Pets Allowed Part V

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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. Full Article: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/20/pets-allowed
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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.

“He’s my therapy animal,” I primly told the driver. “Do you want to see the letter from my therapist?” The question was not acknowledged.

“Easy, buddy,” Hope said, helping me to park Henry on a seat next to the window. Soon the bus was lurching down Lexington Avenue. The turkey angrily flapped his wings. I hovered in the aisle, because, truth be told, I was a bit emotional around my emotional-support animal.

“If you sit with him, maybe he’ll calm down, right?” the attendant said. I slid in next to Henry, whose eyes seemed fixed on the Chase bank sign out the window.

“Did you take him for immunizations and everything?” the optimistic attendant asked. Simultaneously, I said yes and Hope said no.

“How much food does he eat?” the attendant continued. “Like, half a pound?” A huddle of passengers had gathered in the aisle, and a lot of phone pictures were snapped. The Jitney stopped at Fifty-ninth Street to let on more passengers.

“Is that a real turkey?” a woman said to her friend as she passed Henry. (No matter what the animal du jour, someone always asked me whether it was real.)

At Fortieth Street, Henry and I, who had pressing appointments in Manhattan, disembarked (“Oh, no. I think I forgot something,” I said. “I have to get off”), leaving a trail of plumage behind. The attendant, who asked for a picture of himself with the turkey, was more perplexed by our getting off.

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