Don’t get me wrong. I love dogs. I’ve had many: a Boston bulldog I shared ant-paste with (we both survived) a chow-chow that liked only me (I love him for that), several Airedales, a Dandie Dinmont named Molly who looked cute but wasn’t, and so on.
All were sheltered pets until their final “put-down,” all loved and cared for, but as animals — which brings me to this observation: Dogs aren’t dogs anymore. They’re not Labs or Shepherds anymore than your neighbors are Swedes or Samoans. They’re Stella or Henry, Fluff-muff or Puddles, just like Mr. and Mrs. Smith or that nice young couple the Jones (Mike and Joanie). There is no difference nowadays. Canine and Homo sapiens have merged to form the new and universal DOGPERSON.
This humanizing of man’s best friend has become, simply put, idiotic. Dogs are pets, not relatives. Their young are puppies, not babies; their aged are old dogs, not senior citizens or retirees. They can’t talk, not really, they think pretty much in the box (bacon, Alpo) and they can’t drive a car (although their owners insist on putting them behind the wheel, or in a baby carriage, which is even sillier).
I think you know what I’m saying: Dogs aren’t people.
Knowing that, I think we need to acquire a different kind of pet, one that in no way can be anything but that, one that will always retain its designated species and purpose, one that can only be pet — mute, stoic and down the evolutionary ladder from us. In order to “walk the talk,” I have found (actually, been given), a great substitute for Fido.
I now own a Phasmotodea, from the family Phylliidae, or an Indian Walking Stick, a stick bug, if you will, commonly found in California gardens, looking exactly like a stick and behaving, well, exactly like a stick. Nevertheless, I think he will make a fine pet.
Stickey, as I have named him, can never be confused with a son, a daughter, a friend, a movie star or any other thing other than a bug. Inert (he’s nocturnal) and capable of growing new legs should there be an accident (let’s see something with fur do that), he eats only garden cuttings, is content in his plastic cage, won’t bite, claw or peck, needn’t be walked for you-know-what and is, in short, the perfect pal, the first step on the road back to pet sanity.
No strollers, diamond collars, doggy dips or booties. Stickey is a bug, pure and simple. That allows me to lavish my affection on fellow human beings who deserve more of what has been taken from them by the world of Canis familiaris.
Postscript: It’s taken me some time to be able to finish this article. A slight illness has kept me from doing so, but I’m fine now and ready to work. Stickey, it turns out, has proved to be a delightful companion — no, better than that, a friend, someone special. Although quiet, even what you might call comatose, his presence is always reassuring; somehow I’m able to say things to him that my therapist hasn’t heard.
Late at night when he moves around his cage and I can see his tiny eyes in the TV light, he waves his antennae at me, seeming to say “hi.” I know this sounds crazy, but I swear I can hear a slight noise from him, a peep or a squeak, maybe a vowel sound — eeee, oooo, uuuu — something like that.
Unfortunately, all is not well. Stickey has not moved for almost a week; his leaves seem uneaten. I called the vet, one I thought would be familiar with Phasmids, but he was of little help, even rude.
“Who knows?” he said. “They’re a garden pest. Dispose of it.”“ ‘It’?!” I answered, unexpectedly enraged. “ ‘It’ has a name. Stickey is his name and thanks for nothing!”
Tonight, I watched Stickey carefully and I fear the worst. He doesn’t move even when I nudge him. He seems quite ill, even critical, and I don’t know what to do. I’m at a loss. The vet is a jerk, my wife and friends are totally disinterested, even unfeeling. I have no way to help him. Only a minor miracle or some sort of intervention or a reversal of fate can save him. He needs more than I can do.
Pray for Stickey!