I have always wondered why people dress their dogs in clothing as if they were human. A lot of people would probably say they do it just for fun. Maybe this is true. Dogs in sweaters and Halloween costumes are cute. But is it also possible that there is a deeper motive for such behavior?
In fact, it is not just clothing. People regularly treat their dogs like people. I once saw a television program about people who cook gourmet meals for their dogs. And we all have those friends or family members who insist on referring to their dogs as their children. I have both kids and a dog and I can tell you with confidence they are not the same. The question remains though. Why do people want to view their dogs (and maybe other pets as well) as humanlike?
Research on the human effort to deny mortality may provide some clues. As I discussed in a previous post, humans are uniquely aware of their biological nature and are not particularly excited about their physical vulnerabilities. We do not want to see ourselves as in the same boat as other forms of life – organisms that will one day die and disappear forever. We want to see ourselves as meaningful beings. We want to feel more significant than other forms of life. Thus, we go to great lengths to distinguish ourselves from other animals. We strive to be civilized, to camouflage our creaturely nature.