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The Zombie Apocalypse, Part 14: Pets Pets Pets

The Zombie Apocalypse Series returns! ~

Jonathan Glazer, 21 April 2017

Having pets happens to be a big feature of American culture. Whether we are talking about dogs, cats, birds, fish, chinchilla, ferrets or llamas, keeping and caring for other life forms is extremely common and quite engraved in the American way. This does not mean it is something peculiar to The United States. Many countries have a strong tradition of pet ownership. I was in Argentina recently and I was struck by the number of dog walkers with large packs of canines wandering the many scenic parts in Buenos Aires. However, there are counties without a strong tradition of pet ownership. China is an example. Dogs and cats are viewed somewhat differently there. This brings us to my disclaimer. While most of the columns in this series are less than pleasant, this one in particular is sure to offend some. If you cannot discuss unpleasant things happening to animals intellectually without having an overwhelming emotional response, stop reading now and wait for the next installment. I will try to be sensitive, but this is still going to be a difficult topic.

Now that a significant portion of my readership has left, let’s talk about pet ownership in the Zombie Apocalypse. People own animal companions (some find the word “pet” to be discriminatory to our furry friends. I am not one of those people) for many reasons. Without delving into the psychological roots, let’s just accept that these creatures provide many benefits and we like having them with us. Some critters perform functions, such as service dogs, seeing eye monkeys, bomb and drug sniffing canines and hunting dogs. Hunting was one of the primary reasons that dogs were domesticated in the first place and many popular breeds were selectively bred for their abilities afield. Cats were prized for their mousing activities, which protected food supplies and minimized disease. For all of these reasons, the things that make pets desirable in our civilized society would certainly carry through once the gates of hell were opened and our flesh hungry deceased were outnumbering us 5,000 to 1. While traveling through the countryside, making camp in fortified locations and just fleeing a grisly death, who wouldn’t want a faithful dog at their side? There are many instances in motion pictures where dogs play a central role in the plot after society ends.   A very young Don Johnson starred in a movie called “A Boy and His Dog” which took place following a nuclear war. He travels through the wastelands with his dog named “Blood” who communicates telepathically with him and helps him find girls (shades of my last column) but lost the ability to find his own food. They have a symbiotic relationship that is at the core of the story. “The Terminator” shows German Sheppards being used to sniff out the Terminators as they try to infiltrate the hideouts of the few remaining humans as they battle Skynet. But is this really practical?

 

Dogs can play a lot of vital roles in a long term survival situation. They can act as sentries and provide a level of protection. Their sense of smell and tracking skills can help with hunting and other situations where locating specific things are needed. If one escapes to the frozen tundra in order to survive in a world that will slow down the inefficient zombies, dogs can be used to pull a sled. They can provide warmth on a cold night when they sleep next to us. But, and this is a big one, they must be fed. Their need for food is just as strong as ours and they can and will become competitors for food resources which will then need to be shared. In Jack London’s “The Call of The Wild”, much discussion stems from the amount of food needed to feed a pack of sled dogs and how bringing too many of them makes it impossible to feed them sufficiently. In the case of a hunting dog, they should be able to help bring enough food to feed your group and have some left over to feed them as well (kind of a canine commission paid as an investment for their help). But what if the investment exceeds the amount of food they help put on the table. What happens then? Plus, there are other liabilities that need to be considered. Dogs can be noisy and bark at inopportune times. In a survival situation where stealth and noise discipline are highly valued, this can be a dealbreaker if barking can bring unwanted attention from the living and the undead. Some dogs are unsuitable for work in a dystopian future. Teacup terriers are probably not going to be able to do much to help keep you alive. A giant St Bernard will most likely not be able to provide enough of a benefit to offset the massive amounts of food they need to consume. Just like any investment, one must do a cost benefit analysis to determine if it makes sense to keep the animal or not. I have skipped over the emotional component. Many people have told me that they would give up everything in their world to help pay for the giant veterinarian bills that serious animal illnesses bring. When it comes to our pets, all logic goes out the window and emotions run the show. In our present civilization, that is manageable.   But when our very survival balances on a razor’s edge, those who are able to cast emotions aside and make hard practical decisions are more likely to survive.

In a survival situation, could you eat your animal to minimize the liabilities they bring while providing sustenance to you and your clan?

I mentioned China earlier in this discussion. This is where things get unpleasant. It is not a stereotype that dogs and cats are eaten there. It actually happens. It may not be as prevalent as eating McDonalds here, and it may be way more common is certain areas than in others, but it happens. Canines and felines are viewed in some places as livestock. They are bred and fed as food. In a survival situation, could you eat your animal to minimize the liabilities they bring while providing sustenance to you and your clan? The answer might be no, and that is fine. Not everyone is cut out to survive in the coming dark ages. But being a hard core survivalist requires one to do things that would be objectionable in our present life of luxury. That might mean eating fluffy when she can bring a much needed meal to you and yours. This is extremely difficult when you think of fluffy as a member of the family. Being able to make the leap from feeding and loving fluffy to eating fluffy might just differentiate those who are going to survive from the rest of us who will quickly change and become a shuffling, rotting people eater.

 

You may have noticed that when I was discussing the benefits one could enjoy from cohabitating with an animal in the post apocalyptical world, I only discussed dogs. There is a reason for that. Most other animals are just not as useful as dogs, which were bred to perform specific functions by our ancestors who were new to this whole civilization thing. The vast majority of service animals are dogs. You very rarely meet a seeing eye alpaca these days. Neck and neck with the popularity of dogs are cats. Sometimes it even rains dogs and cats. I love cats. I have two that my family rescued and they are truly members of the family. However, they serve no function other than for our amusement. They have yet to kill anything in the house, mouse, bug or otherwise and I doubt that they have the ability to do so. They are good at snatching food that we carelessly leave out on the counter, but that is for themselves and not to share. Should the dead leave their graves and cause society to collapse as they try to feast on the bodies of the living, our food will become scarce and all non canine pets will regrettable become a liability fast, unless they become menu items. Fish, turtles, sugar gliders, pot bellied pigs and cockatoos will not be able to earn their keep, other than as an appetizer or a main course.

 

I hope this discussion was not too upsetting for you. Sometimes we must remove the filter of emotions to fully understand how things will be in an alternative future. If you are able to do so, you may decide that the emotional response is the correct one. However, when it comes to members of our family, it may not be possible to think about doing what seems to be an inhumane action like eating Old Yeller.


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