What will become of pandemic pets?
There’s a lot of talk of a looming separation anxiety attack, as spoiled, non-socialized dogs encounter a new era, in which humans walk through the door to earn the bread that pays for kibble. Andrea Tu is a behavioral vet in Manhattan, which makes her the equivalent of a psychiatrist: she can prescribe medications including, but not limited to, popular SSRIs such as Reconcile (doggy Prozac), sertraline and paroxetine, as well as a range of fast acting bases such as trazodone, gabapentin, clonidine and various common benzodiazepines. “We are looking at waiting times of three months,” she said. âWe see a ton of cases where people are over their heads. Now they can’t leave the dog alone for ten minutes, let alone ten hours. Many vets fear shelters will start to fill up again.
Cats, on the other hand, are often bothered by do not be left alone. âThey’re not used to having to share space with people all the time,â Tu said. “We see a lot of stress-induced cystitis – cats get UTIs, basically, when they’re under stress.”
I am a dog person. My childhood diary, abandoned after a few weeks, was a chronicle of the Norfolk terrier family, who had a testicle and the soul of a poet. Eight years ago my wife, sons and I adopted a dog supposedly from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, mostly black, long haired, weighing about fifty pounds, a shepherd with webbed retriever paws. The boys, who were eighteen and eight at the time, chose him from an ever-changing array on Petfinder, and changed his name from Zayn (the shelter apparently employed a One Direction stan) to Kiekko (who, according to their research, is Finnish for “puck”). He came north in a truck heading to a shelter in New Hampshire and landed in the Vince Lombardi service area on the New Jersey Turnpike. We took him home to our apartment and very quickly came to the premise that he was family.
Who knows what Kiekko was thinking? We have often tried to imagine it by anthropomorphizing, by chatting, by bubbling the word. Kate Perry, the trainer, classifies four types of âcanine-bedriddenâ: the workaholic, the sensitive artist, the methodical thinker and the party animal. It seemed to us that Kiekko could be all or part, as we could of course. We bathed and brushed him, covered him in rawhide and greenies, invited him to our bed, and also sometimes called him a crackhead, for his unique craving for leftovers. Such hunger. You would think we weren’t feeding him. When neighbors, making the elevator talk, noticed that it looked heavier, we took offense. This is the undercoat. Our youngest son, a mischievous common thread, had been in trouble at school, and the dog calmed him down: petamorphosis. But Kiekko himself was a bit of a shit agitator. He threatened people with tools, odd-looking men in hats or uniforms or soft shoes. He stole sandwiches from the hands of little children. One Thanksgiving day, a thud in the kitchen announced that he had thrown a carved turkey on the ground.
We walk it to the north end of Central Park. Before adopting him, I considered the dogs in the park to be crazy. Once we got it, I learned how. Before 9 a.m., in some parts of the park dogs are allowed off leash, a nice libertarian touch, in a jaywalking town. There are a lot of dogs out in the morning, doing doggy things, while their humans do their human-dog things: the scofflaws, the ward monitors, the ladies with their pockets full of slime-stained treats, the elders. dog-dragging safari vests with accessories. The dogless must stubbornly make their way. We ran into a group that had dogs around the same time as us. Behavioral non-interventionists, for the most part, we gathered around a bench that now bears a small plaque with the names of an older couple who own a collie-husky mix that, for a while anyway, Kiekko , a gelding from Alabama, felt compelled to ride. For a few years we’ve all been talking about having dinner together at some point, but it’s now clear that we won’t. As it is, we see ourselves more often – and we tell ourselves more about ourselves – than anyone else.
Over the years, I have had a few skirmishes. There was the hapless gentleman, a bell ringer from Van Morrison, who often stood near the 103rd Street cross, with what appeared to be a terrible wolf on a rope, and shouted at anyone who let a rampaging dog approach. One fine April morning, near the park’s mulch deposit, Kiekko was walking around and Van Morrison barked at my wife, “Fuck you!” She blurted out in return: “Happy Easter!” There was also the aardvark of a man with an enviable pair of dachshunds who, after Kiekko hit him too aggressively, yelled at me from six feet away, âYou’re an asshole! Maybe he was on to something. Or else he was planning. Happy Easter.
A pet, you might say, is an animal that lives in the house and has a name, and that you don’t eat. People eat rabbits, but generally not pet rabbits. One of the earliest uses of the term “pet”, five centuries ago, described a hand-raised lamb kept as a favorite; it is difficult to imagine that such a creature did not become food, and someone in the house did not become sad. Over time, the feeling has changed. University of Denver history professor Ingrid Tague conducted an investigation of pet elegies in 18th century England, finding the incidence, even then, of deep mourning, sneering double meaning and totemic carpe diem, such as “On a Favorite Grive, That Was Killed by Accident” and “On the Premature Death of Cloe Snappum, a Lady’s Favorite Lap-Dog”, whose fur, post mortem, has apparently been transformed into a sleeve :
The rise of dog breeding in 19th-century England – with its emphasis on purity over purpose and echoing eugenics – ushered in a more intentional era. It was something we could design, rather than just tame and train.
Harvard literature professor Marc Shell, in a 1986 essay titled “The Family Pet,” explored the pet’s exceptional status, as something half man and half dumb. Gestures of Genesis, of the Eucharist, of Freud and Penthouse, he performs a few rhetorical twists and turns, of questionable sincerity, in order to equate the possession of a domestic animal with incest, bestiality and cannibalism, and to draw attention to the unparalleled anthropocentrism of Christianity : “If one wishes to avoid or sublimate both literal bestiality and literal incest – like who does not? – one way to do this would be to search for a “snugglepup”. âThe wordâ puppy âcan derive from doll, the French word for a doll (from the Latin pupa); he made the leap to dogs in their incarnations as tower accessories for the women of the aristocracy. âPuppyâ seems playful enough, but, in light of its origin, also a little creepy, suggesting that the animal remains in some ways lifeless in the absence of its owner’s projections.
With the right kind of distance – a sci-fi brain or a sativa gum – one can start to feel a little nauseous about leashes and collars, tugging and heels, sudden outbursts of anger and reproach. . This institution of hugs contains a trace of tyranny. Out of nowhere, a Park Avenue matron says “No!” like Caesar in “The Planet of the Apes”. The other day I saw a middle-aged man toss a corgi on a leash to the sidewalk and grab it by the skin, the dog squealing as the man roared; apparently the dog had grabbed a crust of bread or some tasty poop. Why are you so mad If it had been a son, I might have called children’s services. I also saw a woman scolding a doodle for sprawling on her back in the dirt with her legs spread: âIt’s not very feminine! Nor is it allowing an animal to lick your face; no one, or let’s say little, would tolerate such a thing from another human.