What is the Best Pet? | Varyer

What is the Best Pet?

I like to have one friend at a time. That’s more than enough to keep me busy. But, annoyingly, this friend often knows other people, and things get complicated fast.

You’ve got to meet my friend Annie.” Ok . . . I feel a rising panic. When will I have time to watch TV if I acquire a second friend?

Apropos of a tantrum I’d had in which I locked myself in the trunk of my grandmother’s Buick, she told me that while “Molly” is a name popularly associated with cheerful Irish lasses, it’s also commonly traced to Hebrew origins in which it means “bitter,” which does feel more appropriate for me 🥰

“She’s the best.” Here’s where I start to get a little angry. What does this mean for my ranking? And don’t you know I call the shots on what’s best?

“You’ll love her.” Doubt it bb. 😈

The only friends I want more of are pets. And all animals are wonderful, of course, but if I could choose, I’d like to associate with the absolute best one. Why not?

Apropos of a tantrum I’d had in which I locked myself in the trunk of my grandmother’s Buick, she told me that while “Molly” is a name popularly associated with cheerful Irish lasses, it’s also commonly traced to Hebrew origins in which it means “bitter,” which does feel more appropriate for me 🥰

Dogs

I have a geriatric lab. I love her and I believe she loves me back. It’s an ego boost—although, scientifically speaking, I know that a dog’s love isn’t a foolproof referendum on character. Hitler had dogs who loved him.

My dog is always hungry, to the point that she tries to scrape gum off the sidewalk with her teeth. Combined with her arthritic hips, it makes for a pitiful scene, and I regularly receive comments from passers-by suggesting my dog has lived long enough. The most recent heckler gestured at my dog and said conversationally, “It might be time to end things, dear.” She was about a thousand years old herself, shuffling down the street with help from a four-pronged cane, orthopedic shoes, and a nurse. Right back at you, ma’am.

Spike Lee once caused a lot of drama among the off-leash extremists.

If my dog and I have the strength, we go to a nearby park for off-leash hours. I enjoy smiling kindly at other dogs (and only the dogs, lest I risk the acquisition of another friend) and hearing the owner say, “Oh, he likes you!” It’s an almost adulterous thrill, and the annual springtime puppy season is particularly charming.

Spike Lee once caused a lot of drama among the off-leash extremists.

I’m also spooked by dogs with extremely prominent buttholes. I always think of Julia Child neatly tucking a pig’s tail into its butt (she called it the “natural hole”) to prevent burning in the oven, which you can spot at 13:30 here.

There’s a darkness to the park, though. I’m unnerved by the blue-eyed Australian shepherd trend—it’s as if Rory Gilmore is trapped in a canine body—and once I called a dog named Bubbles “Nipples” by mistake (in fairness, she looked like this at the time, but I still felt like a perv). I was once socializing with a dog whose name I believed to be Juan when his owners introduced me to their other dog . . . a puppy named Two. It took me a moment to understand: Juan was, in fact, One. It turns out they’ve had a pair of Vizslas named One and Two for thirty years and whenever one dies, they buy another one and name it the same thing as its predecessor.

This is psychopathic. It’s disturbing that the owners accepted the responsibility of having dogs, but not the premise of their individuality. Juan (I won’t use “One,” out of respect) isn’t an interchangeable object; he’s a companion. Even Paris Hilton, whose dogs are carried in purses as literal accessories, awards her pets unique names. Juan and Two aren’t pets so much as they are moral alibis for their heartless owners. And to only ever have the same breed of dog, it’s a tad fetishistic. Maybe even racist.

Juan and Two’s owners are an extreme example, but a lot of people consider their dogs part of their own self-schema and are annoyed when the dogs seem to have their own inner lives. My friend’s family has an expensive purebred dog who is constantly, chaotically underfoot. They scold him so much that their toddler’s first word was “down.”

Their chronic irritation is unjust. In supply-and-demand terms, they willed the dog into existence, deliberately orchestrating his presence under their care, refusing to let him run away like he wants—he’s always trying to dig his way under the fence to freedom—and now they act like it’s his fault. I find it depressing, but it’s possible to go too far in the other direction. When I was growing up, my family labored under a mandate to serve our canine to the utmost of our abilities; my father once forbade my brother from wearing headphones while he walked the dog, since it was rude to the dog.

I know that a dog’s love isn’t a foolproof referendum on character. I know that a dog’s love isn’t a foolproof referendum on character.

Cats

Most animals give off the sense they have nothing to hide. It’s a nice trait that’s rare in humans. I can only think of one person I’ve met who was as innocent as a golden retriever—my former coworker Leah, who was constantly leaving her phone all over the office. A normal person would have worried when, hours later, they realized they’d left their phone face-up in the heavily trafficked office kitchen. The things that might have lit up that screen! Rude gossip, a dick pic, an alert for a tragically tiny paycheck direct deposit . . .but Leah didn’t care. In her case, there was no potential for shame.

Cats don’t have that same open-book demeanor as a golden retriever or Leah. I’m not sure if I want that in a pet partner. I need an animal who will oversell their love for me. I can always tell when I’m getting depressed because I become convinced that my dog doesn’t love me; I see her as a mere biological program seeking food. With an aloof cat, I would lose my mind.

Plus, I’m allergic—so, despite heavy hitters in this category (Garfield, Maru, and personal acquaintances Pumpkin, Baron, and Suzie) and the fact that as an aspiring shut-in, I love that cats can go decades without leaving the house . . .cats are disqualified.

Other Animals / Les Exotiques

I once went to a rabbit rescue society with a friend who wanted to adopt a rabbit. As she filled out paperwork, I confessed that it struck me as a misnomer that they claimed to “rescue” rabbits. It was more like kidnapping. If you put a rabbit outside on any patch of grass, in a yard or a park, wouldn’t it be just fine on its own?

“No,” the rescue society lady told me, horrified. “Not Angoras. Not in this climate.”

Amy Sedaris is a longtime rabbit champion and volunteer, and can be spotted in the rescue’s videos.

Despite my faux pas, my friend was granted a home visit, which was the final stage of the vetting process for rabbit adoption. She was shocked when Amy Sedaris showed up at her door, and even more shocked when Amy Sedaris flunked her due to an unsecured extension cord.

Amy Sedaris is a longtime rabbit champion and volunteer, and can be spotted in the rescue’s videos.

My ideal bird would be Lala the rescue penguin: no voice, lots of personality, runs errands.

I recognize this preference is due to a likely clinical-grade desire for control in an untamable world. It’s this same desire that drives some parents to conjure up an immortal goldfish for their child, swapping in a live fish for a dead one for years. I met a boy in college who genuinely believed he had a twelve-year-old goldfish. Possible, but highly unlikely.

What happens when we set aside our mammal-centric notions, or are forced to by minor celebrities? Birds are an option, although preferably not the talking kind. Pets are enchanting precisely because they don’t speak. It’s for the best that we don’t know what’s on their minds, just like it’s better never to read someone else’s texts (aside from Leah’s). Plausible deniability is how we survive emotionally. I don’t know what Nick Carter thought when we locked eyes at Jingle Ball 1997, and therefore I can live my life basking in my missed connection, maintaining the comforting conviction that he longs for me as well.

Oh, Nick. After all, anything feels possible when I consider how my attractive, seemingly normal neighbor loved his pet tarantula. He once knocked on my apartment door to ask if I’d seen her; she was apparently loose in the building. “I’m sure you know this already, but if you pick her up, please be careful not to drop her. Tarantulas can’t survive a fall.”

Driven by the knowledge that we would have to move if she wasn’t found, all the residents helped search. She was eventually spotted crouched motionless against a lobby wall, looking like a Tom & Jerry cartoon mouse hole.

I sometimes saw this same neighbor at the bus stop by a nearby zoo. Once, while we attempted small talk, he mentioned that many European zoo animals were eaten by locals during World War II. “And they were the lucky ones. The ones who weren’t good for eating just starved to death themselves,” he added. In turn, I shared a harrowing memory of my friend’s pet rat, who had eaten his wife’s tail due to an unknowable interpersonal conflict within the forced marriage. I considered this conversation to be flirtatious.

Sometimes it’s not a good idea to drag an animal into your messy life. It’s time to talk about . . .

My ideal bird would be Lala the rescue penguin: no voice, lots of personality, runs errands.

I recognize this preference is due to a likely clinical-grade desire for control in an untamable world. It’s this same desire that drives some parents to conjure up an immortal goldfish for their child, swapping in a live fish for a dead one for years. I met a boy in college who genuinely believed he had a twelve-year-old goldfish. Possible, but highly unlikely.

Inanimate Pets

There’s a rich tradition of non-sentient pets: the pet rock led to the Tamagotchi, which led to Paro. Everyone in my eighth-grade class had to care for a Baby Think It Over, a robotic infant simulator designed to convince teens they aren’t ready to have kids, and therefore aren’t ready to have sex. I named my assigned baby Benjamin Ryan after two different crushes I was suffering at the time. We had an incredible weekend together, and the experience actually made me think maybe I should have a baby at age thirteen.

It was a susceptible time for me. I was at a new school and had .5 friends (a friend who would hang out with me if her other friends weren’t in the same lunch period), and I rapidly grew attached to Benjamin Ryan. He merged seamlessly with my lifestyle, which consisted of watching TV about sexually active teens and napping in a nest of laundry on my bed. We cuddled, and when he cried, I flipped a switch and he stopped crying. It was easy!

On Monday morning, I carried my sweet angel into school with a heavy heart. When the teacher removed Benjamin Ryan’s battery pack and tossed him into a bin with his siblings, I had to work to hold back tears.

Benjamin Ryan is absolutely a contender for best pet.

Internet Pets

If you want a pet that requires absolutely no work, not even changing Tamagotchi batteries, then something is wrong, because that’s not a pet. But, as always, the internet will be there for you.

I personally follow:

These are rounded out by several wombat accounts, a few catchall, facile “lab of the day” accounts, bodega cats, etc. Something to consider before formally committing to a follow is the pet lifespan factor. Choose wisely: a tortoise, maybe. I’m ashamed that in order to cope with his passing, I unfollowed a Japanese golden retriever named Oliver (this was in the dark ages before it was possible to mute an account for the sake of emotional equilibrium).

Samantha was a hero and the visual of her hiding in a bathtub with Will Smith brings me to tears whenever it randomly pops into my head once or twice a week. (Besides being cute, the shot paved the way for Cassie’s infamous scene in Euphoria!) Samantha is listed in the movie wiki as the “deuteragonist,” which I initially assumed was a term for a canine actor. I’m going to blame my confusion not on subpar English teachers or my own idiocy, but on the fact that Samantha is absolutely the protagonist in this movie.

The Best Pet Is:

Your pet, of course. It’s actually a little disloyal that you read this far. 😿 Whatever their form or temperament, your pet is a heroic creature providing you with the much-needed sense that there’s something to live for besides Below Deck reruns. Someone wants, or at least needs, you! How flattering.

The dog from I Am Legend is also an acceptable answer.

Samantha was a hero and the visual of her hiding in a bathtub with Will Smith brings me to tears whenever it randomly pops into my head once or twice a week. (Besides being cute, the shot paved the way for Cassie’s infamous scene in Euphoria!) Samantha is listed in the movie wiki as the “deuteragonist,” which I initially assumed was a term for a canine actor. I’m going to blame my confusion not on subpar English teachers or my own idiocy, but on the fact that Samantha is absolutely the protagonist in this movie.