Months or maybe years ago, we were walking through the streets of Cincinnati when a guy with a clipboard stopped us. I never sign petitions, so I was already planning to blow this man off with a curt, mid-stride “No thanks.” But what he said surprised me.
“Do you guys care about animals?”
We kept walking.
“No,” I called back. “Not really.”
I meant it as a joke — the question was a trap, because what kind of cruel person answers that question in anything other than the affirmative — but then I actually thought about it.
Do I care about animals?
I’ve always kind of hated the zoo. I find animals boring to look at, and I think it’s bizarre that we pen them in for our enjoyment and amusement. I had three hamsters when I was an adolescent, but they bit me a lot and escaped frequently and ultimately died without saying goodbye. My childhood dog was a terrible beast, a cocker spaniel named Sparky whose proclivity for biting left two Kurtzman kids with stitches on their face. Sparky had no regard for our home and treated it as his gigantic bathroom — I can still feel the sick warm squish of my bare foot into a freshly laid Sparky turd.
Then there was Officer Friendly, my neurotic little fish. I actually did like him. But that’s my experience with pets. I’ll probably never have another one. And I’m OK with that.
The thing is, pets don’t care for me much, either. My brother’s dog, a tiny rodential creature named Copper, can’t stand the sight of me, and may just fear me as a result of a flatulent moment from 2009. Whatever it is, Copper looks at me with fear and hatred in his eyes, and when I purse my lips, stick out my tongue and let loose a raspberry, he runs from the room as though a grizzly has just entered it. I think word got out in the animal kingdom about the dead hamsters from 1991, because cats keep their distance from me, too. I swear a llama glared at me once.
I am perfectly OK that animals exist, and I think they can be beautiful in nature. But they are not my friends. I am not theirs. A dog can rip my face off, and I respect that. I’m not going be offering him a treat.