictional dogs in film and literature as a way of spreading the message regarding the importance of dogs to human beings. These will aid in educating the future generations on the impact that dogs have had on human life and why these animal species should be conserved and preserved.
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