Animal People

There might be people out there with four legs and a tail, but the "animal people" I am referring to are people like you and me in their physiology. It is how they think and behave that distinguishes them from the rest of us.

You don't have to own a lot of animals to be an animal person. One animal is often sufficient. A husband and wife recently made the news because they have a horse that has been living in their house for the last 12 years. The horse eats at the table with them and roams free inside their home. They are definitely animal people.

Then there are farmers who raise livestock. They have a lot more animals than most animal people do, but as a group I don't put them in the category of animal people because of their perspective on animals. Animal people don't raise animals for food.

I saw a television show that was all about the pigs of the world. In one segment they interviewed a woman who adopts/rescues pot bellied pigs. She has about 24 of them now. She was saying how beautiful they are, and how easy they are to love. You have to be an animal person to think a 300-pound potbellied pig is beautiful.

My dog Nina is a rescued dog that I got when she was four-months old. The woman who rescued her had 14 rescued dogs at her house and was seeking homes for them. She is an animal person. I have one dog and one horse. I am not an animal person.

I am dedicated to my dog and horse, and I spend whatever it takes when they are sick or injured. In 1998 I spent over $6000 on vet bills. I honor an unwritten obligation to them, but that is not enough to make me an animal person. For example, neither my dog nor my horse sleeps in my bed. You have to sleep with your dog if you want to qualify as an animal person. Just sleeping with your pets isn't enough to make you an animal person, but it is enough to make you a little strange. Some people even have sex with their animals, but they are not animal people. They are perverts.

In my past, I have owned varieties of pets that included a boa constrictor, an alligator, various turtles, many dogs, a cat, a bird, a duck, geese, chickens, rabbits, and a golden spider monkey who lived to be 18 years old. Some people would say that makes me an animal person. I'm not. I just happen to like animals.

It doesn't mean I'm an animal person just because I think hunting is barbaric, or because I believe horse and dog racing is abusive to the animals. I eat meat, wear leather, and have a mountain man hat made out of fox. I don't dress my dog in clothes or shampoo my horse weekly. My horse has had a bath twice in the last six years, and that was to cure a skin problem. I know people who shampoo their horses every week. The couple whose horse lives in their house gives their horse a bath every other day. These are the animal people.

I support the SPCA and the Humane Society, but I don't do volunteer work there. And I avoid pet shows. Pet shows are populated with "animal people" who spend hours primping, training, trimming and grooming their Fifi so that she can trot around a ring, led by her owner who is often 50 pounds overweight and barely able to keep up with Fifi's 6" legs.

Horse shows are not much better than dog shows, although the owners and their horses interact a little more than do dogs and their owners. The primping and grooming are still significant, and you have to have a warped sense of style to appreciate the gaudy costumes and colors that are worn. Rich horse people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on trucks and horse trailers that they and their horses can live in while traveling around the country going to various horse shows. I don't even want to contemplate cat-show people. There is a rabbit show in town this weekend, and that's bad enough.

Being an animal person requires that you either spend lots of time and money on your pets, or at least a lot of time pampering and anthropomorphizing them. You have to have a religious fervor about animals that goes beyond common sense. The line between normal and excessive is often blurred, as is the line between people who like animals and animal people. I don't dislike animal people, and I've met some that I really like. As a group, they have accomplished some great things in the name of animal rights. But if I had to choose between an hour with them and an hour with my dog, there is no doubt about it - I'd choose my dog. But then so would they.