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The Place of Pets in American Society
  - NHK E-Tele "SNS Eigojutsu" #TakeYourDogtoWorkDay (aired 2019/07/05) | LANGUAGE & EDUCATION #026
Photo: ©RendezVous
2022/07/04 #026

The Place of Pets in American Society
- NHK E-Tele "SNS Eigojutsu" #TakeYourDogtoWorkDay (aired 2019/07/05)

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Translator / Interpreter / TV commentator


1.Our Theme for our 7/5 Episode, #TakeYourDogtoWorkDay

The theme for the 7/5 episode of Sekai e Hasshin! SNS Eigojutsu was #TakeYourDogtoWorkDay. Take Your Dog to Work Day was created in 1999 by Pet Sitters International, an educational association for professional pet sitters located in North Carolina, as a way to celebrate the companionship of dogs and promote the adoption of dogs from shelters and rescue organizations. Ever since, it has been celebrated annually across the U.S. on the first Friday after Father’s Day.

On the show, we featured the tweets of proud dog owners, who posted photos of their dogs in the office sitting in front of the computer, or otherwise going through the various tasks on their to-do list for the day. The dogs were clearly the life of the office. Over the past 10 years it’s become normal for a pet to have its own social media account, and some have even grown into what are called “dog influencers”. Naturally, their posts are written in the first person.

We also talked about how in recent years, more and more American IT startups are becoming dog-friendly, that is, allowing employees to bring their dog to work daily. More than simply raise workplace morale, there have been studies that show that the presence of a dog helps reduce stress and increase productivity. Moreover, as dog owners are thought of as being friendly, they also tend to enjoy smoother relationships with their colleagues. These types of perks and benefits can be the deciding factor for prospective pick-of-the-litter employees.

From a Western perspective—especially under the Christian worldview—God bestowed humans with reason and a soul (and free will), while animals, which do not possess those things, are considered separate from humans. The West has traditionally viewed nature as something to conquer and overcome in the process of building civilization. For thousands of years, as the West went about that pursuit, they have been aided by loyal hunting dogs and guard dogs. That history of companionship is why dogs are elevated above animals that do not possess intelligence—and why they are considered “man’s best friend”. Among animals, dogs are especially loyal, and can seem to possess something akin to intelligence. (Animal psychologists say that dogs are as intelligent as the average two-year-old human child.)

In contrast, the Japanese view of nature is based on Shinto. The Japanese revere nature and have strived to live in harmony with it. Unlike the West, they do not consider humans and animals as being separate; rather, they are both part of the spectrum of nature, and both human life and animal life are comprised of the same essence. The relationship between humans and animals is considered complimentary rather than hierarchical. For that reason, dogs are no different and no better than any other existence on the Earth.

2.Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals

In the second half of the show, we touched on some of the different kinds of dogs that aren’t pets.

For example, we talked about the 40 therapy dogs that provided comfort to the students of Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida after the mass shooting that occurred in February 2018. Therapy dogs are used in facilities like nursing homes and hospitals to provide companionship to the elderly and patients in need of psychological or emotional treatment. Their dedication and deep love helps patients heal mind, body, and spirit. While therapy dogs do not have to receive special training, they usually must be certified and registered. As they must be able to remain calm in public spaces and be comfortable around strangers, breeds such as the friendly, outgoing golden retriever are considered best suited to be therapy dogs.

There are also service dogs (also called assistance dogs), which provide assistance to those with physical disabilities. Perhaps the most common service dogs are guide dogs for the blind and visually impaired (colloquially referred to as seeing eye dogs in American English). Other guide dogs are trained to bring items to their owners, pick up things the owner has dropped, and open and close doors. The biggest difference between a service dog and a common pet is that service dogs have received special training to perform specific tasks. Also, under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, seeing eye dogs, hearing assistance dogs, and dogs that perform protective tasks are among those defined as service animals, and cannot be barred from accompanying their handler into public facilities and using public transportation. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, therapy dogs are considered distinct from service dogs, and do not have the same protections.

In recent years, more and more Americans are turning to the aid of an emotional support animal, or ESA. An ESA need not have the special training of a service dog or the certification of a therapy dog. All you need is a letter from a licensed mental health professional, and practically any pet—including birds, turtles, pigs, and hamsters—can be designated as an ESA. Furthermore, ESA’s are protected by federal and state laws: ESAs can be brought into no-pet housing, and can fly with someone who needs emotional or psychological support.

While the cleverness and intelligence of dogs and the emotional support they provide is increasingly being recognized, emotional support animals are currently a point of contention in the U.S. Pets, of course, already provide emotional support for their owners, and so the line between pet and ESA can be very vague. Critics argue that many take advantage of the ESA classification in order to bring pets into no-pet living spaces or onto airplanes at no cost. And as the requirements for an ESA are considerably lower than for a service dog or therapy dog, ESAs are sometimes not as well-behaved, can cause trouble in public spaces, and can be seen as a neighborhood nuisance.

3.English Pet-Related Idioms

There are many pet-related idioms in the English language. Here are some of them.

First, because of their lovable, friendly nature, dogs are often associated with joy, innocence, and purity.

like a dog with two tails

This idiom is used to describe someone who is very happy. It comes from the fact that dogs are known to wag their tails when they are excited. Perhaps a rapidly wagging tail looks like it could be two tails. Or maybe an excited dog has so much joy that it needs two tails to fully express its delight.

puppy dog eyes

Puppy dog eyes—when a dog looks at you with a slightly sad, confused expression—are arguably a dog’s biggest weapon in its arsenal when it comes to getting a human to do its bidding. They cannot be resisted. A related expression is “puppy dog face".

puppy love

This expression refers to the intense but often transitory romantic feelings felt between teenagers.

Along the same lines as “puppy dog eyes", people often feel sorry for dogs, and see them as pathetic or tragic creatures. For example:


An underdog is a person or group that is expected to lose, such as in an election or sports competition. To root for the underdog is to cheer for the person or team that no one expects to win. The Japanese equivalent of “to root for the underdog" is hougan-biiki (判官贔屓). Side note, the word for loser in Japanese is make-inu (負け犬), literally “loser dog".

work like a dog

To work like a dog can mean two things: it can mean to work very hard at something, but it can also mean to put a lot of effort into demeaning work or to work tirelessly for little pay.

sick as a dog

This idiom, which means to be extremely ill, apparently comes from the fact that dogs vomit frequently.

die like a dog

To die like a dog is to die in a manner that is demeaning or shameful.

Finally, here are a few pet-related sayings:

every dog has its day

To have its/one’s day means to experience success or popularity. The saying every dog has its day means that everybody and anybody will experience success or happiness at some point in their lives.

you can’t teach an old dog new tricks

In other words, old habits die hard. It is difficult to get people to change their ways, especially if they have been doing things a certain way for a long time.

his bark is worse than his bite

Someone whose bark is worse than their bite seems much more mean, hostile, or threatening than they actually are.


On a previous episode of the show, I talked about how I’ve never owned a pet—and never had the urge to. One time as a grade schooler, I went to a festival in Japan Town in San Jose, and scooped up a couple of goldfish in a traditional Japanese festival game called kingyo-sukui (金魚すくい)。Those goldfish ended up dead in less than a week.

My parents are not pet people, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I’m not, either. However, the “BEWARE OF DOG" signs I saw on fences all around my hometown in suburban California likely played the biggest role in shaping my attitude toward dogs and pets in general. Americans are willing to die for their private property—as another common sign indicates, they certainly have no qualms shooting trespassers—and you often see people with the kind of pet dogs that surely moonlight as guard dogs or attacks dogs. Admittedly, some of the “BEWARE OF DOG" signs might have just been a low-cost, low-maintenance way to keep robbers away, but whenever I went for a walk around my neighborhood, I would get barked at by dogs unseen—what I could only assume were ferocious beasts. It also didn’t help that I knew several friends who had gotten bitten while out on walks and had to go to the hospital. So whenever I was around a dog, there was a part of me that was on high alert.

Thankfully, I haven’t seen a single “BEWARE OF DOG" sign since coming to Japan. And I hardly, if ever see people taking their pet pit bulls or Rottweilers out for a walk. The Japanese word for pet (other than the katakana ペット) is aigan-doubutsu (愛玩動物). (愛玩 means to cherish or treasure, and 動物 means animal.) In other words, the Japanese see pets as something to dote on and shower with love—the cuter the better. In the spring and summer I see dogs wearing t-shirts about town; in the fall and winter they don brand name knitwear. All too often I see pets being pushed around in strollers. The cherry on top of it all is the fact that when Japanese pet owners talk about their pets, they refer to them as uchi-no-ko (うちの子), which literally means our boy, our girl, or our baby.

In contrast, in the West, pets have traditionally been referred to by the pronoun “it". This partly stems from the notion that—as I mentioned at the beginning of this entry—under the Christian worldview, human beings have reason and a soul, while animals do not. For some, using the pronouns “he" or “she" toward an animal can feel odd, as if you are imbuing it with human traits. Today, however, more and more pet owners use “he" or “she"—after all, dogs are family, and animals have a gender just like any human. That being said, if you don’t know the gender of a pet or have no personal relationship with them, it’s still standard to use “it".

In recent years, activists from the West have become louder and louder in their opposition of whaling and dolphin hunting—both of which have historically been conducted in Japan for hundreds of years. The inability of Japan and the West to see eye to eye on these practices all boils down to differences in their views on nature and religious outlook. For the Japanese, both humans and animals are made of the same essence and nature, and there is no hierarchy when it comes to natural resources. For the West, humans and animals are separate, and therefore there is a hierarchy to living things. Dogs are considered “man’s best friend" because they are loyal and clever. Similarly, whales and dolphins—which science have shown to be among the most intelligent of animals—are elevated and valued above animals that do not possess the same degree of intelligence. This is why the U.S. and countries in Europe—which slaughtered whales throughout the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries to obtain whale oil and other raw materials—are so strongly opposed to whaling today.

5.My Wardrobe This Week

White “Gazelle" shoes by Adidas

White “Gazelle" shoes by Adidas
It was not intentional that I wore Adidas Gazelles on an episode where we talked about animals. (Gazelles are a species of antelope found in Africa.) These are a reissue of the original Gazelles, which were popular in the early 90s. The white leather upper and gum rubber outsole are stylishly retro. The shape is long and slim, but the soft leather has just enough give to fit comfortably around wider feet.

Linen Shirt by Paul Stuart

Linen Shirt by Paul Stuart
Check out LANGUAGE & EDUCATION #015 for more information about this item.

Pink chinos by Brooks Brothers

Pink chinos by Brooks Brothers
Check out LANGUAGE & EDUCATION #016 for more information about this item.

Red belt by Brooks Brothers

Red belt by Brooks Brothers
Check out LANGUAGE & EDUCATION #016 for more information about this item.

Orange socks by Tabio

Orange socks by Tabio
Check out FASHION & SHOPPING #027 for more information about this item.

Black glasses by Zoff

Black glasses by Zoff
Check out FASHION & SHOPPING #006 for more information about this item.


The Place of Pets in American Society - "SNS Eigojutsu" #TakeYourDogtoWorkDay (aired 2019/07/05)

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