MIKE TAYLOR: The perfect pet was right there all along

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 11:15 am on Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reality Check | Mike Taylor

My new lakeside apartment is so small, it’s like a (cue Rodney Dangerfield voiceover) “Hoo! I’ll tell ya! My new apartment is so small…” joke. You know, “I’ve got to step outside to change my mind,” “Even the mice are hunchbacked,” “I turn around and bump into myself” … that sort of thing. It is, by far, the smallest place I’ve ever lived.

Over the years I’ve stayed in a lot of hotel rooms, all of them bigger than my new apartment. Those brightly-painted cement barrels that once were a staple of elementary school playgrounds? Yup, even those were bigger than my new apartment.

It’s small.

I don’t mind. It’s large enough for my current needs. Thanks to the gradual diminution of my worldly goods over the past couple years, all my “stuff” fits inside, and what doesn’t fit inside fits inside the garage (which also is bigger than the apartment). The view of the lake is spectacular, my futon is surprisingly comfortable, and there’s plenty of cupboard space. Things could be worse.

The only downside is, I’m living there alone. Don’t panic, this isn’t a Lonely Hearts Club whimper; I have Sweet Annie, a brilliant blonde (they do exist, despite numerous jokes to the contrary). I see her on the weekends, which is just about as much of me as she can put up with, so that’s fine.

What I need, what I miss, is a pet. A dog, a cat, even a bird would do. But there’s no room.

I could get a little dog, but I’m almost never home. You can’t leave a little dog home alone all day unless you want to open the door every evening with a pooper scooper in your hand and a forgiving nature in your heart.

Cats try to make you think they don’t give a damn about your company, but most of ’em do. Cats are like beautiful women; they hate the idea of you knowing they need you. They may not even admit to themselves that they need you. But ignore a cat for a couple days and you’ll likely find a “surprise” in your laundry basket. Passive aggressive little monsters.

In the warm-blooded critter category, that leaves birds and rodents. I had my share of rodents when the kids were younger; hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats, guinea pigs … my kids had them all at one time or another. And they all eventually escaped their cages and came to bad ends, usually behind a refrigerator or inside the walls, where your nose could inform you as to their demise, but where there was nothing you could do about it but wait for the long process of decomposition to run its course.

Birds I like a lot, but there’s no place for a cage in my apartment. It really is that small. I could hang a cage, I suppose, but — again, due to space constraints — it would have to hang directly over: a) where I eat, b) where I sleep, or c) where I cook. I do not want to eat bird seed or anything else a bird might kick out of its cage during the day. Likewise, I don’t want to wake up with molted feathers in my mouth. So a bird’s out.

Fish? There’s not much by way of interaction when it comes to fish. An aquarium can be a nice piece of home decor, but I’ve always thought of the fish themselves as either food or bait.

Reptiles? Again, the kids had them a’plenty when they were younger. For the most part, these also escaped their cages and ate the rodents who hadn’t already died on their own. And, as is the case with fish, I just don’t have much to say to the average iguana.

So I’m pet-less. Or nearly so.

There is one other “life-form” sharing my apartment. She’s living in the shower, up in one high corner, above the shower-head. She was there when I moved in and I haven’t had the heart to evict her.

Charlotte (of course I named her Charlotte) is a fairly large spider, about the size of a silver dollar. She’s pale yellow with no clear markings I can see. Based on the number of insect corpses in her neat, little web, she shares my love of murdering flies and mosquitoes; another good reason to leave her right where she is.

And like I said, I need a pet. Granted, Charlotte may not be as cuddly as a puppy or kitten, she may not be as colorful as a Gouldian finch, she may not produce a lilting canary chirrup, but she doesn’t take up much room, I don’t have to feed her, and she’s completely cool with me being gone most weekends.

In that desert island movie, Tom Hanks spent years with no company but a volleyball named Wilson and he got by. For now, at least, Charlotte will have to be enough for me.

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