Animals love me. When I say that animals love me, I mean they follow me like I’m Snow White or the Pied Piper. Seriously. I water my garden and hummingbirds happily splash through the water stream while bees and butterflies land on my hands. I visit the zoo and lions scramble to get at me from their cages and the ostrich challenge my husband to a duel. True story. Walking down the street, normally shy dogs hump my leg and curious squirrels follow me. Even my mother-in-law’s unfriendly parakeet sings me love songs. You would think at first glance that this is a gift sent to me by some generous and all-seeing animal god, but it can be a bit overwhelming at times. Once, while wandering through a stable looking for a friend, a black stallion almost broke through his gate to get to me. The owner joked that I must be in heat. Even under water, sea lions find me irresistible, flocking around me to play as if I was the Marilyn Monroe of the scuba world.
I have tried diligently to understand this animal phenomena, but it remains a mystery. In fact, as the years go by, the problem seems to get worse. I know a woman whose thoroughbred dog is so snooty it won’t speak to anyone, yet when I come over, it crawls on my lap and proceeds to bark, whine and lick me nonstop until I leave. This interesting part of my life causes many funny furry stories and also prompts me to gravitate towards finding the humorous side of animals, especially humans and their interactions with them.
We keep them as pets, use them for comfort, look at them in zoos and magazines, and even showcase their talents. As owners, we try to see the humor in every part of our animals. For instance, the next time you watch a dog show, look closely for the bathroom signs. They should be labeled “Pointers” and “Setters.” Cute. There are those of us who rely on animals for income, such as teachers and trainers, dog walker and pet sitters, but relying on a particular animal or task because of a certain animal has its pitfalls. In one small Midwest town the sole dogcatcher was let go from his job because the only dog in town moved away. He instead became the sole cat catcher. As they say in the movies, never work with animals or children. Both are unpredictable.
The most common human interaction with animals is our fascination with pets. We’ve all seen one, had one or known someone with one. Whether it be a bird, lizard, fish or furry friend, pets give us comfort, warmth and a sense of purpose, as we use our maternal and paternal instincts to raise our little companions. Some people prefer dogs, believing them to have souls, understanding and higher powers, while others fear them, thinking them to be Satanic reincarnations of ex-wives or evil overlords. Then there are cat lovers, those who worship the friendly but often finicky feline that offers love one moment, but shuns their owner the next. No matter your pet preference, pets are a big part of life.
Many people treat their animals as if they were their children. Some people opt out of having children completely, choosing pets instead. They somehow think that the parenting of a pet would be far easier then a human child. Silly human! This choice, however, of not breeding over pet breeding can be advantageous for society depending on the human. Those parents who choose both sometimes find themselves favoring their pets over their kids, believing that the animal would have made more progress at the highly-priced private school and the children would have been better suited for strict training at obedience school. If you do choose obedience school, for pet or child, do extensive and careful research before settling on one. I took one of my dogs to an obedience school and when he came home I decided to give him a quiz to see what he had learned that day. We started with the basics. I first asked him if he could sit, but he simply stood there, staring at me blankly. Then I asked him if he could roll over, but still he stood there doing nothing. Becoming quit frustrated with the wasted money spent on obedience school and seeing little results, I threw my hands in the air and asked him if he could speak. Much to my surprise he responded, “Cock a doodle do!” Shocked, I called the school and asked what on earth they were teaching my dog. The woman who answered the phone explained that the school specialized in foreign languages for pets. When given a choice on their speech sheet, my dog pawed at the symbol for chicken speak. I was grateful he didn’t choose donkey talk. The constant braying would have been quite intrusive.
Unlike me, there are those whose talents integrate seamlessly with pet ownership. Ah, the sense of humor some people have when it comes to their animals! Whether it be teaching swear words to parrots or donning team sweaters on their Chihuahua, people love to laugh with their pets. A woman in our neighborhood named Kate walks her stately poodles every day around the block, proudly showing off their pedigree. She has two gorgeous poodles named Princess and King. Princess is large, with beautiful white curly hair, and King is as black as ink and soft as silk. The woman and her dogs are quite a lovely trio which often attracts many chatty men. Being as smart and talented as she is beautiful, Kate has found a creative way to start her conversations. When a man compliments Princess, Princess responds in a very clear and sultry voice with a “Thank you.” It’s quite a sight to see the men’s faces as the dog speaks back to them! In stunning surprise they always stutter, “Did that dog just say thank you?” Kate, with a straight face and a bit of arrogance always replies, “Don’t be ridiculous. Princess can’t talk. King is a ventriloquist.” Most of the men scurry away at this, but the ones who stay eventually find that Kate has quite the sense of humor and is very proficient at throwing her voice.
Pets are not for everyone, but those people who have grown up with the love of an animal in their life know the laughter, companionship and meaning they can bring. Being from quite a large family, the down side of having a pet, like everything else, is sharing. In this case, a small dog simply won’t do and multiple dogs may not be an option considering the excessive space a large family requires. The best alternative is a dog that everyone can pet at the same time. Those with small children and limited space may opt for the short and long dachshund or if there is a yard (a really big yard) choosing to adopt the large and lovable Newfoundland will be dog enough for the whole family. No matter your choice of animal, they will add something wonderful and unexpected to your life.
Pets have once again become a thing of status and creativity. The stranger your pet, the more people will fawn over your imaginative choice of animal. Unfortunately for many businesses, these same creative souls have decided they can’t live without their public praise of pet creativity even for a moment. These clever cats (so to speak) have found a little loophole in the Service Animal designating system. It used to be when people wanted to skirt the laws in the way of self comfort they would bootleg whiskey or fake a medical marijuana illness. Now, they come up with crazy medical needs for even crazier companions.
A Service Animal, also known as an Emotional Support Animal or Therapy Animal, is there to provide comfort to someone who is in dire and constant need of companionship. In days of old, such a certification required mounds of paperwork consisting of doctor’s notes and special pet training. These days, all it takes is an Internet connection and credit card. For a small price, any Tom, Dick or Fifi can go to a number of websites and buy their animal a Service Animal designation. Imaginative people all over the world have discovered the joy of carrying their rat, owl or snake on planes, trains or buses and into restaurants and a plethora of other public places, sparking fear and outrage from fellow patrons. Although the laws are quite strict on Service Animals being allowed to accompany their owners everywhere, businesses are drawing the proverbial leash line and placing restrictions on Service Animal types. And rightly so.
These Internet gifted certifications don’t require any formal training, meaning some of the animals can be a bit headstrong when it comes to their wishes over their master’s. One example is when a recent Broadway production of the play “Cats” was halted due to an escaped Service Dog. This slippery fellow took a liking to the main dancer who, of course, was dressed as a very large cat. The dog bolted away from its owner, bounded onto the stage and began chasing said dancer all over the place. The dancers scattered, technicians scrambled and the orchestra was in tatters by the time the Service Dog was captured and returned to its owner. Certainly not what one would expect during a Broadway Sunday Matinee.
These same creative souls discovered that they could cheaply transport their exotic pets by getting them designated as service animals. One woman, determined to keep her precious peacock from ruffling its feathers by flying in the cargo hold, claimed it was a service animal and insisted it should fly in the seat next to her. Of course, she offered to pay for the additional seat, but luckily for the other passengers on board, the airline refused. Can you imagine getting the aisle seat in a row with a peacock in the window seat?
This little incident led to airlines posting bans on certain types of pets people can bring in the cabins and the outrageous animals on these lists are rather unbelievable. Some of these questionable support animals are turkeys, possums, snakes, spiders, hedgehogs, ferrets, goats (or any other animal with tusks, horns or hooves), and chickens, just to mention a few. I guess this limits taking your sheep on vacation to the baaaaahamas or buying an extra ticket for your cow to see a Broadway moosical. Pardon the puns, but the fact that airlines have to create a list containing such far-fetched friends is begging for puns. So, those days when you would have to worry about sitting next to a snake on a plane are hisssssstory, but until they ban pigs from buses, you still might have to worry about those road hogs.
All in all, pets and their responsible pet owners are productive members of society. We laugh with them, cry with them, and use them for comfort. No matter the size, breed or species, pets will always be a huge part of life. So the next time you need a pick me up, think of all of the crazy things that animals do and laugh. Especially at my animals, the ones that follow me, fight for me and love me simply for who I am. Like my adorable newly adopted dog. I’ve aptly named him Naked so that I can honestly tell people that I walk Naked down the street twice a day. Of course, I had to get a new dog since my old watchdogs, Timex and Rolex, were no longer up to the tasks at hand. They had chewed up my dictionary and I had to take the words right out of their mouths.