Since last November when we bought her, I've posted more photos than are sensible of our dog Lucy online. We find her irresistibly cute still, even as she approaches her first birthday, and pretty much everyone else she encounters seems to agree:
...in the big eyes of the Chihuahua, the short snout of the fluffy Pomeranian, in the round face and small ears of the Scottish fold cat [...] in all the features of animals bred for appearance rather than work, we find our desires, evolved and otherwise, sculpting the beasts in our environment.
Lucy is growing out of her puppyhood—she's reached close to her maximum size, her behaviours are changing and settling down (for example, she is better housetrained and a bit less hyper than before, and now she barks at unfamiliar dogs instead of staying silent and unnoticed), and she seems comfortable with her place in our household (or, more accurately in her doggy mind, our pack hierarchy).
But while she acts less like a puppy, she still looks like one, and she always will. Not only that, she looks more like a human baby or child than any wild wolf cub, ancestral dog puppy, or typical newborn mongrel mutt does. That's because as humans bred her ancestors—especially the shihtzus—they preferred:
- Smaller size
- Rounder, higher foreheads
- Floppier, less pointy ears
- Bigger eyes relative to the rest of the face
- Shorter snouts
- Coats more like hair than shedding fur
It makes sense that we find human babies cute. Indeed, sometimes their cuteness seems like the only thing that keeps us parents going in the early sleep-deprived days of parenthood. And so it makes sense that we have bred many of our pets, especially the most popular ones that are mammals (as well as many fish and birds) for neoteny, to resemble our children too.
People must have other reasons for getting reptiles or spiders or other creatures as pets, though, since none of them are inherently cute on the face of it. Surprisingly, and probably by mere coincidence, some cephalopods are. But, with their generally short lifespans and hard-to-maintain aquarium requirements, squid and octopuses make lousy pets anyway.
I'm not sure about this, but I think we even speak in baby talk to Lucy more than we did to our own children when they were little.