Does Liking Dogs Mean You’re a Good Person?

Sure he was an evil, heartless b*st*rd. But he loved his dog. That must mean something.

Or does it?

What will we forgive if someone loves dogs?

Like most of my thinky, wordy posts, this one began with someone else’s writing. In Sigmund Freud’s Case of Puppy Love, Edie Jarolim explored Freud’s love of dogs later in his life.

A few commenters hinted that their thoughts of Freud were somewhat more positive for knowing he loved dogs. Which got me thinking: Is loving dogs really a sign that you’re a better person than someone who doesn’t like dogs? Are you more compassionate? Does your connection with another living creature make you a better human?

Or are humans so complex that we can do unspeakable evil while loving an animal?

Hitler loved dogs.

adolph-hitler-rare-pictures-images-ww2-nazi-germany-third-reich-ww2-second-world-war-photos-dog-bitch-blondi-01Americans have a short historical memory. If you’re in your twenties, live in the U.S., and watch political news, you may think Hitler was an evil person because he wanted everyone in Germany to have health insurance.

But in a century that also saw Pol Pot and Joseph Stalin exterminate millions, Adolph Hitler stands out for his remarkably orderly and purposeful attempt to kill every Jew, homosexual, Jehovah’s witness and others he deemed as threatening the purity of the “master race.”

And yet he adored dogs.

Dogs can only help us be better humans if we listen to them.

One of the things I like about dogs is that they are directed by their own self-interests just like people. It makes them complex. And figuring out what motivates a dog is one of the great joys of living with one.

But I don’t believe dogs are so complex that they are capable of being evil. That takes a level of denial and mental compartmentalization only available to humans.

So I definitely believe that we can be good in one aspect of our lives while being truly horrible in another.

But while I was thinking about this I realized something. Maybe the question isn’t how Hitler could love dogs so much while being ruthless, delusional, and wicked. Perhaps we need to ask not what Hitler thought of his dog. But what did Hitler’s dog think of him?

Once you see this video footage I found, I think you’ll know what I mean.

 

Hitler’s Dog Didn’t Like Him

The beautiful German Shepherd in the images and film footage was Blondi. By all accounts, Hitler adored her.

But what do you think Blondi thought of Hitler?

I don’t know about you but I saw a pretty unhappy dog.

I’ve seen dogs behave like Blondi. You probably have too. Sometimes they’re rescued dogs. Other times they’re fearful for other reasons.

How do you respond when you see a dog cower? If I know my readers, and I think I do, I’m going to guess you take a step back and try to figure out what’s going on.

You evaluate what’s making the dog scared. You slow down. You let the dog find a place of comfort.

You don’t keep pressing forward, petting and hugging a dog that just wants to go away.

As a dog lover, a real dog lover, you listen to the dog. You enter into an unspoken dialogue where the dog tells you what she needs and you listen and try to respond.

You may not always get the right answer. But the dog is not a possession or an object but a communicating being that you need to learn to understand.

And that’s how liking dogs can make you a good person.

It’s not liking dogs that makes us better human beings. It’s listening to them.

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Comments

  1. Fascinating post. I’ve never seen that footage and, I have to admit, if it wasn’t prefaced by a paragraph that made it clear Hitler’s dog may not have had fond feelings for him, I don’t think I would have been able to watch it.

    Hitler’s dog did seem to like Eva Braun, however, assuming that’s who the blond on the lawn with the hose was. I suppose she was stuck in the ultimate bad relationship but didn’t take it out on Blondi.

  2. Oh god I had to stop watching when I saw the poor dog cowering around the 58 second mark. But even prior to that there were distinct markers: ears back, yawning, panting, looking/leaning away. The dog is quite obviously afraid of him.

    Personally, I’ve never given much cred to people just because they say they like dogs (Michael Vick still wants a dog), and I think your point is right on the mark. Whether or not a dog likes a person weighs more heavily in my judgement of who someone is but even that is not enough as dogs are often too forgiving. It’s how a person treats a dog that ultimately helps me determine whether or not I should value their character.

    Great post. Way to get us thinking on a Saturday morning. 😉

  3. Wow – great post Pamela! First, I don’t think having one redeeming quality mitigates being a heartless, evil bastard. Humans are complex – someone may say they love animals, dogs in particular, but yet be completely able to ignore the pain and suffering they have caused thousands of other human beings! Second, something tells me that Hitler used “tough love” on his dog, and is that really love? The dog was obviously afraid of him. Lots of abusers say they love the wives, children and pets they beat within an inch of their lives.

  4. In the end Hitler killed his dog. I guess because he loved his dog.

  5. I had to go back and watch the footage again–fascinating. I’ve read Bormann gave the dog to Hitler in 1941 and she later had a litter of pups–probably the ones in the footage. You could see the affection Hitler had for Blondi, but you could also see the fear the dog was exhibiting. Who knows what the dog saw or how she was treated–I can’t imagine it could have been anything good.

  6. I think it’s not if you say you like/love animals so much as how you treat them. And you’re spot on – we can learn more from how an animal reacts to someone than by listening to their professed love for that animal. Those who really truly love and listen (great point!) to their animals tend to be more compassionate towards all creatures, furry & human (in my experience). But there are a lot of people who do awful things to their pets but still say they love them. Abusers, many dog fighters and apparently Hitler fall into this category and I think we all know animal abuse is a precursor to violence against people. Just because a person has a pet doesn’t make them an animal lover.

    I also think there are some animal lovers who struggle with relationships with people and find fulfillment in their relationships with their pets. This can be anywhere from introverted pet bloggers who find a world of compatriots online to hoarders (the good and the bad). Somewhere in the middle of this are well-intentioned rescuers who truly love and are passionate about animals but who struggle to get along with and find common ground with fellow rescuers. I think “being a good person” is entirely subjective to the person making that judgment and while Hitler is a definitive black & white sort of example, most of us fall somewhere in the great gray in-between. I hope that most people view me as a good person but I know there are a few out there who I don’t get along with and who wouldn’t think that. Hopefully, the former far outweighs the latter. And maybe at the end of the day, it should be all about what my dogs think of me as the true measure of the person I am.

  7. I don’t think dogs DO make us better people, but I certainly think that they CAN make us better people. I agree with you- we have to listen to what they have to say. Of course, in my case, hindsight is 20/20 while my current vision is often clouded. So sometimes the lessons are learned after the fact.

    It’s just my opinion, but the true angels are those 4-legged creatures that dare put up with us to bestow us with wisdom and unconditional love.

  8. Dogs were probably the ideal human role models for Hitler. They are eager to please and can be trained, bullied and intimidated by a stronger force. Seeing the poor dog cowering was heartbreaking.

  9. Poor Blondi – that footage is really telling. She obviously did not like him.

    Really great post, Pamela. Just liking dogs does not make someone a better person – it can make us better, but it’s definitely not a guarantee.

    Yet again, you’ve wrote a post with a unique perspective that I would never have considered otherwise. Thank you.

  10. Fascinating post Pamela. I would never have considered it this way. Granted, there isn’t actually anything Hitler could have done that would have redeemed him in my eyes. I often find that “dog people” are some of my closest friends, but that doesn’t mean that “dog people” can’t also be pretty darn awful. Or perhaps that’s the difference between “liking dogs” and being true “dog people”. This post definitely makes you rethink that kind of notion, doesn’t it?

  11. Hi Y’all,

    Just hopped by to catch up on your happenings and say hello!

    Fascinating stuff about us dogs…

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  12. Such a powerful post! Reminds me of my former workplace — one time, my boss was telling me how she just wanted all the dogs to be happy and to have a huge natural-grass area at the back of the kennel where they could just chill or play or whatever… but then she went and hit a dog so hard he wouldn’t come into the room for anyone again. :( You’re right – liking dogs means nothing I’d you can’t treat them as the communicative and emotional beings that they are.

  13. I wasn’t able to see the whole vid so will have to try again later. But you’re right. Having a dog or liking dogs (or any other animal) doesn’t make a person good. The way the dog behaves with and around the person is probably a better indication of character. Though dogs have a high tolerance for stupidity as well.

    That place in the earlier part of the vid looks like the eyrie. Have you seen a documentary which was made with footage entirely shot by Eva? It was a fascinating glimpse into their gilded lives as the world collapsed.

  14. Anyone can have a dog, but it’s all in the relation that makes them who they are.

  15. The cowering dog looks like a different dog than Blondi – it may be the film and light.
    According to Edie, Freud did not get a dog till he was 70. Did he always like dogs or was this a happenstance which turned out well?
    This could be a book! hint, hint. Liking dogs/animals does not make you a good person per se, just as not liking them does not make you a bad person. It is the intent and listening you choose to do with the animals you have which make you a better person.
    I need to come back and re-read again to fully digest what you are saying. There is a lot here for my wee mind – excellent question and incredible video.

  16. Yeah it was pretty obvious before the cowering point that Blondi was stressed by the man, not exactly how you want your dog behave, especially if they’ve lived with you for as long as it seems Blondi was with them.

  17. The Nazi party was really into eugenics (!) Eva Braun & Hilter exclusively owned purebred dogs.

    It was rumoured that Hilter’s officers were deadly afraid interact with Blondi. Hitler loved that dog so much that he would blow his stack if the dog showed affection to anyone but him.

  18. I’m going to have to read this again when I’ve got more time as it’s very interesting (as your posts always are!) Part of me would like to know more of the story of Hitler and Blondie and part of me would like to forget Hitler ever existed, but that would be sticking my head in the sand.

  19. I stuck with the video because I trusted that you wouldn’t put a video up of him abusing the dog.

    The thing I hate most (besides seeing someone physically attack an animal) is to see a dog cower when their master reaches out to them. That tells me so much, and I felt so bad for Blondi. Besides the ears back, licking, yawning oh this video was wrong in so many ways.

    I think people can ‘say’ they love a dog, but their actions must back up the words.

  20. Truly bizarre to watch Hitler smiling as he watches a litter of German Shepherd puppies play.

    Also, very clear (and I watched it without the sound on so the people I’m in the room with don’t think I’m a weirdo) that Blondi was truly uncomfortable. Yawning, looking away, tongue flick, in addition to the outright cower, head down, tail down, belly to the ground.

    My understanding was that Hitler killed Blondi because he didn’t know what the Allies would do to her when they were found. Which may or may not be true. We see a lot of footage, nowadays, of soldiers doing horrible things. It’s impossible to stick by any of Hitler’s decisions, though.

  21. I’m just repeating some other thoughts, but it’s truly saddening to see Blondi’s reaction to her owner. Unfortunately, dogs have no say in who they spend their lives with. Blondi’s behavior is pretty clearly saying how desperately she wants to put distance between her and Hitler. Very interesting footage- thanks for sharing!

  22. Very telling, indeed.
    Thank you for sharing this.
    Kerry at HouseTalkN

  23. In the Rin Tin Tin book by Susan Orlean there is a long part on Hitler and Blondi and the attitudes of the Nazis towards natures and animals. Its very interesting

  24. What a fantastic post! I see all the classic signs that Blondi was very uncomfortable. And like you, I think the most important question is what she thought of him. How fascinating to see Hitler in that context, though!

  25. This is such a great post. I am sorry I am reading it so late. I don’t have much to add. I know Hitler was an animal welfare advocate, in a very roundabout way, and became a vegetarian as a result. But I don’t remember reading about his dog before. Clearly I didn’t read enough 20th century history.

    I like the point you made though. It’s like the difference between people who are dog lovers (“eeee! puppies!!! *lunge and hug*) and people who are dog knowledgable. I don’t think someone who loves dogs can be forgiven for his or her actions towards humans. An evil dictator is an evil dictator, regardless of how well he treats his dog.

  26. What a fascinating video. That poor dog, using her exquisite sensitivity and finely- honed communication skills to no effect.

    A lot of old-school trainers, force-based trainers, prong-collar trainers say they love dogs too, and their dogs look just like this when they interact with them. How right you are that a world more attuned to canine body language would be a world wiser to many truths about humans too!

  27. What a wonderful post Pamela. I wanted to see the video, but it doesn’t seem to be working for me (just keeps clocking), but I trust what you read in the dog’s body language. I was going to do a comparison of someone currently in the political realm, but I think your examples were better.

    I have to agree with you. A person who “listens” to their dog and tries to understand them is more likely to be a good person than someone who just happens to own a dog. I love when you mix history with dogs and a lesson to boot.

  28. Finally saw the video. Holy cow.
    Is it just me, or did you wonder if Hitler was thinking about killing the puppies as he was looking at them? Creepy, evil man.

  29. It’s fascinating to see that footage – it’s not a clip I’ve ever come across before. I also don’t think it’s enough to love animals. Hitler and many of the other central players in that dark time were animal lovers. The Nazi regime imposed strict animal welfare and protection laws – but what good did it do when they were practicing the exact antithesis of ethics, morality and humanity on their fellow citizens? Heck, some animal shelters (yes, even within the United States) still use a gas chamber – you know, technology that wasn’t invented but was definitely perfected by the monsters of WWII – to euthanize stray animals. So for all the “good” the animal lovers tried to do, they just mucked things up worse.

    I won’t always trust a human who loves dogs, but I will trust my dogs every time when it comes to humans. If my dogs don’t like them, chances are there’s a reason for it and I should be keeping an eye out. It’s not fool-proof methodology, but it’s served me well on a number of occasions.