Moxie and PETA

An animal trainer and advocate turned pet photographer gave advice for successfully capturing winning pet pictures. The trick is to get the dog to ‘cock’ its head in a questioning or puzzled look. To get a dog to do this, the trainer-turned-photog suggests getting the owners to stand behind your camera position and to talk to the dog or use whatever trick works for them. So far, fine.
But the point that is interesting is her use of the word, ‘human.’ As in, “Ask the dog’s human to stand behind you to get the dog’s attention.”
This is a language choice I’ve come across before. It is part of the politically correct sensibility of animal rights activist groups such as PETA. To use “owner” is demeaning in their philosophy, because it sets up a master/slave relationship. In their view this is akin to American black slavery, and it puts human and animal life on an equal playing field. Make no mistake, many of the policies of such groups and much of their activism is geared to accomplish just that. This is moral relativism in action. They have already influenced the circus, zoos and lab testing of animals. And now they are branching out into the field of pets, and one of their thrusts now is to change our vocabularies and hence our thinking about our relationships to animals. Owner is out: equal buddies is in.
But if I am not an owner, then a morning stroll meeting another dog with its human partner might go like this:
“Hello, this is my animal, ….”
“Hello, this is my human…”
Sounds strange to me.
But, if we are going to have a relationship of equality, between human and pet …oops, that’s  out also, for the same reason: let me correct that to “…if we are going to have a relationship between equals, human and animal alike, then I have a few complaints with things as they currently are practiced:
1. Dog License: I no longer will pay the city $50.00 for a dog license, nor will I get one. It’s demeaning to Moxie. I don’t pay a fee to have a human companion, do I?
2. Inequality: Although I love Moxie, I’m beginning to resent her freeloading ways. She makes no financial contribution to the household, and at the equivalent age of 35 years, it’s time she did so. I pay for her veterinarian visits, buy her food, her treats and her toys. This gets  expensive.
3. Responsibility: Am I my animal’s keeper? I am held responsible for Moxie’s indiscretions – if she runs off or bites someone that should not be my fault. I’m just her human and she’s my dog. We are partners, but she is a free being, no? And walking her on a leash? What kind of unenlightened city ordinance is that? A leash is the moral equivalent of shackling her in chains, demeaning, humiliating and controlling, limiting her freedom to explore her world. The leash is colonialism at its worst.
Oh, and one other thing, Moxie. I don’t mean to be indelicate here, but from now on you can bloody well pick up your own pooh!
I’m done with that!

Andy Rooney and the Goldfish

“It’s just a friggin’ goldfish” I think, mad at myself for being upset just because an inconsequential goldfish died. I mean, really! The obits are full of people who left for the “undiscovered country,” not the least among them, my curmudgeonly hero, Andy Rooney – and he was curmudgeon enough to go another ten years. Add Smokin’ Joe to this week’s shuffle-off list, and only a couple days ago, the Grabber, who, like Frazier, succumbed after a two year battle with cancer.

Who’s the Grabber? Just a guy I used to work with; brilliant craftsman in all things wood. He helped me with my projects: me with the cheap particle board making a bookcase, him with the real deal: maple, walnut, oak… from which he crafted future heirlooms. Eventually, we both moved on and only saw one another occasionally. But for me at least, it was nice to know that the Grabber was still around. Much is the case, I think, with those who exist in the periphery of our lives and perhaps, albeit at best, he thought similarly of me. But once you share a time and a space together, you have a history which somehow results in an indissoluble bond. At least it seems so to me.

And like most of us, I’ve mourned the loss of far more than strangers and casual friends: close family, loved ones, dear friends…

So why am I so upset about a lousy fish? Dunno, to tell the truth. But I am. This was the last of four, and for one thing, I had a history with them, too. Maybe eight, nine years ago my wife inherited 3 feeder goldfish for her grade 2 classroom aquarium, the kind that usually die within a few weeks, usually due to mismanagement. Naturally, I got the call to become the keeper of the tank. Once a month I’d go up to her classroom at the end of a school day, there to minister to the fish. Summertime, they came home on vacation, tank and all. When my wife retired, no one wanted the fish, which, because they had lived for three years by then, had tripled in size. And so out came the old 35 gallon aquarium, filter, light/ canopy stand and assorted fish paraphernalia. Heckle, Jekyll and Hyde moved in.

I resurrected our small backyard pond that summer and the fish vacationed in their larger quarters where they easily doubled their size in the half year they swam there. Later, a real koy joined the family, and for maybe five years those four fish gave pleasure to family and friends all summer long. Come October, they returned indoors to escape being frozen in the pond, but also to brighten up the house during our long, dreary winters. They were crowding the tank by then, with the largest at about six inches of fish, not counting the fins.

I got a little behind schedule this spring and missed a tank cleaning; the day before I was to take them out to the pond, the runt of the four died. My fault, but I got the other three into the pond where they thrived all summer. Made a similar error in the fall, not cleaning out the pond filter in time. I’d noticed the three fish gulping at the water surface and should have known that the water was foul. Some days, these days, too much needs looking after and my energy is low: the pond filter and pump are a major project to clean and I figured the fish would come inside in a day or two anyway, and then I’d clean everything for the winter. Lightning struck twice: the next day, when I went out to begin bringing them in, two were dead, and only the largest, the toughest, the Andy Rooney of the fish, was alive. Barely. Likely it had hours left at best.

Once in the tank, however, it seemed to recover, and I bought another goldfish to keep it company. That one died in two weeks and then my original fish became sluggish and stopped eating. I noticed the fins were shrivelled: fin and tail rot popped into my mind from the time keeping tropical fish. I decided to buy fish medicine the next day, but in the morning when I checked on old Andy Rooney, he too was gone.

So the tank stands empty awaiting either new fish or dismantling: too many Smokin’ Joes, Andy Rooneys and Grabbers these past few days.

I think for now, it’ll be option 2.