There is no denying that we are living in The Age of The Dog and it did not happen by accident.
Not long ago, it was The Age of The Cat. The advent of the Internet brought with it Keyboard Cat and the hilarious cynicism of Grumpy Cat. We suddenly had access to infinite human knowledge – all at our fingertips – a feat entirely unimaginable to our great grandparents. And people, mostly, wanted to google the word ‘cat’.
But in 2017, cats are second class citizens. ‘Doggo’ and ‘pupper’ memes have infiltrated the zeitgeist, bringing with them a new dog-specific language including words like ‘boop’, ‘snoot’, ‘mlerm’ ‘heckin’ and ‘smol’. The Facebook page ‘Bork Bork I Am Doggo’ has almost half a million followers, significantly more than, say, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The most popular animal on Facebook is a dog named Boo, who has more than 17.1 million followers. The next most popular animal is a cat, who has less than half the following.
On the 3rd of January, 2016, the term 'cute dogs' overtook the search 'funny cats' in global searches.
I rest my case.
I have a dog named Caesar Pius Grounds, and he dominates a majority of my conversations.
He is always wearing a suit which is silly because he looks overdressed for most occasions. When he goes swimming, he looks just like a seal, so we call him Seal-sar.
Caesar has a degree in engineering, and now he works for the council in the department of 'parks'. Mostly, he advocates that there should be more of them. Sometimes when he seems restless we say to him tersely, "Caesar use your words!" Yesterday, he ate half a packet of grain waves and then blamed it on the cat (we don't have a cat).
I speak to Caesar more than some of my colleagues, and if that isn't escapism then I don't know what is.
There have been many think pieces as of late, exploring the phenomenon of dogs being everywhere. They are in cafes. Under your work desk. Taking over the side walk and even wandering around your local hairdresser.
So, why have dogs taken over the world?
Simply - it's because we need them now more than ever.
LISTEN: Monique Bowley, Mia Freedman and I discuss - When did dogs become equal to humans? Post continues below.
John Allemang wrote for The Globe and Mail, "in the conflicted and distracted world I inhabit, Toby is the ultimate arbiter of sanity." Toby, is of course, his dog.
Our dogs are the embodiment of innocence. They won't gossip behind your back, or surprise you with some homophobic slur. They don't make distinctions between beautiful and ugly, black and white, young and old, disabled or mobile. Their love and loyalty is unconditional.
As we grow into adulthood, we slowly lose our playfulness. We no longer climb trees or kick a soccer ball at the park for no reason. We don't play with dolls or push around toy cars. But the desire to play is something that still sits within us. When we lie on the floor with a dog we are accidentally practising mindfulness, allowing ourselves to descend into a state of flow. We tease with a dog toy or throw a ball, playing for the sake of play, with no ulterior motive.
Our lives are inarguably dominated by screens, and dogs are a much needed respite. Perhaps our obsession with them is symptomatic of a culture that has lost human connection, and wants to feel close to something.
Just as we lose our playfulness, we also lose unselfconscious affection. With a dog, you can cuddle and scratch and snuggle them in bed, without any complex meaning attached to it.
We live in a culture that mandates individualism and narcissism. We no longer live on farms with extended family, instead, many of us live in apartment blocks in the city. Capitalism means we work for ourselves. Marriage isn't a necessity like it once was. Our family might live on the other side of the country. Simply put, we're lonely.
Dogs force us to get outside ourselves because, unlike cats, they need us. They need to be fed and walked and bathed. We desperately want to be needed. With dog ownership comes a profound sense of purpose. People who own dogs and undergo heart surgery are more likely to get up sooner and take their pet for a walk than those who don't. They appeal to our basic human need to nurture and care for something other than ourselves.
It is awfully telling that in an era when we can search online for just about anything, we choose to type in 'cute dogs'. Not 'global warming', or 'war in Syria' or 'American politics'.
In a time when there is a lot of darkness, we look towards the light. It's unequivocally escapism, but is that necessarily a bad thing?
Maybe, just maybe, it's a means of survival.
You can listen to the latest episode of Mamamia Out Loud, here.