Natalie Angier in The New York Times:
Bashert is a gentle, scone-colored, 60-pound poodle, a kind of Ginger Rogers Chia Pet, and she’s clearly convinced there is no human problem so big she can’t lick it. Lost your job, or bedridden for days? Lick. Feeling depressed, incompetent, in an existential malaise? Lick. “She draws the whole family together,” said Pamela Fields, 52, a government specialist in United States-Japan relations. “Even when we hate each other, we all agree that we love the dog.” Her husband, Michael Richards, also 52 and a media lawyer, explained that the name Bashert comes from the Yiddish word for soul mate or destiny. “We didn’t choose her,” he said. “She chose us.” Their 12-year-old daughter, Alana, said, “When I go to camp, I miss the dog a lot more than I miss my parents,” and their 14-year-old son, Aaron, said, “Life was so boring before we got Bashert.” Yet Bashert wasn’t always adored. The Washington Animal Rescue League had retrieved her from a notoriously abusive puppy mill — the pet industry’s equivalent of a factory farm — where she had spent years encaged as a breeder, a nonstop poodle-making machine. By the time of her adoption, the dog was weak, malnourished, diseased, and caninically illiterate. “She didn’t know how to be a dog,” said Ms. Fields. “We had to teach her how to run, to play, even to bark.”
Stories like Bashert’s encapsulate the complexity and capriciousness of our longstanding love affair with animals, now our best friends and soul mates, now our laboratory Play-Doh and featured on our dinner plates. We love animals, yet we euthanize five million abandoned cats and dogs each year. We lavish some $48 billion annually on our pets and another $2 billion on animal protection and conservation causes; but that index of affection pales like so much well-cooked pork against the $300 billion we spend on meat and hunting, and the tens of billions devoted to removing or eradicating animals we consider pests.