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ANIMAL RIGHTS(AND WRONGS)

by Rose Madeline Mula

How do people manage today? How do they pay their mortgages, fill the tanks of their SUVs and the tummies and college bank accounts of their kids, while simultaneously financing dance, skiing, skating, gymnastics, swimming and music lessons? And given all this, how can they support their high-maintenance pets?

It's not like when I was a child. I did have a dog, an adorable little mongrel named Trixie. Pedigree? Papers? Are you kidding? But what she lacked in breeding, she made up for in cuteness and economy. Fortunately, she wasn't a discriminating diner. She happily ate table scraps. Furthermore, Trixie never saw a vet. The word simply wasn't in the family vocabulary, never mind our budget.

Since so much time has passed, I guess it's safe to confess that Trixie was an illegal. She didn't have a license. An extravagance for us back then. Instead, we opted to hope that Trixie would never escape her leash (which was her only "accessory," by the way) and get nabbed by the dogcatcher.

Groomers? Forgeddabout it. Nevertheless, Trixie's silky coat was always shiny. My mom brushed her daily and bathed her weekly in the cellar washtub. And she (Trixie, not Mom) never went to a kennel. We spent family vacations with relatives at the beach, twenty miles from home, and Trixie was always welcome. Exotic destinations that barred pets weren't a problem. We couldn't afford them anyway.

Today it's different. Now many family pooches and pussycats boast lineages as impressive as those of crown princes, so their treatment must be equally royal. They (the pets, not the princes) dine only on expensive, nutrient-laden kibbles and occasional gourmet treats from "shoppes" specializing in pricey tidbits for the four-legged set. And when their families must leave home without them, they are pampered at exclusive pet hotels. However, many animals aren't always thrilled with such arrangements.

Friends of mine live with Henry, a very independent cat who suffered severe anxiety symptoms whenever he was checked into a classy kennel. Then one time, Henry's usual spacious third-floor accommodations were full, and he was given a pen on the first floor. He loved it. Completely gone was the agitation he had always exhibited before whenever he was "rescued." Now when Henry's roommates travel, they always reserve the lower-level suite for him at his home away from home, and he's one happy cat.

My niece's husky, Timber, was once traumatized by a brief visit to a posh puppy palace, so she now travels with the family whenever possible. When that's not an option, she gets to stay home in the care of a trusted 24/7 sitter who plays with her, feeds her, walks her, and generally insures her happiness and well-being until her prime caretakers return.

In addition to being doted on, today's pets flaunt fancier wardrobes than some

Hollywood luminaries — gem-encrusted collars; brightly colored coats; and rainy-day slickers, boots and harnesses with attached umbrellas. (I swear! I saw one yesterday.)

And let's not forget medical care. Today's fees for rabies shots, distemper, worms, ear infections, and dozens of other mammal maladies can make an eminent pediatrician's bills seem paltry.

But that's not all. There's also pet psychiatry. I'm serious. Last Tuesday a woman in the grocery store checkout line asked to go ahead of me. She was late for an appointment with her cat Peek-a-Boo's psychiatrist ($200 for three sessions). Apparently the fourteen-year old feline had recently started urinating on the expensive upholstery, beds, and Persian rugs. Could it be because the cat is old and incontinent? No, no! According to Peek's shrink, she has developed issues with the family and is expressing her anger. (Maybe because they make her wear a red umbrella with her chartreuse boots?)

Another friend recently bought a hermit crab for her daughter. It's been two weeks now, and the crab still hasn't come out of its shell. Sounds like a classic case of Social Anxiety Disorder.

I gave my friend the phone number of Peek-a-Boo's analyst.


Rose's new book, The Stranger in My Mirror and Other Reflections is available by special order from most book stores, or on the web at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.

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