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Perspective: Here's the truth about cats and dogs

Louis-Philippe Poitras

For a man well past what's known as middle age, there's still one thing that shatters my veneer of maturity: pets.

I'm not alone. My family and friends who have animals share this weird, double personality. One minute they're authorities in their field, masters of their domain, but if a furry creature crosses their path they turn into mush, unable to say anything rational or coherent.

Animals know this and use it to their advantage. This situation also leads to the question: why do we keep pets?

I'm sure my colleagues in anthropology, psychology and history will have plenty of explanations. That pets keep our homes free from pests, that they satisfy our need for companionship, or that they have been in our lives for time immemorial. I'm sure these answers will be more than satisfactory to many, but the question remains: why did someone open their door to a dog or a cat and let them in?

Let me suggest this: Animals did it. Dogs snuck into our kitchens; cats got themselves into our beds. Canaries, parrots, rabbits, ferrets… they all found a way into our homes using their guiles, to have us feed them willingly and happily. We don't know how and when, but I can tell you: It doesn't take a second after I come home for me to start baby-talking to my cat, and her giving me the look that says "You're here? What took you so long? Where's my food?"

I'm Francisco Solares-Larrave, and this is my Perspective.

A Guatemalan native, he arrived in the United States in the late eighties on a Fulbright Scholarship to do graduate studies in comparative literature at the University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana. He has been teaching Spanish language, literature and culture at NIU since August 2000, and his main research interests are 19th-century Spanish American literature.