Do Dogs Shrink or Grow our Worlds?

Is everyone I know just like me?

I don’t want to live in a bubble.

Golden Retriever

I don't wear Birkenstocks. Does that mean I'm real?

And that can be hard to prevent. I live in a town that is self-consciously progressive. The kind of town Fox News talking heads would describe as full of granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing, Volvo driving elitists who are out of touch with “real” people.

I remember standing in a restroom line at a Bruce Cockburn concert when the woman in front of me started a tirade about then-President Bush assuming I would fully agree with her. I did. But it made me wonder how a politically conservative person who just happened to like Canadian folk singers would have felt in my place.

Enter Eli Pariser who recently wrote The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You. He argues that we can customize our media experiences so much that we are never confronted with ideas that don’t already agree with our own. And that some online search engines and social media actually filter what we see based on our previous searching behavior.

So if you support conservative political causes your search engine results and Facebook updates may soon be skewed more toward conservative content. And, of course, if you’re a liberal, you’ll see more information that already supports your viewpoint.

Are all dog lovers alike?

What does this have to do with dogs?

Just this. My interest (some might say obsession) in dogs, has me spending a lot of time reading blogs, tweets, Facebook statuses, and books about dogs. One could argue that is an example of me shrinking my world by focusing so strongly on one interest.

But people of all types have been touched by experiences with dogs. When I click the names of people who “like” Something Wagging This Comes on Facebook (and, if you haven’t already, why not?), I see American Civil War reenactors, NASCAR fans, Christians, Atheists, and even a few freaky people who list television shows they like to watch.

Blogging has helped me “meet” people from all over the world who remind me that the World Series means nothing to people outside the U.S. (thank you, Georgia Lil Pea, although, as a baseball fan it makes me very, very sad). And that although American progressives admire the social policies of Scandinavian countries, even the Danes don’t always do the right thing.

When I’m disappointed that so much of the American media focuses on sensationalism instead of investigation, I come across a site, like Mary Haight’s Dancing Dog Blog, that works hard to be accurate and fair in sharing information about animal welfare issues.

Golden Retriever chewing a stick

Yes, I'm a very friendly girl. But don't expect me to share my stick.

And, when I finally get off the computer, I meet far more neighbors when Honey is with me than when I am alone. Honey’s made friends with the mail carrier, all the local school kids, the crossing guard, and just about everyone else nearby who has ever loved a dog.

Canines grow more than just dog hair.

I believe that love is expanding. When we open our hearts to another creature, we become larger and more open. And it’s often easier to love an animal than a person. Many who have been wounded by people in their lives turn to dogs and find a safe and forgiving friend.

It’s that understanding of the friendship of animals and the shared sense of loss when one we love dies that unites dog lovers. Even if our politics, religions, ethnicities, tastes in music, marital status, gender or nationalities are different, we’ve all been blessed to love dogs. It gives us something to talk about at the dog park, even if we have nothing else in common.

So I’m not going to worry too much about the doomsayers who predict we’ll forget how to talk to people different from ourselves and fall apart as a society. Maybe I’ll do an occasional search on the Nation of Islam, Chinese wedding etiquette, and the NRA to mix things up a bit and to confuse the search engine filters. But mostly, I’ll keep loving dogs and enjoy meeting others who do too.

This is a blog hop. Hop on…


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  1. Loved the picture of your dog studying her stick – so cute. And, yes, it’s tough to be so focused, but sometimes the world’s problems are so overwhelming, so if I help one starved dog, I feel like I’ve accomplished something great. Don’t you?

    I’m dropping by the pet blog hop today – stop by to see the gorilla at the Calgary Zoo enjoying a little fun:

  2. You know, my husband focuses on political news. I scan the headlines. Maybe we do pick and chose – he looks for things that support his “players”. I look for dog blogs. I think I’m the happier one, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.


  3. Yes we agree, dogs are universal and have a way of bringing people together. And I agree with Sam. I’m much happier looking for dog blogs and enjoying a shared loved that can’t be beat!

  4. I’m with Sam & 24 Paws of Love! I find the news is generally so un-fulfilling that I scan the paper or headlines. I get really tired of the political injustice in this country, but I guess it could be worse! So, give me a dog blog any day. At least I get a chuckle or learn something new that doesn’t fill me with gloom and doom.

  5. I definitely agree that my dog has expanded my social network greatly. Before her I barely knew anyone in this city. I certainly didn’t know that man down the street who adores Shih Tzus or the woman with the aging Siberian Husky who’s been through some difficult times. It never even occured to me to say hello until I had a dog in tow.

    However, I do feel a little bit less patient with those not deep in the “dog world”. It surprises me now when people quote a certain dog trainer or when people talk about looking for a puppy at a pet store. Or when someone gives me a weird look when I say I have to get home to let out my dog. I often find myself thinking, “what is wrong with this person, don’t they know?” Obviously they don’t. It’s so easy for me to forget that because everyone in my current world is an animal lover. Everyone in my current world has a very similar point of view about animal welfare. In order for me to remember that not everyone knows or cares about the massive feral cat problem, I think I need to take some steps out of my bubble every now and then. It will make be a better person, I think, and a better advocate.

  6. Well thought out post. I know that my love of animals is not a partisan issue, as evidenced by the broad cross-section of people I meet through blogging and working with a pet-related nonprofit, and within that cross-section there are a really broad range of ideas that are frequently debated. Yes, the Internet can, especially depending on your choice of browser, begin narrowing the focus of what you’re searching for, but if you are aware it can happen throwing the occasional wrench into the works is a good thing :)

  7. I agree with you completely! When I go out places with Bunny, everybody wants to talk to me and ask questions about her. Alone, I’m just another face in the crowd. I’ve met so many wonderful people through my dogs, and I’m glad for every one of them! One reason that I generally keep my blog light-hearted is because I think there is too much bad news in the world. It just becomes overwhelming at times. I want people to remember that there is beauty, humor and warmth in the world, too.

  8. Well, for me, without the Elka Doberman, I would never have seen your blog, nor would I have multiple message boards I visit, and I wouldn’t have a Twitter account. In fact, the people I already know are the people I would have socially networked with.

    With Elka, I started a blog. I have an accompanying Twitter. I exhaustively read dog books, dog blogs, dog news….I do agree somewhat that if you are of a certain search style or mindset, you could in fact entirely avoid being confronted by contradictory ideas. Or, conversely, you can seek out the ideas that you hate (physically corrective dog training, for an example) and put forth an idea that you love (clicker training, for another example) [disclaimer, examples are from my mind, as I don’t necessarily know yours!] With Elka, I see a lot of dog stuff I don’t like. I see a lot that I do. I have a lot of positive interactions, and a lot that I find ridiculous (OMG Dobermans are so scary, don’t’cha know?)

    The Internet, at least, is what you make of it. It is a wonderful place full of a lot of information and also a lot of nonsense . It is a micromacrocosm, as it were (I just made that word up. I might trademark it ;p ).

  9. Your post is intriguing and provokes thought. Dogs do both…expand and focus our attention and even intentions. It is what we end up choosing to do that makes a mark on this world. What may come from our love of dogs and the varied people we meet and encounter is up to us and whether or not we leave an imprint on this world. Even if we start out focusing on _______ (insert topic here…but for most of us here it seems to be dogs), we end up discovering more about each other, ourselves, as well as reaching outside of our own universes. Thanks for causing the pause in thinking. : )

  10. Very well said! I’ve met some of my favorite friends through my dogs. I tend to tune out a lot of news media because the sensationalism is too much. I try to keep up with current events in the news, but I don’t want anyone’s point of view drilled into my head over and over. And politics, YUCK, often it’s just an embarrassment: Anthony Weiner (enough said.) I’m like you, I’ll stick with dogs for the most part. I know some people don’t get the fascination with dogs, but that’s ok. My dogs get it. :)

  11. Hi Pamela, and thanks for the great mention! My dog is a great conversation starter – one of the few Shih Tzus in the area and certainly the only one with his full coat (although that may change with this weather)! I’ve also met a lot of great bloggers:)who have introduced new information that has expanded my view in many ways, and enriched my dog’s life as a result. I’m definitely in the camp that thinks dogs grow our world, and if we pay attention, we get to share, or at least notice the world we live in from their POV.

  12. Soon after we got our dog Cali, I started a dog walking business and then a pet photography business, so I have been immersed in the “dog lover world” for many years. For the last year I worked as a graphic designer for a garden center and the best part of my day was saying hello to the dogs that visited the store. Now, I’m back to being immersed in “dog lover world” and I wouldn’t have it any other way :)

  13. Great post! I know that since beginning my life as a doggy foster mom that I have met so many different sorts of folks, and it has grown my world — not shrink it!

  14. Another great post. I often think about this too– about how being so dog-absorbed both grows and shrinks my world. In the end, is it a draw? Maybe. But the dog community is such a comfy, cozy home for me and mine, that it’s worth any tradeoff I may have made.