For the record, I am not anti-dog or anti-cat, not really. I know that many who know me know that I am not a huge fan of pets, but in my defense, I have four sons, which in my opinion is quite enough to take care of. Why, in heaven’s name, would I voluntarily chose to add one more “dependent” that needs to be fed, cleaned, brushed, walked, taken to the “dr.”, and oh, my very favorite–“diapered” (ok, not literally, but think pooper-scooper or litter box)!
Now, this post is not meant to offend the millions who are pet owners and advocates (including some people who I dearly love and respect). I know how much you adore your pets and I’m cool with that. I’m not an animal hater—I think anyone who abuses animals should suffer in the same way that they caused the animal to suffer. And I’ve read all the studies that remind us pets are good for our health–lowering blood pressure, releasing “feel good” hormones—and I think that is all fine. But…I have to say that I don’t quite understand this latest level of “gaga” over our little four-legged friends.
Here is a recent example. I’m walking through the Short Hills Mall one lovely spring afternoon. It’s a weekday and I’m searching for some props for a window display that my friend and co-worker, Joan, and I are designing for the Easter season. So here I am in a relatively upscale mall, enjoying the weekday outing free of children and crowds, and I round the corner excited to catch the always interesting window display at Willams-Sonoma when I see it….and I can’t really believe it…but Joan sees it too…so I have to believe that it’s real. Yes, you guessed it…a dog. Not a seeing-eye dog, but a tiny little wiener dog, on a leash, being led around by Mrs. New Jersey herself (not really Mrs New Jersey, but the stereotypical Mrs. New Jersey, thanks to “The Sopranos.”) There she was in her velour track suit finery, perfectly accessorized with bleached-blond hair, oversized designer bag, and gold flip-flops that screamed fresh pedicure. And she wasn’t walking the little wiener schnitzel either, instead, she was barking orders at her young teen-aged son about pulling him this way and that. When did people decide that it was ok to walk their dogs inside of public places? I’ve seen it at Penn Station too. On our way home from some cultural event like the Ballet or Opera, I’m standing there with my husband waiting for them to call our train when I witness a college-aged boy pull a fuzzball with four legs out of his duffle bag and proceed to let it lick him all over the face…please explain this to me!
And cats, well, what can I say. My own husband and children conspired behind my back to create a facebook page for our very own “Lyle the Cat.” The main purpose of this page is not to discuss the adventures of a stray cat (that would be weird enough), but to see if the “little beast” can friend more people than me! What is wrong with them. Not that Lyle hasn’t led a seemingly charmed life—he has survived moves from Ohio to Arizona to New Jersey (by car and plane—a story for another day!); outsmarted numerous other cats, hawks, owls, coyotes, rattlers, scorpions, and maybe even a javelina; and is king of our street, napping on lawns and in gardens up and down the block. Great—but now my guys are as crazy as the mall dog walkers. Lyle now has rules of engagement, curfews, mood swings, and a growing list of facebook friends. Tomorrow he will probably start a blog!
Instead of walking them and petting their little heads, we schedule play dates for them at upscale pet stores. Then we proceed to shower the upscale pet stores with scads of cash for items like clothes, boots (rain and snow!), jewelry, hats, and gourmet food created by Chef Michael….for the animals! I understand a dog sweater for a small animal in sub-zero temperatures, but can’t we leave it at that? We dress them in silly accessories and little hats and put them on youtube and greeting cards! And then crazy people like me, who believe this is absurd behavior, go out and buy those cards for my goofy, pet-obsessed children!
So what do I think is the real truth about cats and dogs? I think they are honestly a great choice for people with the time and energy to care for them, and that for those that want them, the rewards are great. And I think that for those of us who don’t, we should be able to express our rage at hairballs on the carpet and furrballs on the furniture. And we should all be mindful of the marketing wizards that have come to convince us that they need playdates and raincoats, instead of some milkbones, a squeaky toy, and a pat on the head.