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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Man’s Only, Probably Untasty, Friend

Yo, scienteers! Check out this week’s Secondhand SCIENCE post, all about ionic liquids. Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Well, actually, it probably is. But the parts I understand are pretty simple. So there’s that.)

I like animals. Not just the delicious ones, but some of the other ones are good, too. Like bobcats. And rhinos. And the white-tailed ptarmigan.

Come to think of it, those might be delicious, too. I shouldn’t knock what I’ve never tasted slow-roasted with barbecue sauce.

Anyway, animals are pretty cool, and I like taking care of the ones that I can bond with in some way.

Where now “bonding” doesn’t mean “pan-searing with garlic”. That joke’s done. We’re moving on.

Problem is, I can’t always tell whether or not I’m bonding with an animal, or whether it thinks I’m just part of the furniture, or a tree or possibly a very odd-shaped hairy rock that sometimes eats Chee-tos in its underpants while watching reruns of Top Gear.

“There’s nothing you can say to a banana slug, for instance, that’s going to make a lick of difference in its behavior.”

Maybe they have rocks like that in some forests. I don’t know. I haven’t had a chance to visit many forests, because — as implied above — I have a very busy schedule.

Now, some animals you’re clearly not going to bond with. There’s nothing you can say to a banana slug, for instance, that’s going to make a lick of difference in its behavior. Likewise, training grasshoppers is a phenomenal waste of time. It doesn’t matter if you use positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, choke collars, clicker training or tiny little electric cattle prods. Grasshoppers gonna hop. And they don’t give a damn what you think about it.

Clearly, for an animal to provide some sort of companionship, you’ve got to shimmy further up the evolutionary ladder. The question is, how far?

Some people keep lizards. I don’t see that helping anyone, really. Having a conversation with any animal that sticks it tongue out so much would be like a never-ending interview with Miley Cyrus. Pass.

I had a snake once. It’s pretty much the same. So, interviewing Miley Cyrus with no legs, I guess. That’s not really an improvement.

Then there are birds. That’s where things start to get blurry for me. I birdsat a parakeet a couple of weeks ago, and there were times — mostly when it was sitting on my head, chirping at me like we were in some sort of avian Ratatouille movie — when I thought we were actually communicating.

(Just for the record, the bird version of Ratatouille is Cockatouille. In case you were wondering.)

Other times, I wasn’t so sure. The bird would come over and peep at me and peck at my finger. So I’d try to feed it a raisin, or one of those Chee-tos from between the couch cushions, and it would peep and peck at my finger. I gave it fresh water. Peep ‘n’ peck. I opened the front door and told it fly and be free. Peep peep, peck peck.

Finally, I thought we were getting somewhere when it hopped on my hand and shimmied up my arm, as if to tell me something important. Then it took a shit on my sleeve, flew back to its cage and peeped at me again. So either it doesn’t like my choice in casual wear, or I don’t know what the hell birds want.

I mean, I know what some of them want: to be delicious. But that’s mostly just chickens, and the occasional Peking-style waterfowl. Other birds, I don’t really “get”, you know?

Then you get into the small mammals and rodents. Or as my wife calls them, “poop factories”. She says all those furry little critters do is eat and poop it back out.

I talked to her about getting a gerbil once. “Poop factory.” Okay, how about a guinea pig? “Poop factory.” Hey, hon, my little old aunt Priscilla asked if she could spend the weekend with us. “Poop factory! Poop factory! Poop factory!

To be fair, she’s kind of right. If Priscilla’s off her meds, you’d better hope she’s in Depends.

Bigger animals are better, though I suppose it’s still hard to communicate with some of them. Moose are pretty inscrutable, for instance. You never know when polar bears are hungry, or just pissed off and cold. And cats. Lord, don’t get me started on those persnickety bastards.

So I guess what I’m saying is — I like dogs. Dogs are pretty great. You pet them and they like it, and if you’re patient enough you can make one sit for you, or lie down, or open the fridge and fetch you a Sierra Nevada. I don’t see cats doing that. Or parakeets. Or banana slugs. How long would that even take? Days. Who wants that?

In conclusion, dogs are awesome. The rest of the animal kingdom, most of the time, if you’re trying to relate or bond or have a heartfelt discussion about The Catcher in the Rye? Forget it. None of those other animals are any help at all.

Which is probably why some of them are delicious. I’m just saying.

Permalink  |  1 Comment

One Response to “Man’s Only, Probably Untasty, Friend”

  1. Kanoodle says:

    Haha, do you have a secret desire to eat dogs? Delicious?

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