A Tourist in the Animal Kingdom
Animals and I, historically speaking, have had a complicated relationship. I like most of them well enough, but I’m not really the sort of person that feels comfortable approaching someone walking their dog on the street, for example. I guess the awkwardness is mutual, since being approached and petted by someone who clearly isn’t self-confident doesn’t seem to appeal to the animals, either. (A note to the unwillingly single: that applies to humans, as well.)
Obviously, there are exceptions. My girlfriend’s family keeps a Jack Russell Terrier, a breed made all the more adorable by older, much better children’s television programming.
I attribute the growing friendship between Hatteras and me to a) the fact that both I and his look-alike enjoy splicing ourselves into famous works of literature, and b) the fact that in spite of being a college student and a dog, we’re both lazier than most cats. The ability of this dog to remain in one place for extended periods of time would make Garfield look like a marathon runner and would probably have Jabba the Hutt feeling one-upped.
I’ve generally been more of dog person than a cat person, myself, in large part due to the pet cat of my childhood friend James. Don’t get me wrong, James and I were the best of buddies, but there was a persistent friendly difference between us: he liked to refer to his cat as “Whiskers,” and I preferred to call it “Whiskiablo, the Evil Incarnate.”
Before the cat owners on campus sic their army on me and prove my point, I would like to state up front that I do think most cats are cute. It’s only been my experience that cats are animals around which I can never tell if they’re ignoring me or resenting me. Perhaps they’re capable of doing both at the same time, like the people I’m riding uncomfortably close to on the T. I’ve talked with friends who, in spite of keeping cats as pets, are keenly aware of the circumstances under which the cats will get angry with them and will cause severe injury and/or property damage. So, a dog person I am and most likely will remain.
If I ever keep a pet in my adult life, I strongly suspect that I’m going to need a lot of help keeping it alive. I swear, I’m cursed. I’ve only ever owned fish, and not one has ever survived more than 24 hours under my care, the poor things. My heart goes out to the carnival man who never realized he was sending that goldfish to its doom.
I once brought home a pair of guppies from day camp. One died almost immediately for causes I still don’t understand. For the sake of maintaining positive relations with the animal kingdom, the SPCA, and my own conscience, my parents and I resolved to give the other one away to my friend Bing. Shortly after passing out of my possession, the surviving guppy gave birth to four young. If that doesn’t point a vengeful, incorporeal fin towards “curse,” I don’t know what does.
All things considered, it’s probably safest for all parties that I spend most of my time indoors with the spiders and roaches rather than out with the birds and mammals that I would feel most remorse for accidentally infringing upon somehow. “I don’t bother them, they don’t bother me” is a fairly simple philosophy that works on cats, dogs, and most species of shellfish. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d appreciate if you’d be vewy, vewy quiet — I’m being hunted by wabbits. Apparently, the small mammal department at PetCo doesn’t take kindly to Energizer Bunny impressions. Oops.