I’m someone who likes animals. I’m also someone who spends a lot of time procrastinating on youtube. These two facts converged some time ago when I noticed an interesting trend for youtube videos, usually filmed by female partners, capturing usually male soldiers being reunited with their dogs. Turns out Buzzfeed noticed it too:
I love these videos as someone mildly obsessed by animals. But I also find them really interesting as a sociologist. There’s a very specific pattern recurring in countless videos I’ve watched in which the female partner narrates the soldier’s return to the animals (“right guys, you ready?”) before filming the inexpressible enthusiasm with which the animals greet him, as well as his (usually) equally effusive response. The affectivity of the shared pet seems to act as a communicative mediator, as if the anxieties and ambiguities inherent to human relationships can be temporarily dissolved through the reciprocal embrace of a mutually loved animal who can feel and react much more simply than we are able to. The last video of these is the most interesting, at least with my pseudo-psychoanalytical hat on, not least of all because of the moment when the woman filming the reunion feels the need to exclaim “I’m not drunk”. Towards the end they exchange statements of “I love you” in a way which seems oddly ambiguous as to whether they are talking to each other or to their dog. In fact the soldier is looking at the dog as he begins to say this, before he looks towards the camera.
I feel the need to add that I’m someone who was once engaged to a woman with whom I owned a dog, a cat and a large number of rodents. I’m writing this in a somewhat self-interrogative manner, as opposed to trying to say something about the military. I think the very specific situations depicted in these videos of military homecomings reveal something much broader about the role that pets in general, as well as dogs in particular, play in grounding and reproducing domesticity.