Saturday, August 8, 2009


What is a pet? That's a pretty open question that could have a lot of answers. The obvious answer is the four-legged creature that shares a home with you. A dog or a cat. And that's a good answer. But it doesn't stop there.

My daughter has a pet. Other people would call it a rodent. I call it a mouse. And it actually is known as a gerbil. Well, it looks a lot like a mouse to me. Same face, same long tail (although it does have more hair than most mice I've seen). But wait, there is a difference: Most common mice come in one color... gray. This one is two-toned. Brown and white. No matter what it looks like, my daughter likes it, sometimes plays with it, and generally takes care of it.

OK, so if you can call this thing a pet, what can you do with it? Imagine taking it out for a walk. A leash around its neck, running frantically down the road to keep up with its mistress, neighborhood dogs barking as it scrabbles past. And if one of those dogs got out, her pet would valiantly stand between her and the attacking dog. Yeah, right.

So what do you do with a gerbil? You can put it into a large plastic ball and let it run around in the kitchen for exercise. That's a good idea, but you have to teach it how to move the ball. Soccer anyone?

What else? I had a dog once that liked to sleep on the bed. Sometimes she got in the way of my feet, but I never wanted to kick her off the bed. You can do that with a gerbil, too! As long as you don't roll over on it in the middle of the night. And what if it didn't want to sleep, but instead decided to wander around the house? You might look for it for a long time. I suppose if you didn't find it, you'd have to put out a mouse trap. Would it be attracted to cheese?

I guess by now you're getting the idea that I have difficulty getting used to the idea of having a mouse, er, gerbil, that is, for a pet. And believe it or not, I once had a guinea pig as a pet. I couldn't play with it either for the same reasons as one encounters trying to play with a gerbil.

But pets don't stop there. I have a friend that has parakeets. At least they do something. They tend to make noise. Most people would call it singing. And I guess you can do things with a parakeet. You can let it out of its cage to perch on your finger. Larger birds could perch on your shoulder and then try to eat your ear. The smaller ones just perch and, and, and, OK, I give up, what do they do when they perch. Other than the obvious, for which you need a tissue. Wait! I've got it! They fly! And you immediately have to check to make sure the windows and doors aren't open. And that the cat isn't in the house. Cats and birds get along well together. At least from the cat's point of view.

But at least each of these creatures are low cost to keep fed. To feed my dog costs about twenty dollars a month. A bird or a gerbil could probably get by on about one dollar a month. A cat is somewhere in the middle, particularly if you have birds that you let out of the cage now and then.

So if you don't want a dog, a cat, a gerbil, or a bird, what other choices do you have? How about a nice friendly, personable snake? I understand that you only need to feed them a mouse every one or two weeks. Or a gerbil if you get tired of having one. (No, I didn't mean that! Really!) But what do you do with a snake? Same problems as with a gerbil. Can't take them for a walk. They don't have a neck that's thick enough for a collar. If you took a snake for a walk down the road, you'd constantly be stopping to put the collar back on. Unless, of course, it was a python or an anaconda. Then you'd only have to worry whether or not your pet was hungry. Smaller ones would like to meet your neighbors' dogs. Larger ones might be interested in, well, you!

How about a nice, furry tarantula? I understand that they almost never bite their owners. And I suppose that you could pet them. But I'd always have the feeling that I was being watched. And the same problem with taking one for a walk down the road. And you might find that your neighbors want to step on it.

A lion or a tiger? I think they'd outgrow you pretty quickly. And if they ever got hungry... At least if you took it out for a walk, you won't have to worry about the neighborhood dogs. In fact, if you let it into the back yard for a run, you might not have any neighborhood dogs anymore.

So how many other choices are there? You could have an ant farm. Or a flea circus. Some people like to have a pot bellied pig. Or a cow. Or a horse. Or a chicken. Or a sheep. Hmmmm. All of a sudden, this is beginning to sound like a farm. Of course, the bigger they get, the more food they take, and the more mess they leave behind. And try to imagine taking some of these pets for a walk. In some cases, they would be taking you for a walk.

And there are probably restrictions in some places on the size and type of pet you can have. Not that that stops a lot of people.

I'm sure some of you have gotten somewhat upset over the way I have been characterizing your favorite pets. Don't worry, I'm not criticizing anyone for your kind of preferred pet. I'm a dog person. My daughter, for the moment, at least, is a gerbil person. I know someone who is a cat person. Another who is a parakeet person. And I respect your choices and defend your right to choose a different pet. And I'm sure anyone with an exotic pet would probably wonder about my choice of dog.

So far, at least, we still live in a country where we are allowed to make choices like that. Ask me again next year... that may have changed. I hope you enjoyed this little romp through pet-land. And I hope that I'm leaving you with...

Something to think about.


  1. Your post made me laugh so hard imagining a guinea pig on a leash. So I had to find an image for you that fit. Hope you like it.

    Thanks for the laugh!!!

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