Someone's happy dalmatian showed up on TV last night, and I couldn't help think that maybe a dalmatian is what we need. Ever since we've moved into the country, I've thought about getting a dog. We've had cats ever since we've been married. When we celebrate our 50th, we really ought to put together a scrapbook of cats we've known and loved and owned, if it can be said anyone owns cats.
But I'll take some credit for selflessness on this dog business because, truth be told, I'm thinking of the dog, not for my sake but his--the dog's. We've got an acre of prairie out back and beyond that open ground--and a river--about as far as you can see. We built a house where we did because of where it is--dog country, a world some big clumsy yaller dog would consider something close to the Elysian fields.
I stay out of pet stores, and I refuse to visit animal shelters. I know myself, my weaknesses, my sins; and should I ever walk through the door of some sad pound I'd be helpless to leave without some mangy tag-a-long. All I'd need is a leash. Look at that face. You think he doesn't know what's out back of our house? You got to heartless not to take him home. That's why I stay away.
Seriously, our sprawling, tenantless back yard makes a shot like this one obscene, even criminal, turns me into just another Iowa pig.
But what would we do with them when we leave? And who's going to walk 'em when it's ten below, like it is right now? Are they house-trained? Can they find a peaceful place in a cat's world?
Get serious, I tell myself. Besides, we got a cat. Well, he has us.
A dog doesn't really need much. Not like a giraffe. Did you know that King George IV owned a giraffe and paid three artists to do his portrait--the giraffe's, that is. When his pet died a year later, the King had him stuffed.
An Englishman named Mr. Brooks had something of a menagerie, including, of all things, a white camel. But Brooks got bored--who didn't have a camel, after all?--so he painted black spots on the poor thing and tried to sell it as a "camelopard."
Once upon a time, Anne Boleyn was given a monkey as a present, even though she hated animals. What the monkey thought of her is not recorded.
Some Brit's Ethiopian zebra grew "exceedingly fond" of the ale she got from the canteen of the Royal Menagerie, but then she probably didn't have a back yard like ours. Can you blame her?
Speaking of zebras, Lord Clive insisted that his pet mate with mule. His zebra demurred, wasn't moved in the least. So Clive painted his ass with stripes and the fusion was thereby accomplished. Proving what, I don't know.
In the late 18th century, King George III was presented with two kangaroos. What he wasn't told was that once there were five slated to be gifts, but when the ship's crew found themselves hungry, three exited the ship by way of decidedly different delivery.
When a London pub got itself a rhino, customers could look upon the beast for a shilling or ride it for two. Pets suffer, after all. In 1661, Samuel Pepys, whose diaries tell us so much about England in the 17th century, got himself angry and beat his pet monkey to death in a rage.
It's a book of course, and not a pet. Don't expect it to love you unconditionally or carry in your slippers. On the other hand, you can stay curled up on the couch on cold winter nights. And that's nice. By the way, our man Pepys in a fit of pique ended up giving away his pet eagle, the whole event glibly recorded in his famous diary, where he says "we were heartily glad to be rid of her, she fouling our house mightily."
There's the pet mess too. I think I'll just not look at pictures and stay the heck out of shelters.