chapter  2
22 Pages

“Caring” for Animal Neighbors, Part I

One fall, Princeton philosophy professor George Pitcher noticed a dark colored creature creeping through the tall grass of his backyard. The animal was a feral dog, clearly pregnant and reticent of humans, who eventually nested in a hole under Pitcher’s backyard shed. “I couldn’t help being touched by this dark creature, alone in the world, with a gang of puppies to look after,” Pitcher recalls. “And winter coming on. Somewhere inside me the subversive, irrational hope was already forming that she would have her puppies on our property.”1 Pitcher’s moving memoir, The Dogs Who Came to Stay, tells the story of the deep connections that eventually develop among this professor, this abused and abandoned animal, whom he names Lupa, and one of her pups. As the story progresses, Pitcher’s relationship with Lupa opens up a world of emotions that he had formerly been unable to fully express. Eventually, in her death, she helped him overcome his lifelong inability to confront the reality of death-“she taught me, at last, how to grieve.”2 All of this began with the sympathetic feeling the sight of this needy animal evoked in Pitcher and his decision to offer it care in the form of a bowl of dog food. Like the Samaritan in our parable, Pitcher was moved to care for this needy animal after being fi rst moved emotionally by her. The Samaritan is not depicted as rationalizing his decision to care for the wounded traveler by appealing to an abstract, universal, ethical imperative. Jesus simply states that “when he saw him, he was moved with pity [or compassion, ἐσπλαγχνίσθη]. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him” (Luke 10:33b-34). Accordingly, this chapter will argue that human moral responsibility, especially with regard to other animals, involves a necessarily emotional component.