"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Who is the animal here?

I just finished reading "a big little life" by Dean Koontz. It's a memoir of his golden retriever, Trixie. Let me first say that Dean Koontz is such a huge name, he does not need me to plug anything he does. Secondly, I received this book when I went to the Fullerton Library to hear him speak. He was supposed to sign books after his talk, but had to leave instead, so he pre-autographed 200 copies of this book and gave them to us.

So I love him.

Not Trixie
Now that's out of the way, the book is an unabashedly sentimental look at his first dog-love. Trixie sounds like she was indeed, one of a kind, although I'd say that each dog is unique to the person who owns and loves them. She was remarkably smart, calm, and well-behaved.

I'm not sure what I'd do with a dog like that.

Mr. Koontz takes most of a chapter to argue that we are justified to anthropomorphize our dogs. He gives examples of their memory skills, their displays of happiness, sadness, fear, and hate, and even their acts of heroism to prove his point.

Also not Trixie
As a writer, I'm happy to see animals as more than, well, animals. If you've ever seen my corgi, Duffy, lay in his crate and roll his eyes, you'd know dogs can pout. Here's the thing: I don't know how we don't anthropomorphize animals. We are humans, looking at non-human things, trying to understand them. We must ascribe human characteristics - we don't have any other language but our own.

For example, my neighborhood has been taken over by mockingbirds. There are four pairs on our street who came to build their nests, have a few babies, and then fly off to who knows where. While they are nesting, they are incredibly aggressive birds, defending their turf against all comers.

They harassed me for an entire week. Each time I stepped out of the front door, the female would hop out on our roof and chirp. This would bring the male out, to strafe me. He never actually nailed me, but I could feel the wind from his wings as he flapped toward me to try to intimidate me. He was pretty convincing.

How could I not see this in human eyes? I imagined the female bird saying, "Harold! Har-OLD! The giant is out!"

"I'm coming, Dear," he chirps back, then screams at me. "Scat! Scat, you giant! My nest! MY nest!"

Seriously not Trixie
In my world, Duffy pouts, Spazz the golden retriever has the memory of a goldfish, Snoopy (my horse) is an equine Goofy, and Katie the cat believes we are idiots to bring dogs into the house. And don't get me started on my mare, Frostie. But maybe it's because I am a writer.

Do your pets have personalities? Or are they "just animals"?

No comments:

Proud Member of ALA!

I support fair and equitable library access to ebooks and so should you.