Who Owns the Owner?
In the traditional relationship between you and your pet, who’s really the owner?
Article by Andy Barnham
One of the benefits of being a freelancer and working from home, distance and convenience to the kitchen aside, is not having to wake at the crack of dawn and battle human traffic during rush hour. The routine in my household took a while to become established, but now it is, there is no way of shifting it. The day starts with my wife waking and making her way to her morning ablutions. Upon hearing sounds of life above, Gypsy stirs herself from the sofa (for her reasons, she chooses not to sleep in her bed), and makes her way upstairs. If the door to be bedroom is closed, she will cry until it is opened. However this is rare as when I hear her soft paws padding up the stairs, I roll over in bed and open the door for her. In she comes, tail a-wagging, jumps up next to me, licks my face, walks around, uses her head to excavate a space for herself in the duvet and then flops down next to me, taking the lion’s share of the bed. Sometimes she stretches her legs, pushing me even further to the edge and if I haven’t ensured adequate duvet or bed space for myself, it is game over; there is no way I’m shifting a 40kgs dead weight that doesn’t want to move.
On Saturdays and Sundays Gypsy comes up whether she hears stirring above or not, at the regular school day time. She will enter, jump onto the bed and then look inquisitively at my wife, wondering why she’s still there and in Gypsy’s normal space.
Our evening routine is no less structured. On hearing the keys at the door, Gypsy will rush there, ready to be greeted when my wife enters. Yes, that is correct. Gypsy is at the door to be greeted by my wife, not to greet my wife. Gypsy doesn’t appear at the door to offer tail wags and licks to my wife, instead Gypsy will roll over onto her back and insist on having her belly scratched. Only when this is completed to her satisfaction that I am allowed to enter the scene and greet my wife with a welcome home kiss. Woe betide if this routine is not followed or if I try and circumvent this. If I approach my wife before Gypsy is contented, she will literally jump in-between us, demanding attention.
I have previously commented that Gypsy is the centre of the house and that the family revolves around her. As she grows up, I have had to reassess this and my current conclusion is that Gypsy is not only the centre of the house, she owns it and all within it, the family merely serving her. This is reflected in her body language when she is with either my wife or I. When Gypsy sits or lies next to us, she makes sure that she has at least one paw, preferably all four, on us symbolling the ownership of her owners. I gather from a friend who grew up with Rottweilers that this is a common trait; his own Rottweiler regularly would come and sit on, not at, people’s feet. The indication is clear; ‘I own you’.
So, what type of relationship is this? It is certainly not a traditional one as I certainly do not see myself as Gypsy’s owner. Is this relationship a feudal one? Is Gypsy in effect, the lord, who offers my wife and I, the vassals, her protection? As our home is legally mine, feudalism does not quite fit. Is this instead a mafia- esque one, based on protectionism? Gypsy does certainly offer protection and can flick the switch between loving pooch to full on blood curdling protector in an instant. Either way, she’s the boss.