December 19, 2008

Pets, the White House, and common sense

And for the first time in a while, it's Out of Left Field Friday!

I think my spouse is attracted to animals used in research, but only if she doesn't know about it. When we started dating in college, she had just recently acquired a ferret, long before we discovered that ferrets are used in nausea research. (Ferrets have a physical and visible reaction to nausea.) Then a few years ago, she agreed to take in and foster two zebra finches, and we now discover that because male Zebra finches learn a good bit of their songs from their fathers, they are used in memory research.

So what's next? Our current animals/owners are two Zebra finches and a bearded dragon. The beardie is our son's choice, and if there were a common pet that we need telepathy for, it's bearded dragons. They're very friendly (if you're not a mealworm or cricket), and they're easy to care for (as long as you wash your hands after handling one and if you don't kiss it), but they have no voice, and their behavior is often hard to interpret. Does that look mean "pick me up"? Or does it mean, "Meh, I really don't care for that Bernanke guy"? While I suspect the first is more likely, you just don't know.  Personally, I'd rather trust our investments to our beardie than to Madoff, but that's primarily because I don't have Michael Weinstein's theoretical monkeys. (You'll understand that comment if you were listening to public radio or attended Haverford College in the mid-1980s, but you can probably guess the content.)

Michael Weinstein's theoretical monkeys were never on the possibility list for pets in the next administration, but my wife wants the Obamas to get a bearded dragon. Having heard that one of the girls is allergic to dogs, she noted that bearded dragons do not have dander, and the girls are both old enough to know how not to get salmonella poisoning. A First Dragon (and a first First Dragon) would be a good thing, she reasons. I'm not so sure, from the perspective of bearded dragons, since except for a rescue animal, almost any pet the Obamas get might become instantly popular, leading to overbreeding.

But more generally, I will admit my skepticism about all things Obamaesque on the personal side. Look, I like the guy and probably would enjoy shooting the breeze, but I'm one of the 63 million people who chose him to do a job. Here's my deal: Barack Obama doesn't go off the deep end, and I don't ask about his or his family's personal life. Any other way and we quickly get into silly season. Should the choice of Sidwell Friends be seen as a rejection of DC charter schools? Maybe an acceptance of the DC voucher program? Oh, no, it's one of those historically Quaker schools; the kids are going to be pacifist, and Obama's going to let the Communists take over! Or maybe we should see it as a private family choice.

Same with the pet; while it would probably be good for a shelter dog to be adopted by the Obamas, going beyond that to assume some greater symbolism is ... ugh. It's going to be Malia's and Sasha's dog, not yours, not mine. Unless you're volunteering to paper-train it, get off the topic. Or get ready to hear all about our plans to make sure Malia's a violist, Sasha gets chosen as the lead in her elementary-school musical, and both of them get to be black belts in some martial art. Let's not go there, okay? They're children, not symbols. Get. Over. It.

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Posted in Out of Left Field Friday on December 19, 2008 5:06 PM |