Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Shelf Life [adult]

I Want to Kill the Dog, by Richard M. Cohen

North Americans love their pets. I mean, they LOVE their pets. No question. You just have to look at the number of boutique pet stores, the blinged-out collars, the puppy-paw-protectors that owners buy into – it’s a billion-dollar industry.

But it must be said that not everyone loves animals, or gets why an otherwise sane-looking person would get down on all fours to give their pet a snuzzle while cooing “who’s a good widdle puppy? Who’s my pwetty-bitty pookums?” Not that there is nothing wrong with that. But maybe there is something wrong with that, particularly if the pet-owner with whom you cohabit cannot see a pet’s flaws for its fur.

This is the case with author Richard M. Cohen, husband to TV personality Meredith Vieira. Meredith’s dog Jasper hates Richard, and the feeling is mutual. “I Want to Kill the Dog” is Richard’s printed outburst against all that is wrong with the pet-pedestal culture: the anthropomorphizing that leads to gourmet dog food, pet-pampering spas, pet-psychologists and pet-pharmaceuticals. Let us remember that the prices we pay for the above could probably go a long way to stocking several food-banks or medical clinics in Africa for a solid year.

Cohen’s unapologetic arguments are those of the counter-pet-culture, but he illustrates his points with tales of the many pets that have come and gone through the Cohen-Vieira household, and it must be said that they seem to have particularly bad judgment in choosing pets, from the accident-prone Willie to the hand-chomping, unladylike Samantha. But again, it may be a nurture-nature thing – do the canines have conniving tendencies before adoption, or does having a doting ‘parent’ who is willing to excuse any behavior create a doggie monster?

You can decide while reading this memoir-manifesto, which is by turns indignant, poignant and more often than not, laugh-out-loud funny. Still, it made me stop and think the last time I considered purchasing that $20 chew toy for my own wee-cuddle-wuddums – who truth be told is just as happy with an empty toilet-paper roll -who owns whom here, anyway?

This review appears in The Stratford Gazette on January 17, 2013. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian.

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