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Pets Shouldn't be a Fashion Statement
Elise Patkotak / ADN / Voice of the Times / December 14, 2005

In the best of all possible worlds I probably wouldn't have to actually say this. But I feel compelled to because, alas, no one has realized the wisdom of making me dictator of the world for life and so it is not a perfect world.

Anyhow, here's what I want to make sure everyone is very aware of this holiday season. Pets are not fashion accessories and most animals, given a choice, would not travel inside a woman's handbag while she shopped, ate or otherwise occupied what is obviously way too much extra time on her hands.

I still find it hard to believe I have to point this out. After all, this is a trend started by Paris Hilton. Paris Hilton, for God's sake, a woman famous for being famous and making an infamous sex tape. That, and starring in a relatively stupid and ultimately insulting show on a cable channel, are her claims to fame. Is this really a person intelligent people should be looking to for anything, let alone advice about living creatures.

Paris started out with a dog and has since graduated to a variety of small exotics so that she has one in every color she can possibly ever need to match her ever-changing fashion sense. I can only wonder what happens when the color that particular animal matches goes out of style. Does she toss the animal out as easily as she tosses out last year's scarf?

Pet fads are nothing new. When the Beethoven movies were popular everyone wanted a St. Bernard. When 101 Dalmatians hit the screens, everyone wanted a fire truck dog. And when the moment passed, many of these dogs ended up in shelters facing a very uncertain future because people had shopped for cute and trendy as opposed to really seeing the dog and his needs.

St. Bernards drool . . . and drool . . . and drool. And then, when it's a long ropy thing hanging from their jowls, they shake their heads. If you weren't planning on having your walls spackled with dog yuck, your St. Bernard was probably one of those dropped off at a dog pound or with a rescue group.

Dalmatians are high-energy dogs that need lots of exercise. As a rule, they are not like big floppy Labs who will let children climb all over and grab them using any part handy at the time. So a lot of Dalmatians, once they stopped being cute puppies, endured the same fate as the St. Bernards.

Don't get me wrong. St. Bernards and Dalmatians are wonderful dogs if you get them for the right reasons and fully understand what it is you are taking on. Birds often suffer the same fate.

Someone thinks it would be cool to have a pet that talks and so they buy a parrot without first checking out what needs that parrot might have. They don't read up on the fact that parrots can be loud and live to be over 60. And when they get the bird home and find out that not every parrot is a talker but every bird does make noise, the bird gets dumped or passed around or, worse yet, put in a back room where it won't bother them and is left to pluck itself bald and mutilate its body out of boredom and sadness.

So this holiday season, do yourself and your furry and feathered friends a favor and don't impulse-buy a pet. If you think your home is ready for one, you can have a picture and a gift card under the tree for your family detailing the dog, cat or bird you will be getting. Then, when the holiday season is over, the tree is down and the decorations are put away, go get your new friend. You'll have the time to spend with him without resenting the time he takes from your busy holiday schedule. You, your pet and your family will be the happier for it.

And for goodness sakes, find a better role model than Paris Hilton. Don't buy a Chihuahua to carry in your purse or bag because you think you'll look cool. You won't. You'll look cruel, but not cool. Animals are living things, not fashion accessories. They eat, sleep, poop, and love. They like walks and chew toys and time with their special person. And they need to be cared for until they die, which may not be for a very long time.

So if you want to carry something in your purse, buy a wallet. If you want a devoted friend who will love you like you've never been loved before, get a pet. And then treat it like a pet, not a purse accessory.

Elise Patkotak, an Anchorage free-lance writer and author of Parallel Logic, a humorous look back at her 28 years in Barrow, lives in Anchorage and owns Precious Cargo Ltd, a writing/graphics company.

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