Thursday, March 4


It's Ten O'Clock: Do You Know Where Your Brown-Throated Three-Fingered Sloth Is?

1. Whoever invented the term "pet parents" to refer to people who own animals should be hit on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. Pet parents? I actually saw it on a commercial the other day. Okay, there's no harm in folks getting sentimental about their's best friend and all that having a long and very noble history. Being not really a pet person, I suspect there are joys there I simply don't understand, and perhaps I'm missing out. Certainly the great Zmirak enjoys having beagles around his house, and in a very Catholic (i.e., fun and chaotic) sort of way. * And I admit a few "pet parents" may not bring down Western Civilization (we all know that will be due to Snuggies, Sudoku, and the implosion of the nuclear family). But, please, please, advertisers, for the sake of the poor English language, if not the declining Western birthrate, don't act like that's a real phrase. I beg of you. It's even worse than saying "with real au jus sauce."

I mean, parents? Sure, both kids and dogs poop indiscriminately all over the place, start out on all fours, and talk like Scooby Doo for a while, but eventually kids get better, or at the very least, more interesting, and in theory can take care of you in your old age. (Let's see a miniature schnauzer do that.) On the other hand, if you dress them in funny sweaters, small children are more likely to bite back, which only serves you right for trying.

(Which reminds me: the fifth greatest thing about Wisconsin is nobody dresses their pets in allegedly amusing sweaters. Midwestern dogs are very clearly outdoor creatures.)

2. On a related note: I'm willing to tolerate that an indulgent owner might want to feed Fluffy or Mr. Pittypoo or whatever you wish to call your cat, various flavors of luxury cat-food; animals do have tastebuds and seem to be very good at enjoying themselves (I will not make the worthwhile if somewhat irrational point that there are probably North Korean children who don't eat nearly as good as many American cats, as there is probably a logical fallacy somewhere in there), but one wonders why anyone in their right mind would buy a cat food designed to look like party mix. Cats don't know what party mix is. Heck, I'm not sure the concept of party actually means anything to them: considering 99% of their life is party time by human standards, it would be difficult to conceive of anything else but parties.

Perhaps a better alternative is the tree sloth. Vaguely anthropomorphic and cute in a weird, gangly way, this somnolent, shambling animal spends most of its day asleep**, is known to native tribes of its home range by names derived from various forms of the words, "sleep," "eat," and "dirty," and will give pet parents a taste of the joys of raising teenagers.

*And one of them is named Franz-Josef, and it's hard not to like that.

**Actually, a recent study says sloths only sleep 10 hours a day in the wild. That being said, I am not coming up with a new name for the sin.

Meanwhile, on the subject of sloths, we proudly present the greatest literary quotation of all time on the subject of the genus bradypus:

"In this bucket," said Stephen, walking into the cabin, "in this small half-bucket, now, I have the population of Dublin, London and Paris combined: these animalculae - what is the matter with the sloth?" It was curled on Jack's knee, breathing heavily: its bowl and Jack's glass stood empty on the table. Stephen picked it up, peered into its affable, bleary face, shook it, and hung it upon its rope. It seized hold with one fore and one hind foot, letting the others dangle limp, and went to sleep. Stephen looked sharply round, saw the decanter, smelt the sloth, and cried, "Jack, you have debauched my sloth."

--Patrick O'Brian, H.M.S. Surprise


The sloth, in Brazil, is often called bicho-preguiça, or "lazy animal." The word bicho is also Spanish as well as Portuguese, one of those oddly all-purpose bits of vocabulary one finds in other languages that, while I usually associate it (perhaps wrongly) with bugs and creepy-crawlies, is flexible to apply to animals as large as buffalo. Careful, though--I was rather surprised to discover it has a different slang meaning in Puerto Rico, which, this being a (somewhat dysfunctional) family website, I have no desire to reveal here.


Also, the correct answer to the title question is: where he always is, hanging from the slowly-rotating ceiling fan.

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