Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Value of Pets (Via Laughter)

I never had a pet in my life, except for a very little while as a very young child, when our parents decided to try out a dog. He didn't last long. His name was "Frisky" and my understanding is that this understated it, that it should have been "Felon," or at least "Vandal." He did a lot of tearing up of a pretty small house, a 13-foot wide Brooklyn row house. With those dimensions, damage was hard to overlook. Our mother also claimed she had nowhere to put Frisky's food where we kids wouldn't eat it. So the dog went, and our mother developed a life-long allergy to dogs - also cats, and even the idea of them.

It seems to me most people I know in Ithaca have pets. Animal companions, I mean, in the modern vernacular. And I know how much they mean to them. It's nice. It's nothing for me, but it's nice. I also know that research shows how animals can improve psychological and emotional health in their homo sapiens friends. So it's deep, too.

The reason I think of it is because of Facebook, where there are probably more postings of animals than anything, even pictures of food ("asparagus and ramps no-egg frittata, yum") and political rants. It occurs to me that animals are beloved by us for many reasons, but an important one is that they make us laugh.

Laughter is a rare enough thing. Animals, I reckon, make people who live with them laugh every day, if not every hour. That is a pretty solid attribute.

Once I consented to take in a friend's cat when the friend left town for a week. I was pretty ambivalent, and it took a while for that to change. It seemed the same for the poor kitten, who seemed unhappy at first, although not enough to vomit on my bed or anything.

But one day I came home, not cognizant of my temporary roommate, until she reminded me of her stature and presence by leaping up at me from a hidden spot in the stairwell, twisting her body and flailing at me, scaring (for a second) the human being out of me - followed by a large, human laugh, and some swearing: "Hey, you little son of a bitch!" I regained my composure quickly enough, and when I did, had time really to appreciate this dramatic, and comic, welcome home.

My point is that I really appreciate the value of laughs, and the way animals can provide them. (My point is decidedly not that I want to house-sit your cat, despite all this - sorry, but.) I know there are a lot of deeper things involved in these relationships, but if you have someone or something in your life to make you laugh every day, that is pretty good.

Lucky for me, I find a lot to laugh about in life at all times, in many ways. I try, too, to be a source of laughter. (Not by jumping out at people on stairwells, but in ways I can do without twisting my back.) Anyway, this is only partly about pets. It's mostly about laughter. I wish you a life of the latter, whatever nice ways you get (and give) it.

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