DEAR NOREEN: I am a two year-old Canine (of unknown origin, they tell me) who was recently adopted by two Humans. Before my adoption, I lived in a special shelter, where I was fed, walked, and cared for by a number of loving Humans. I thought that after I was adopted my basic routine would be the same, but it hasn’t turned out that way.
I know it’s different living in a Human home and I’ve done my best to abide by their rules since I arrived here. I do want to please them because they are good to me, but there are things they require me to do that I just don’t understand. The main one is they demand that I sit before they serve me my meals or give me treats.
What is the significance of sitting, Noreen? I don’t understand and I was hoping you could enlighten me. Can you?—SITTING IN THE DARK
DEAR SITTING IN THE DARK: Ah, Humans. As I always say, they’re lovely to look at, but I wouldn’t want to live with one. And you’ve explained in an eloquent and succinct fashion one of the main reasons.
It so happens that “sit” is quite an ancient command, and I emphasize here the word, “command.” It has its origins in two aspects of the Human psyche about which I’ve spoken on a number of occasions in different contexts. These aspects are, of course, the insatiable Human desire to hold sway over all others (also known as the desire for power) and the desire to keep their house in order (both figuratively and literally).
For the purposes of answering your question, I will speak about only the first of these aspects. Quite simply, the Human desire for power overrides all other desires and I would say they’re quite incapable of containing it. I talk about this at greater length in my book, Lovely To Look At: What Animals Should Know About Humans, but here, I must defer to my University of West Terrier colleague, Horus Aaqil Saluki, whose work on the subject is considered groundbreaking. He and I have been hard at work co-authoring a book, Humans and the Pyramid of Power, which speaks to the very problem you’ve raised: the unnecessary wielding of same over others.
You see, my dear, as Horus first observed, Humans work very hard not only to hold sway over others, but to make them show their deference. And that is where your “sit” command comes in.
As you well know, there is nothing about sitting that enables you to eat or digest better. Following your Humans’ command, then, is not at all for your benefit, but for theirs. By agreeing to perform this small gesture, you assure them that they have the ultimate say—the last word, as it were—in your behaviour. Your Humans want to be reassured (and on a constant basis, no less) that you acknowledge them as “the boss.” When you’ve proven that you do, they’re more than happy to oblige you in many ways.
Now, since you haven’t asked me whether or not you should comply, I won’t go down that road with you here. Suffice it to say, research has shown that the more you obey Humans, the happier they are and, ultimately, the happier you will be. It’s a bit trickle-down, as my learned colleague has been known to say. By no means do I advocate blind obedience, but if, as with sitting, it does you no harm, you might find that obeying your Humans is the most expedient way of finding peace and happiness in your life with them. Ultimately, it is your decision and not an easy one to make. I wish you all the best, no matter what you choose.
Dear Noreen is a regular feature of The Mammalian Daily and The Mammalian Daily online. If you have a question for Noreen, please send it via Twitter at @talkswithnoreen.
For more insight into Humans, buy Noreen’s book, Lovely To Look At: What Animals Should Know About Humans