Pet Shop Boy

I wandered into a pet shop today. It was strange: all the time I’ve been living in the area, I never noticed it. Yet the shop attendant claimed it had been around for three years; I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. I was also attracted by this statue of a cat staring out the shop window, perched on some kind of bedding; eerily, when I entered the shop, I discovered it was actually a living, breathing cat.

Cats are aloof, cool creatures; I much rather dogs, who despite their lack of finesse, seem so much more in love with life. My family kept dogs before I was born, and the last dog, a coward of a Doberman Pinscher, only passed away when I was still in the army. So I think I am wise to their tricks — chief of which is the “sad look”.

One of the dogs in the shop, behind glass windows, steel bars, was a master at it. To the innocent, the sad look — something between “please take this wretch away from this wretched place” and “I will be a super good dog, really” — is guaranteed to hypnotize you into becoming the happy owner of the looker.

The Animal Kingdom

There were other subtle sights for the wanderer to see. A tank full of angel fish, glistening in place like fruit in jelly. A macaw eyeing me suspiciously while trying to make polite conversation. A container full of little white mice, not the uncultured rogues that scare TV actresses for a living, but nice, well-groomed cuties. A mini-swim pool with the turtles huddling in the shallow end. All in all, a happy place.

Or was it? Suddenly I had a brainstorm, and it was raining cats and dogs.

Did these pets and pets-to-be really enjoy living in cages all their lives? They have known nothing but domesticity, bound to their masters’ homes or free to roam only in their former masters’ cities. They know nothing of the wild, the endless sands and trees, the dance of prey and predator. Perhaps some awkward bit of the animal remains, only to come out when they chase cars, dig up your neighbor’s garden or wail in the middle of a moonlit night.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an animal rights activist by far… but what is true for them is more true for us.

Getting Cagey

We too have our cages. It may be well-meaning parents, bringing us up with discipline and forethought, constricting us within their strictures, all well and good — to a point. It may be a comfortable job, with good pay, good colleagues and a good future — but you’ve long since quashed your secret dream of being a comic book artist. It may be a relationship that was going somewhere at some time, but now the passion’s gone — yet it seems so difficult to tell each other it’s over. It may even be a government that keeps the bad people locked up as all good governments do — until you are one of the “bad people”.

That’s us, isn't it? Too often we sit back, buckle down and coast — when we should be out fighting every moment, loving every moment.

I need to look at my life, at my apparent happiness, and see if it is just holding me back. One thing I miss about the freelance life was the delicious knife-edge quality of it — constantly between famine and feast, never trusting in either, and an open space for my dreams to breathe. We who are free, should live free.

Wander into a pet shop one day and you’ll know what I mean.

Wed, 23 Jul 2003. © Pixelglow Software.