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Do animals have a conscience? This is the main theme Jon Katz is trying to put across in his book ‘the Soul of a Dog’. Katz brings his views on whether animals have souls to resolve the ever disturbing thoughts of people. They are either consciously or subconsciously obsessed with their pets on whether they will be with their pets in the afterlife. Backed by his experience of more than ten years in close contact with animals, he creatively makes thesis of his book the possession of soul by animals.
The book thesis is about the possession of a soul by animals. He uses his experience and proximity to animals to study them and have direct interaction with them in his Bedlam farm. The residents of Bedlam Farm are Rose the sheepdog, Izzi, a dog he rescued, Jennifer the donkey, Harrieta, the industrious chicken, docile sheep, Elvis, a Swiss steer, obnoxious goats, Mother, the ferocious yet loving barn cat and other animals in the farm. He takes his time to interact and communicate with them and develops attachment to these animals.
His interaction with the animals portrays the verdict on whether animals have souls or not. Katz finds dogs to be enthusiastic and aware of their human companion. He explains this by the fact that Rose does not leave him when he is sick and cannot continue to work. Rose also prepares herself for work which continues to show of how dogs can at least reason autonomously work without human control. Izzi and Katz go with him to visit patients. Izzi, being a kind dog, provides them with various and direct opportunities for patients to open themselves up and share the joy of the world, despite their pain.
When looking at cats and Mother specifically, Katz sees both a loving and ferocious character. He humbly accepts this complex behavior from Mother with the basis that she is just acting towards her best and first instincts. Elvis, the brown Swiss steer, representing the human-cattle behavior, has learned and developed a distinctive ability of manipulating humans, in order to obtain favors from them. He chooses to be kind, gentle and loving, instead of causing terror and aggression to humans like other animals. This character spares him from the butcher’s knife from which other animals cannot escape.
In the end, Jon Katz comes to a conclusion that animals do not have souls, at least, not in the way humans perceive and visualize it. This clearly proves that the main thesis and theme of Katz book ‘The Soul of a Dog’ is about animals having souls.
With the company of all his animals in Bedlam farm, Jon Katz finds solace, and the environment that he needs. During winter, all his animals are busy with their work; Rose is running the farm and being by his side when sick, the goats are producing milk, the hens are laying eggs, although he was not a farmer. Katz is a professional writer, but he has to be on the farm, as he has to write about animals. The environment was conducive to work and, personal contact to the subjects and characters of his book was at Bedlam farm.
He needed help as the work was giving him problems. Anne came in handy, and Rose gave him a lot to write about, hence, making his work a little bit lighter. For Katz, the main purpose of Bedlam farm was to prepare him to the necessary requirements for writing his book, because of the nature of his job, writing about dogs. Katz has a farm assistant Annie, who is effective and runs the whole farm with Rose the faithful dog. He is there, as that is his home that makes a living from writing about the farm animals.
The Bedlam farm provided Katz with an opportunity to rescue other animals and help patients who needed the company of these animals and his support. At Bedlam farm, his dreams and desires of understanding animals better were fulfilling. He takes advantage of this opportunity to compare what he learnt from Aristotle’s study of animal and human behavior, and thus, why he is at the farm.
Jon Katz has mixed feelings about dog rescue movements. There were several animal liberation movements, daily commercials, and the motive behind these movements can no longer be determined. Animal rescue, whether of endangered species or domesticated animals, should be from the spirit and passion for animal life. Citing the example of Rose, animal rescue should be done with no strings attached to it, whether favors or financial. The commercials should aim at creating knowledge of animal abuse and help solve the problem in the society.
Jon Katz is right in questioning his motives of getting involved in the animal rescue movements. He is still right by extension getting his readers to think about their main aim and motives behind getting involved in the animal rescue movement. Wrong motive might create the knowledge, but not help the animals from abuse. Profit making movements would not lead to achievements of the animal rescue movements.
Jon Katz finds no fallacies in his earlier thoughts. He supports it and is learning more about the field and weighing its place in his life. He thinks about the animal rescue from a different perspective and wants to make it personal on his life. He learns more about this from Rose, his beloved dog, who rescues with passion and from the heart. Katz rescues Izzi and makes it the part of the family at Bedlam farm. This gives a perfect example and context of animal rescue movements.
Jon Katz talks about people and their concern for their animals. He is right in this, as people these days are so concerned about their pets. They treat them with much more care and compassion than they attribute to humans. Personal ties to animals, like between Katz and Rose, tends to make people think that these animals have souls. It is debatable whether humans will continue being with their animals in the afterlife.
Theologians and philosophers of all ages starting from Aristotle have been dealing with the question of whether these animals have souls. Jon Katz concludes that animals do not have souls. This may come as a big disappointment to many people who have a bond with their pets. Theologians would explain that animals are God’s creatures and should be treated with respect and care. Philosophers would say animals may not have souls, but they have feelings just like humans do. Animals would respond to the treatment that they receive from humans.
Humans spend far much more money on their pets and animals than they originally did. This might be psychological through the classical conditioning, company, obsession or just basic attachment. The fact that animals are taking humanity from people towards other human is sad and needs to be corrected.