Monday, August 1, 2011

Proto-Economic Flo

Florence the Jack Russell recently celebrated her 2nd birthday. There's a picture of her below taken when she was bit younger with her first ever proper bone. She didn't quite know what to make of it.

Bones are important to Florence. Every dog I've had loves to chew a bone. But I've noticed that Florence's relationship with her bones isn't simply that she loves them as food. Its more complicated than that.

She does eat some of them, that's for sure. Some lamb bones are relatively easy for her to digest. We don't feed her raw chicken (with bones), although I think she'd like that. Bones are more rare treat than a staple of her diet. She enjoys licking the marrow from a beef bone. And she keeps the licked-clean bone. I would guess that the bone in the picture is hidden somewhere in the house. Her collection of real bones, along with toy bones - a brown plastic bone and a large raw hide bone - have special meaning.

She does have other things that she seems to value, other possessions; some soft toys, her bed and her Frisbee. Its easy to accept the idea that a dog has possessions once you get to know Florence. Our other dogs have been similar but Florence is more expressive in her definition of property rights. She's our first terrier.

That's not that she won't let you touch her stuff. In fact with her soft toys she'll bring them to you so play with her. She'll follow you around banging into the backs of your legs until you pay her attention. Infuriatingly she'll also pretend she's going to give you her toy and then run away at the last second in an effort to get you to chase her. However, I don't think its just about play. There's also been a few occasions when one of her bones has been offered as a gift. Not to play with, but for you to enjoy as a bone (it's return is expected). The gift bone has always been given as a result of some very bad behaviour for which she's had a major telling-off. Although its only ever the plastic bones. I guess the real bones are just too valuable.

Indeed bones generally seem to be different in her mind from her other possessions. Whereas her toys are randomly spread about the living room and sun room, in constant need of tidying up, her bones are neatly secreted away. We sometimes discover them under a piece of furniture, or stuffed down the side of the sofa. She seems to put the most treasured ones under the marital bed. She also does a scraping-I'm going to make a nest here-thing, under the bed. I think its her safe place; a bank vault and maternity ward rolled into one.

She hasn't had a litter of pubs yet. She's come into season twice. Both times she's become a turbo terrier; her possessions even more aggressively defended, and her temper shorter. Winding her up is a fun but dangerous sport. If you equate the idea of possession with the basic notion of money and economic relations, as I do, its unsurprising that a rise in her sexual energies is accompanied by a boost in her possessiveness. Money and sex seem intimately related in human culture, so perhaps its true for the world of dogs too.

We tend to think of money as a purely human thing. But when you think about some of the aspects of our relations to which money seems related - the notions of trust, indebtedness, reward - it seems a little arrogant to presume that these are only human qualities. In the Klingon-esque world of the terrier there are moral imperatives. And there is deep ambivalence - there is fear as well as fight.

It doesn't take too much of a leap of our imagination to believe that a dog's bones, are man's gold. Does it?

If you've read any of my writing before you'll know I have an unconventional view about Money. I imagine it to be something like a force or an aspect of our reality. Certainly something different to any explanation offered by current thinking. I'm not completely on my own. The idea that Money has a deeper relationship with the development of the cognitive process has been around a long while. More recently there's been a study at Yale to suggest that Capuchin monkeys have an understanding of price, wealth and even display the same loss-aversion bias as we do. Personally I wouldn't put a monkey in a cage to find this out. Florence and her bones is enough evidence for me.

My first 'tweet quote' for you this time.

I have a dog shaped hole in my life.
@nightingalefred 15th July 2011

Freddie is a singer songwriter with whom I had the pleasure of working a few years back. He has a way with words. I'd urge you to check out Heart Shaped Stone and St Catherine's Day (you have to sit thru a short ad to listen, but Freddie gets paid if you do).

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