Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Frances Woolley:

Indeed, when a person selects a pet, life expectancy is one of the last things considered (see, for example, this pet selection guide, or this one or this one). Instead, "experts" recommend choosing a pet who will be a good match for his or her owner in terms of activity level, sociability, and so on. Good health matters - sensible owners avoid breeds prone to health problems. But not life expectancy per se.
I think there is a good point here -- life expectancy is not the only good that people are interested in.  Sure, I do not want to die young.  But if terrible quality of life was the only way to extend one's life span that would seem sub-optimal too. 

Really what we want to maximize is high quality life.  In cases where high quality and life contradict each other then one has to choose (and it is never an easy decision).  So it is not surprising that people adopt pets that they are compatible with.  But just ask a dog owner what they will do to extend the life of a sick Labrador Retriever and you might be surprised . . .

So which preference is dominant?  The breed decision or the attempt to prolong the life of one's furry friend? 


  1. Joseph - thanks for the link. There's a world of difference between life in the abstract (a short lived Newfoundland Retriever versus a long-lived small fluffy dog) and life in the concrete (the life of a well-loved pet). But it is so hard to make these life and death decisions, even for a dog.

  2. Frances -- I agree. I am a Labrador owner and each one I've lost has been very hard.

    Thank you for bringing up the topic -- I notice it generated a lot of interesting discussion on your blog.