The Middle-Aged Genius’s Guide to Almost Everything 13 – Getting an Animal
May 1, 2018
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Scott Douglas Jacobson: So, what do people bear in mind when they are thinking about getting an animal or if they have an animal?
Rick Rosner: Thing one is, can you care for an animal? Does your lifestyle permit it? I saw a story on HuffPo about a family of assholes up in your country who adopted a potbellied pig and then found out that potbellied pigs take a lot of care.
So they killed and ate it. Which turns out not to be against the law if you do it humanely in Canada. Even though everybody was appalled because this was a pet. Anyway. If you have a job that takes you out of town a lot.
That means you are out of the house for ten hours at a time, then you have to pick a pet that doesn’t need attention. If you want an animal with enough cognitive sophistication that they manifest something that you can interpret as love, you generally have to get something with fur on it.
You have to get a mammal. I guess the limit might be guinea pig. No, rats. Rats will love you. Or will show affection. Anything smaller than a rat. I do not have direct experience with mice. I do not know if they get affectionate.
Hamsters and gerbils, as far as I know do not. You can get affection out of a guinea pig. If you want the full emotional, the maximum emotional experience of having a pet, you got to go cat or dog.
Or if you could pull it off, who you are, pigs are smart and they will be affectionate. So will horses.
However, then, you are beyond pet. You are into some special circumstance where you are not a pet owner, you are a… Somebody who doesn’t have a dwelling. You’ve got some other place to keep the huge or exotic animal.
Reptiles can be interesting, but not that interesting. Reptiles usually can often be the mark of a creepy person. If you have an actual fascination with reptiles, which may be fleeting, they do not move a lot. They do not do a lot.
Yes, get a reptile. If you have a scientific curiosity, however, do not expect the reptile to win you new friends, especially lady friends. There is the guy that walks around, like, Venice Beach. I do not know if those guys are still out there.
I assume they still are. Some pedestrian area where they will encounter a lot of people with an exotic animal on his shoulder. A parrot or a snake, those guys are usually a-holes. Though the parrot guys, parrot guy may be an okay guy. Birds are dicks.
The smart ones with the vocabulary have complex personalities. That includes them being dickish. However, they will be affectionate. However, they will also be pissy and cranky and primadonnas. There was Alex, the African grey parrot with the vocabulary of something like 300 words.
Who was trained with love and attention by some biologist who not only had Alex as a pet but also had Alex as a subject of observation, he was a bird, fully developed, almost human personality.
Because he could put his thoughts into words.
However, he was also dickish. However, if you want to get a parrot, if you get lucky, you might be seeing evidence of consciousness that approaches human level consciousness. Because it is manifest through the bird being able to use words.
However, you have to get a bird trained that well. You are going to probably have to be a scientist. What else? Rabbits. Yes, you get some affection from them. Not as much as dogs and cats. We are our fourth dog. Grew up with Tinkerbell the cocker spaniel. Then Mitzy the poodle. Then in my adult life, we’ve had Meg the corgi.
Now, we have Frieda the Maltese, Terrier. She is… sneaky. She always wants food. She is a little bit transparent in what she wants. Our previous dog, Meg, pretty much wanted to do what we wanted her to do. She was exceptional that way.
Her agenda was meeting our agenda. She was a nice dog. Our dog now… terriers are dickish. They were bred to be savage rat killers. They have got pointy little teeth. When they grab something, they will shake it.
As if it is a rat, they are trying to break its neck. So, they are feisty. This dog has its own agenda which includes stealing food whenever possible. Which is endearing. At the same time, you get to see the limits.
If you are looking at dogs observationally, and probably cats, if you do not look at them with unconditional love, you see the limitations they have in terms of cognitive complexity. Where if you want something to love and to be loved by in return, you pretty much have to go with a person.
We’ve had goldfish since my kid was three. I am the keeper of the goldfish now. They are a little bit interesting. In that, they have some more cognitive sophistication than you would expect. They know what your deal is.
They know that you are the food giver. They get excited to see you because if it is time for food.
They will be like, “Come on, come on.” One goldfish we had would’ve called for its food by blowing bubbles at the top of its tank.
It would pop little air bubbles until I came and fed it. So, they are not bad. Unless, you do not want to feel guilty about eating fish. What does that leave? Terrarium creatures like… I do not know, there are… I had bad luck with trying to keep a toad.
I did not know what I was doing. I assumed frogs are pretty tough to keep. Turtles often meet a sad end. They are small, so they are a gift given to a kid who is too small to take care of the turtle. Then the turtle, not doing much, being pretty uninteresting and probably an older turtle might have more vigor to withstand neglect.
But a little one-and-a-half-inch diameter turtle is probably going to meet a sad end. If you are a parent, it depends on how old the kid is and how much responsibility you want to turn over to the kid.
And how much you having an independent personality roaming your house and requiring a certain degree of care and vigilance. If you are up for the full thing, then you get a dog or a cat, dogs require… everybody knows this stuff.
That cats are more standoffish than dogs. If you do not want to invest as much emotionally, if you are a quiet, want existence at home, where you are okay at coexisting with a creature that doesn’t deliver quite as much affection as a dog, then you go with a cat. Though cats are highly variable.
Some cats remain all, like, stereotypical cats, and other cats decide that they develop a taste for human attention. However, that tends to be a crapshoot. I do not know if you can train a cat to be more affectionate than it wants to be.
But almost all dogs will return as much affection as you care to give it.
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American Television Writer
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Editor-in-Chief, In-Sight Publishing
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