Tuesday, January 30, 2007

All Thumbs, and That's Cool

There are many reasons we humans have opposable thumbs: opening doors, holding a pen or paint brush, gripping the steering wheel, and flipping through the channels on TV faster than a cheetah can close the distance between it and a three-legged warthog. These are but a few of the reasons, but they all boil down to the simple fact thumbs separate us from the animals. (True, monkeys and apes also have opposable thumbs, but until they can demonstrate that they can balance a checkbook and order a Led Zeppelin t-shirt off the internet, I’m keeping them in the “animal’ category.) Now, more than ever, is it important that I make this point because many of our fellow humans are blurring the line.

Thought to be a great convenience for a pet owner, the doggy door was merely the beginning of “humanification” of animals. Do you realize the message you’re sending to Fletcher or Fang (both names of a dog and a cat I had as a youth) by giving him free access to your abode? We make fun of the IQ of a caveman, but he was at least smart enough to understand the significance of the “Thumbed” v. the “Thumbless”. Although you don’t read about cave people having doors with twisting knobs, neither do you read about Thag coming home from the hunt one afternoon in search of a nice rock to sit down on and kick up his feet only to be gobbled up by a Tyrannosaurus Rex who let himself into the living room through the dog door.

I was on an airplane one day when two people behind me were talking and I heard one of them say, “So, I had the rest of the afternoon to argue with the cat.” The ensuing conversation confirmed that I had heard correctly. It took a great deal of restraint not to turn around and say, “In the name of all that is holy (and human), what are you talking about? It’s a CAT. What do you think Mr. Tinkles is going to do if he’s not happy with your decision – write a letter to his Senator or call Oprah? He has no thumbs with which to hold a pencil, he can’t talk, and – oh, yeah – HE’S A CAT!”

I’ve had people tell me that they get the impression that their animals think they’re superior to them. That statement in and of itself sends chills up and down my spine: these people are enabling an animal – the same animal who licks its butt, drinks out of a toilet, and eats its food with the same tongue – to impose an inferiority complex on them! All the while, they’re revealing this to you as they’re shopping for dog food that costs more per pound than the prime rib they fed their family for Sunday dinner.

The blurring of the line I mentioned earlier may be too late for some – have you seen the recent roster of “persons” running for President next year? Be that as it may, I have a solution that may seem to be completely contradictory. You’ve seen those misguided individuals who dress up their animals in human-like outfits and take them out in public or include them in family photos. Taking a cue from them, this is the answer to all our problems. Train your Shitzu to walk on her hind legs and make her wear three-inch heels all day; force your Tabby to wear a heavily starched collar and a tie from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. If everyone were to do this, the animal kingdom, in its own non-verbal and thumbless way, would beg us to allow them to be put outside and fed kibble – the politicians may not know that’s an option for them, too.

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