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If you haven't heard, you haven't been listening: Europe is grossly under-birthed, and the United States isn't far behind.

For a society to replace its population, demographers say each woman needs to average 2.1 children. The last time I looked, Germany was at 1.3, Italy 1.2, Spain 1.1, and France 1.7. The rest of Europe might be a little better or a little worse (I don't have the stat in front of me, but I believe the Netherlands is at .9). Blue states in the U.S. are slightly below 2.1, and red states are just a little above it, if memory serves.

So am I concerned about the lack of workers to pay for my social security? The collapsing infrastructure? Muslim immigration taking over traditional Christian countries?

Naw. Those are all legitimate concerns, of course.

But I'm worried about the dogs.

G.K. Chesterton said every person ought to have a dog. I disagree. I don't like dogs, don't want one, and resent being accosted by them on my walks.

Unfortunately, based on what I see around my city and in the news, people are having more and more of them. It seems like the fewer children we have, the more dogs I see. I've harbored this suspicion for years, but I've never run across any statistics or studies to show a direct correlation.

But a while back, I found something better: Julius Caesar.

From Plutarch’s Parallel Lives:

“Caesar once, seeing some wealthy strangers at Rome, carrying up and down with them in their arms and bosoms young puppy-dogs and monkeys, embracing and making much of them, took occasion not unnaturally to ask whether the women in their country were not used to bear children; by that prince-like reprimand gravely reflecting upon persons who spend and lavish upon brute beasts that affection and kindness which nature has implanted in us to be bestowed on those of our own kind.”

Ah, perfect! Not only are all the dogs understandable, but now I could also understand some crazy pet news I've seen over the past few years:

*Pets are now more common than kids in many U.S. cities. There are more dogs than children in San Francisco, Denver, and Seattle.

*Companies are giving “pawternity leave”: time off to care for sick pets.

*California at one point had four bills pending at the same time, all dealing with dogs, from prohibiting pet cloning to criminalizing the clipping of a dog's ears for cosmetic reasons.

*In London (pre-COVID), dog-lovers took over “2.7 million working days off to care for their sick pets over two years. . . Ten percent of owners missed five days of work, with half of these taking up to two weeks off to look after their pets. Dog owners are so concerned about their pooches’ well-being that 55 percent admitted they paid more attention to sick pets than an ill partner."

*Dog owners in Turin can be fined 500 euros if they don’t walk their pets at least three times a day. People will also be banned from dyeing their pets’ fur or “any form of animal mutilation” for merely aesthetic motives.

And from my catalog of personal anecdotes: Last weekend, my wife saw a woman using a baby-nursing wrap to hold and cuddle her dog in a restaurant.

And if I see one more dog in a baby-stroller, I fear I'm going to do something rash.

Contrary to the childless cultures of the West, the Church teaches that couples should have children. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful." (2366) "Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life. . ." (2367) "Sacred Scripture and the Church's traditional practice see in large families a sign of God's blessing . . .". (2373)

Whenever we look at the Church's teaching, especially when it comes to morals, we need to understand that the teaching is always consistent with man's nature. F.J. Sheed in Theology and Sanity wrote,

"Religion is a relation of man to God, and a true religion must be true to both. God will treat man as man is, and man will react to God's act as man is." The "supernatural does not ignore the natural or substitute something else for it."

When it comes to children, fecundity is natural. People are "hard-wired" to have children, and often lots of them, and the Catholic Church's teaching reflects this natural trait.

But when something natural is suppressed, something odd erupts to take its place. In today's world where the natural inclination to have children has been suppressed, I believe an unnatural affection for pets has erupted.

And as a result, the Western world is going to the dogs.

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