Pets Allowed Part IV

Discussion Topic Created:
Friday, April 17, 2015
Why are so many animals now in places where they shouldn’t be? There’s a lot of confusion about what emotional-support animals can legally do.
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Here’s what happened at the Chanel boutique: “Hello. I’m looking for a pocketbook that will match my snake,” I said to a salesman. “Maybe something in reptile.” I shuffled Augustus from one hand to the other as though he were a Slinky.

“I’m sorry, Ma’am, I have a thing against snakes, so let me get someone else to assist you,” he said, as if he were telling the host at a dinner party, “No dessert for me, thank you.”

A colleague appeared. “Wow,” he said, leading me to a display case. “We do have snakeskin bags back here. Is he nice? Does he bite?” The salesman handed me a smart, yellow python bag marked $9,000. “I think this would work the best. It’s one of our classics. I think yellow. Red makes the snake look too dull.”

The welcome wasn’t as warm at Mercer Kitchen, where a maître d’ responded to my request for a table by saying, “Not with that!”

“But it’s a companion animal,” I said. “It’s against the law not to let me in.”

“I understand,” he said. “But I need you to take that out.”

Over at Balthazar, once the woman at the front desk confirmed with her superior that snakes could count as emotional-support animals, I was able to make a lunch reservation for the following week. (“So that’s how you get a table there,” a friend said.) An hour later, I learned that the Angelika Film Center does not require you to purchase a separate ticket for your snake, and that the Nespresso coffee bar is much too cold for an ectotherm.

To think that animals were once merely our dinner, or what we wore to dinner! Fifteen thousand years ago, certain wolves became domesticated and evolved into dogs. One thing led to another, and, notwithstanding some moments in history that dogs and cats would probably not want to bring up (like the time Pope Gregory IX declared cats to be the Devil incarnate), pets have gradually become cherished members of our families. According to “Citizen Canine,” a book by David Grimm, sixty-seven per cent of households in America have a cat or a dog (compared with forty-three per cent who have children), and eighty-three per cent of pet owners refer to themselves as their animal’s “mom” or “dad.” Seventy per cent celebrate the pet’s birthday. Animals are our best friends, our children, and our therapists.

“I hate all of these people,” Jerry Saltz, the art critic for New York, told me, referring to pet owners “who can’t be alone without their dogs or who feel guilty about leaving their dumb dogs home alone.” He went on, “A few years ago, my wife and I were flabbergasted to see a smug-looking guy sauntering through MOMA while his ‘comfort dog’ happily sniffed the paintings, as if to pee on one. I ran up to a guard and started yelling, ‘That guy’s dog is about to pee on the Pollock!’ She looked at me and said, ‘There’s nothing we can do about it.’ ”

Why did the turkey cross the road? To get to the Hampton Jitney. How did the twenty-six-pound fowl get across? With me hoisting him by his “Emotional Support Animal” harness, as if he were a duffel bag.

“You’re taking this with you?” an attendant asked, standing in front of the luxury bus on Eighty-sixth Street. Henry was a Royal Palm, a breed not known for its tastiness but one that could easily make the cover of People’s sexiest-poultry issue. His plumage is primarily white, but many of the feathers are accented with a tip of jet black, giving him a Franz Kline Abstract Expressionist feel.

“Yes,” I said, handing the man two tickets, one for me and one for Hope, the turkey’s ten-year-old neighbor, in Orange County, New York. Henry flapped his wings furiously, dispersing a good amount of down into the air and emitting noises not unlike the electronic beeps that a car makes when it’s too close to the curb. Henry had been driven in from the farm that morning.

“Did you talk to the company?” the attendant asked.

“Yes,” I fibbed.

“Good boy, good boy,” Hope whispered to the heaving bird, as I strained to lift him up the bus’s stairs.

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