1993 Pulitzer nominee Body, House, Yard, Street

Bachelor’s Pad Home to ‘Pet’ Pals

Mirthology column, 1st run Thursday 3 September 1992 in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

By Ben S. Pollock
Copyright 1992 Ben S. Pollock

Like others who have grown accustomed to being single, I have gradually surrounded myself with pets. They take the edge off loneliness, but the responsibility of ensuring their well-being accompanies a very real love.

Both the duty and the affection provide an obligation to get up in the morning then a longing to return quickly after work. Pangs of guilt now diminish the pleasure of a weekend away.

Different people require different pets. How do you know which is right for you? As will be obvious in a couple of paragraphs, the traditional answers don’t always fit. I’m left with showing what has worked to make my bachelor pad a home. Maybe this family will enlighten you.

One repeated explanation is that pets are said to resemble their masters. My 8-year-old cat has dark brown and butterscotch splotches over a white body. I don’t, except after dinner.

Maybe personalities are what’s similar. That leads to another question. Do we pick from the pound the animal that hits us right in the vanity, or does the beloved pet over the years come to imitate our mannerisms?

My calico’s unpredictability never has ceased to amaze me. I surprise others at times, myself. If the mood strikes, B.C. (Ben’s Cat) will play fetch with a small toy, just like a dog. I usually don’t imitate other species’ games; humans’ are sufficient.

This cat is friendly only with me and one or two other people. More than that, and she hides behind the claw-footed tub. I use social masks to hide; they’re more convenient and less prone to mildew.

B.C. may resemble me but then is nothing like my other pets, which vary from one another as well. If they resemble me as well, who am I?

Dowel Jones is a stick horse I found at a crafts show last fall, named for a fictional hobbyhorse I have long written about. In the flesh, or wood, he looks far different than imagined. The one stabled in my apartment has a blue-and-white striped mane, not polka-dotted as I had thought. Unlike, B.C. Dowel loves parties and gets in front of any camera. I, of course, remain an arm’s length away.

I spoil B.C. and Dowel. My other pet, too, is spoiled, but in a biological sense. I love this pot of single-cell organisms, my sourdough starter. After nearly a year, the two cups of liquid remains unnamed, primarily because the pet pot is as much a them as an it.

It takes up less room than my cat or horse, with simple maintenance requirements. Every day it gets stirred half a minute with a chopstick. Much like brushing the cat, once a week I take out a cup — much like shed fur — then feed it with fresh water, sugar and dehydrated potato flakes.

(Other people’s starters instead are fed some flour mixed with milk or water, but as discussed before, people match their pets.)

The starter and I play on weekend mornings, making loaves or muffins or pancakes. The potato-sugar-water dinner is its reward. For the rest of the afternoon, it sits on the kitchen counter, gurgling as it digests. Then back into the fridge for a long nap.

Isn’t this a pet? My sourdough starter is docile, performs tricks sometimes more amazing than yeast. Best of all, it will listen to me for hours, unlike my cats, who walks off after a while.


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