We Americans love our pets.
I know this because the U. S. Postal Service recently released Pets postage stamps. The post office surely wouldn’t waste resources issuing stamps that nobody cares about.
This strip of Forever Stamps shows 20 apparently popular pets. Besides a puppy and an adult dog — and a kitten and a cat — the stamps include a horse, a mouse, gerbil, guinea pig, hamster, chinchilla, rabbit, gecko, iguana, tortoise, corn snake, goldfish, betta fish, parrot, parakeet, and hermit crab.
Wait a second. Hermit crab? I had to google that one. People do, indeed, keep hermit crabs as pets. It turns out, though, that “hermit” is a misnomer. Those crabs are apparently quite social and get lonesome without a crowd of fellow crabs. And of course they require a very particular environment.
I don’t even want to think about tending to a bunch of crabs.
My pet choices would lean toward the dog and cat variety, but when we were children, my sister expanded my horizons. She had a soft spot for anything with four legs.
Rabbits. Our parents bought us a rabbit each. The two rabbits were guaranteed female, but by the end of a year, we had forty rabbits. They inhabited a roomy outdoor pen with access to a cozy shed. Eventually we gave most of them away. We spent too many hours recapturing little ones who could squeeze through, or under, the fence and hide in the wood pile — not to mention troublesome bunnies like Boston Blacky who escaped one night and ate all the blossoms off our neighbor’s tulips.
White mice. I believe it was not, again, the intent to get a mating pair, but baby mice appeared. The mice lived in a cage in the comfortably warm cellar near the coal furnace. Mice sometimes figured out how to squeeze under the cage cover. They frolicked in the coal bin until we couldn’t tell the difference between a wild mouse and a dusty white one.
A hamster. I don’t remember much about him, except that once he crawled into a narrow-mouth clear glass jar and couldn’t seem to find his way out. A grown-up carefully broke the jar and freed the unfortunate explorer without hurting anybody.
A squirrel. Animals recognize an animal-lover. My sister was walking home from the store one day when a squirrel climbed up her leg, perched on her shoulder, and rode her home.
Squirrels are not good additions to a household that would prefer to retain its woodwork, for they chew. Pushy-Shovey, as we called him after a character in a book, lived in a cage on the flat roof outside a bedroom window. We left the cage door open, so he could come and go at will. We left food for him on the roof. He was particularly partial to my mother’s brownie pudding. He came and went for a while, but stayed less and less, and eventually left for good.
Pets of whatever species enrich our lives with adventure and connect us with dimensions of the world that we can never experience ourselves.
And while a person who prefers a kitten might never understand a person who loves a gecko — and a corn-snake-lover might not relate to parrots — we can all get along. We are united in our love for pets. And, at the very least, we can all use the same postage stamps.
I’ll even use the hermit crab.
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