Bark And Woof: What Our Dogs Say About Us
Did you adopt a pet during the pandemic? Whether you decided it was time to bring a dog, cat or other animal friend into your living space, shelters across the country saw a major uptick in adoptions this year as people sought out furry companions to take care of while social distancing.
While record adoption rates can seem like a good thing, it turns out that even pets are going through their own tough times, now that some owners are around all the time.
And after Democratic Georgia Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock attracted attention for airing television ads featuring his dog, it’s gotten pundits and pet owners talking about how dogs have been perceived through the years, particularly as it pertains to race in America.
But why is Warnock’s pet beagle viewed as a “white people doggy”? And could his choice of pet have an effect on his electoral strategy?
Well, for starters, there’s a large racial divide in dog ownership. A 2006 Pew Research poll found that 45 percent of white Americans owned a dog compared to only 20 percent of African Americans. And the way pet ownership is portrayed in popular culture further exacerbates that divide in the minds of the public. In their classic study of media and race in the 1990s, “Black Image in the White Mind,” Robert Entman and Andrew Rojecki found no prime-time commercials containing African American pet owners. “According to the world of TV advertising,” Entman and Rojecki surmised, “Whites are the ones who occupy the realm of ideal humanity, of human warmth and connection, as symbolized occasionally by their love for their pets.” That is one reason Warnock’s ads are so effective: They directly push back against this stereotype, showing an affectionate Black dog owner who explicitly says he loves puppies.
How does a new pet owner learn the ropes during a pandemic? What do our assumptions about other people’s pets say about us?
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