Pet Peeves and Cuddly Critters by Jamie Beckett

Apropos of Nothing: Pet Peeves and Cuddly Critters
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett

Time magazine reported recently that Americans spent $56 billion on their pets last year. That’s a lot of scratch. It’s enough to fund a championship team in pretty much any sport, or build a smokin’ hot bachelor pad in Malibu and still have a few bucks left over to stock the bar and ship in some girls from the valley who might be really impressed with such extravagance. But I digress. We were talking about pets. Let’s get back to that.

There’s not much in life that offers the satisfaction, the affection, or the unconditional love a pet can bring to your home. Then again, there’s not much that can tear open your new leather couch, chew up your favorite pair of Salvatore Ferragamos, or leave a little something special for you to discover on the living room floor when you get home. Pets are a double-edged sword. You have to choose carefully.

The choice isn’t just whether to get a pet or not. Although that’s a pretty serious decision. Not as big as whether or not you should get married. That’s a whole other level of weirdness that could well be driven by variables too personal and scary to mention here. No, no. It’s not just a question of whether you should get a pet or not. You also have to decide what kind of pet to get. That’s a critical question. There should be therapists who specialize in helping the pet-less make this exact decision.

Making a hasty or ill-advised choice can lead to serious consequences. Messy consequences. Yes, it’s true. A poor pet choice can be the difference between living a happy life with a trusted companion, or living in fear of a nocturnal predator that prowls your home incessantly and refuses to leave.

When I was a teenager my sister bought a pig. It was little. No more than five or six pounds of piglet when it came to live with us. It was cute, too. Vietnamese potbelly pigs were just becoming popular and I have no doubt my sister had visions of happily walking her pig around town on a leash, drawing much deserved attention to their unparalleled cuteness and her undeniable sense of style. She named it Wilbur after the cute little porker in Charlotte’s Web, a book that’s near and dear to the hearts of many a young girl.

Unfortunately, Wilbur wasn’t a Vietnamese potbelly pig at all. Rather, he was a regular old American pig who ate and grew and grew some more. By the time he tipped the scales at 100 pounds it was obvious Wilbur wasn’t going to live in the house. When he plumped up to 400 pounds there was concern he might outgrow the barn. As he grew beyond the 500 pound limit even my sister, who would grow up to be a very talented lawyer, couldn’t pretend her choice of pets was anything but a colossal error.

An ex-wife I was once married to had a lovely feathered friend known as a cockatiel. These birds are absolutely beautiful. She left him entirely intact, which meant he had the ability to fly about the apartment with abandon. And he did, too. He flew through every room, apparently in an effort to teethe on every single item we owned and grind it down to dust. Or at least to damage it irreparably so we’d remember him forever. He was successful on both counts.

Birds are fine pets, I’m sure. But I grew up with three-hundred chickens tucked away in our barn behind our house. From my perspective birds are good for exactly two things. They lay eggs and they make for a wonderful main course at dinner. The cockatiel did nether. I do not miss him.

Today I have a dog named Sally. She’s a mutt. We picked her up from the pound. She’d been abandoned. Otherwise unwanted, and unloved we took her home. If I had to put a cash value on her I’d say she was worth about a dollar and a half. She’s dumb as dirt, runs everywhere she goes at top speed, and has rammed headfirst into the sliding glass door at the back of the house more than once. But I love her. She’s affectionate, dependable, and the best alarm system money can buy. Even if I had the cash laying around I don’t think I’d pay $56 billion for her, although she’s probably worth it. After all, she never talks back to me. We’re a good match. Although she did chew up my favorite pair of flip-flops.

I guess you have to pay a price to find true love. I did and I’ve got no regrets about it so far. She’s still on probation, though. It’s only been about 6 years. If she doesn’t watch herself I’ll put her out. Or the family will put me out. Which way it all goes in the end is still very much in question.