Just a Dog: Understanding Animal Cruelty and Ourselves

By Arnold Arluke | Go to book overview

1
Agents
Feigning Authority

When you first get here, it’s like a cop on a gun run. A cop, when he gets a
call for a gun, immediately thinks there’s a guy with a gun out there that’s
going to do harm to somebody. So you’re a rookie and you get a job that says,
“Dog out with no food, water, or shelter.” And you are like [excited voice],
“Oh, there’s a dog out without food, water, or shelter! It must be dying!” You
think the worst. When you have seen as many bullshit calls come through
this office as I have, then you say, it could be a neighbor dispute or that dog
is out all the time and has a shelter but someone says that “it should be inside
with the owner like my dog is.” You look at these people, and say, “What, the
dog should have a coat on in front of the fireplace? Get the hell out of here.”

—Humane agent, five years on the job

PEOPLE DISCOVER who they are by observing the consequences of their actions in the social world. Individuals use this looking-glass self to imagine how they are seen and judged by others, and in this way, they develop self-feelings that tell them who they are (Cooley 1902). Although the looking glass plays a major role in the development of identity in children and adolescents, the process of discovering one’s identity continues into adulthood and relies heavily on the reactions people get to their jobs. As Hughes (1958, 42) observes, a person’s “work is one of the things by which he is judged, and certainly one of the more significant things by which he judges himself.” Indeed, occupation has become the main determinant of status and prestige (Goldschalk 1979). People are granted power or refused it, shown respect or denied it, based on where they work and what they do there. They are not just teachers but college professors at a powerhouse research university. They are not simply stockbrokers but financial counselors at a prestigious Wall Street firm. All of these occupational trimmings reveal things about people to others, who in turn tell them what they think and feel about their work.

Sometimes what is revealed about one’s work, and in turn one’s self, is negative. Workers suffer low status and tarnished identities for

-21-

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Just a Dog: Understanding Animal Cruelty and Ourselves
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Just a Dog iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction - Just a Dog 1
  • 1: Agents Feigning Authority 21
  • 2: Adolescents Appropriating Adulthood 55
  • 3: Hoarders Shoring Up Self 85
  • 4: Shelter Workers Finding Authenticity 115
  • 5: Marketers Celebrating Community 147
  • Conclusion - Cruelty is Good to Think 183
  • References 205
  • Index 217
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