Pets can be annoying, but they can bring us great comfort, too

March 20, 2011 

I've been thinking about pets lately. A couple of weeks ago, employees of The Olympian, the Olympia Downtown Association and others sat down to begin planning the 2011 Pet Parade. It will take over downtown Olympia on Saturday, August 20.

Not long after that, I was listening to a commentator on NPR trying to come to grips with the reality that his pet cat is a stone-cold killer of any other living thing that happens to cross its path.

It got me wondering: Why do people need pets? Apparently, we do because the pet business is booming in America.

Researchers estimate that the average American household has 2.3 pets, which means there are almost a billion animals freeloading off American taxpayers. And almost all of them are undocumented residents.

If they counted all the fish in aquariums and ants in the ant farms that entered this country illegally, tea party congresspersons would freak out.

I’m guessing many people want pets so they have somebody to talk to. For example, when a couple become empty nesters and the wife figures out that her husband has been sound asleep behind the newspaper for the last five years, she gets a pet. Now she can have meaningful, intimate conversations with a responsive living thing, even though that living thing has no idea what she’s talking about.

Woman: I can’t believe Martha stays with that man. Honestly, I think he’s disturbed. I mean what kind of a man wears plaid pants in this day and age?

Cat: Meow (Translation: Are you going to give me some of those chicken-flavored things?)

Woman: She’s too good for him. She’s an intelligent, bright woman, with a great job, and all he can think about is golf.

Cat: Meow (Translation: Maybe I’ll get the liver-flavored thingies today.)

With other folks, it’s hard to tell what they were thinking when they bought pets. Take the Sioux Falls, S.D., mother, for example, who brought home a deadly poisonous salamander for her 18-month-old son. Of course, she didn’t know the California newt had poison glands beneath its skin that could cause respiratory paralysis when she let it run around on her child’s tummy.

No one, not even Charlie Sheen, should have a pet that looks at you when it’s hungry. Experts recommend that you get a pet that comes to you FOR food, not because you look LIKE food.

But people in South Florida don’t understand that. For a while they were buying an increasing number of Burmese pythons. A biologist with the Florida Everglades National Park said they caught a record 95 escaped pythons one year, including one “that exploded after trying to eat an alligator, and two others that got loose and ate a Siamese cat and a turkey.”

I guess baby pythons look cute when they’re 8 inches long, but they grow to 10 to 15 feet within two years. A man in Naples crashed his PT Cruiser a couple of years back when his pet python wrapped itself around his neck and bit him.

If people must have pets, why not stick to good old smelly, salivating dogs? I don’t mean those little whiny dogs that young girls carry around in their purses while trying to impersonate celebrity bad girls.

I mean the good-old, glad-tosee-you, please-feed-me-now mutt that hasn’t a brain in its head. That’s a classic pet.

A good dog will go anywhere with you, or just hang around quietly like a close, longtime friend. When it gets obnoxious or you just can’t stand the bad breath any more, you can banish it to the garage. You could do that with the dog, too.

George Le Masurier, publisher of The Olympian, can be reached at 360-357-0206 or glemasurier@theolympian .com

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