When I launched Argos & Artemis last year, some people asked, “But who cares about the people? I thought people only cared about the dogs.”
I said, “No, I definitely care about the people, and I know others do, too.” And I haven’t been wrong, as demonstrated by the past few weeks. The dog parent community came together for Black Lives Matter. We are having the hard conversations. We are calling our politicians. We are protesting. We are keeping each other safe. We are opening our wallets. We are doing the work (and we will continue to do the work).
We were extremely unhappy and angry to hear that Amy Cooper, a white woman who let her Cocker Spaniel, Henry, run off-leash in Central Park’s The Ramble (which isn’t allowed), called the police on avid birder Christian Cooper (not any relation), who sits on the board of the NY Audubon Society and is a Black man. She said that she would tell the police that “an African American man is threatening my life,” and in fact, she did (while he did not—he asked her to leash her dog). She was well-aware of her white privilege and how to weaponize it against the life of a Black man, and she used it. This was no accident, and while Christian Cooper didn’t die, George Floyd did. Amy Cooper choked her dog while she called the police. The dog was temporarily taken away from, but she got her dog back. That’s white privilege for you.
Argos & Artemis is an inclusive community of dog people. We believe that we should be the people that our dogs believe we are, and that means fighting against racism and anti-blackness. Here’s the thing: When you love a dog and share a life with your dog, you start to realize that the world is so much smaller. Isn’t it rather magical that you can share such an intimate life and love with a different species? And if you can do that, you can express empathy and compassion for your fellow humans, too.
We’ve compiled these dog parent-specific ideas for supporting Black Lives Matter and combating racism. This is by no means the end point of the work we need to do, and it’s probably not even your starting point, as you’ve most likely started the work already. These are resources for dog parents, especially non-Black dog parents like me, who spend a lot of time and energy thinking about their dogs, and want to know how they can help beyond the work they are already doing.
- Learn about how the “free” outdoors is not so free and safe to Black Americans after all. Black Faces, White Spaces Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by geography professor Carolyn Finney is one of my favorite books of all time. “Why are African Americans so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism?” she asks. In this book, she explores how legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the so-called “great outdoors.” For a much shorter read, these posts from @heavydiscussion on Instagram are insightful, too.
- Read about the history of dogs in colonialism, from what are considered “native” dogs to what are considered “pet dogs.” For example, dogs were in a prominent position in postcolonial society due to their role as guard dogs in white homes as well as in the security forces of white supremacist Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa. Look into this article from Oxford University Press to start.
- Educate yourselves and each other on the long history of dogs being used by people to perpetuate racial terror and police brutality. A few days ago, Donald Trump threatened to unleash “vicious dogs” onto protestors. This is not the first time that has happened. We have to share and educate ourselves on this history that we must confront and acknowledge. Read this Washington Post story about the history of using dogs for police brutality. Read this Jacobin story about how dogs were used to hunt slaves. Did you know that George Washington developed the American Foxhound breed, and also was a slave owner for 56 years who authorized the hanging of dogs owned by slaves? Read about how dog breeding was popularized among slave-owning gentry to distinguish themselves for their “refinement.”
- Support Black-owned pet care businesses in your community. Harlem Doggie Day Spa is going on tour around the nation to deliver free pet grooming services to pet parents affected by the pandemic, and they’re seeking GoFundMe donations. Here are our picks for brands you can shop online: Pet Plate for fresh meal delivery (you can get 30 percent off your first order with us), House Dogge for dog accessories designed by former Nike design director, Enjoy-A-Bowl for food bowls, Little L’s Artisan Dog Treats for addictive dog treats (Artemis loves them!), Ava’s Pet Palace for dog and cat treats, and Sir Dogwood for stylish pet products.
- Follow, support, and celebrate Black dog parents on social media. We’ve compiled lists of some of our favorite Black dog moms here and here, including members of our Argos & Artemis community.
- Use your dog’s Instagram account to support Black Lives Matter. Fighting anti-racism might not fit into your “aesthetic,” but it is necessary and important work, and it requires all of us. We’ve been so impressed by all the dogs with large followings, like Coconut Rice Bear the Samoyed, who have spoken up for Black Lives Matter.
- See something on your walk? Stand up for people when you witness acts of racism, with or without your dog. Good citizens, good dogs, good deeds. There is a difference between covert and overt racism, and neither are acceptable. This pyramid infographic, which has been going viral, lays it out very well. We cannot afford to lose any more lives.
This is not a trending topic. This is a long fight. We can be the people that our dogs see in us. Let’s do our part, fellow dog parents.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Emrick/Twitter