One might look at the whole of American history and see one strand of it as an expanding sphere of ethical concern for others – first, in the 18th century, a legal concern for propertied males; in the 19th
century, after the Civil War, the abolition of slavery and the establishment of basic rights for African Americans; in the 20th century, the granting of women’s suffrage and the advance of civil rights for minorities; and now in the 21st century a pulse of gains for gays and lesbians, and in the area of our core concern, for animals – all predicated on widely shared societal values of fairness and decency and a basic concern for the individual.
Jennifer Fearing/The HSUS
In a less well-known strand of history, one might also say that there’s been an ever-expanding effort by dogs and cats to claim more ground in our lives. Most all of them used to live outside, never knowing the comfort or warmth of a human home. Then, with their ears down and the eyes pleading, they snuck into our living rooms. Then they came into our bedrooms, and even our beds. They can even fly for free, if they are the right size, in first class. And now, thanks to Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Steve Cohen D-Tenn., they may soon be able to travel on Amtrak!
“This important measure is long overdue,” wrote Washington Post writer Kathleen Parker this week in her nationally syndicated column. “It’s sensible, pro-family, humane, smart business and no one’s bother. It is a bipartisan measure that finally offers and opportunity for humans to be the kind of people our dogs think we are.”
“My dog, Lily, is part of our family and travels with us to and from California all the time,” said Denham, the prime sponsor of the measure. “If I can take her on a plane, why can’t I travel with her on Amtrak, too?”
The congressmen and the journalist have it just right. Dogs and cats are part of our lives, and they are members of our families, they are part of our communities. With so many of us traveling, for so many reasons, we want them around and they want to be around us.
It may seem like a small matter, and on some levels it is. But the small matters count, especially to dogs and cats, and the people who care about them. Here’s an easy one for Congress. And livening up our train rides a bit by sharing some space with our canine and feline friends won’t hurt the soul one wit.