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Dissing non-traditional pets and the stress it buys you

Posted Feb 22 2011 6:00am
I should've expected it. Whenever anyone writes about something as inflammatory as non-traditional pets, I guess she gets what she deserves. It's like the time I discussed the issue of monkey-keeping (in the negative) and unwittingly unleashed a hailstorm of criticism that went on for weeks. Not-so-veiled threats to my person, included. (I do believe monkey doo was mentioned more than once.)
 

This time the conversation wasn't so scatologically imbued but, all the same, my e-mail inbox got dogged by those who felt I'd dissed their personal pets. And perhaps I had, but still…

Let me first back up and describe the scenario: It's Tuesday night and I have a deadline. So I come up with my take on best pets for allergic kids. It's something I know lots about, given my own family's issues, but it's also a thing I'd recently covered for Parents Magazine. A two-fer, if you will (though heavy hitter USA Today always gets a more elaborate treatment of most any subject I cover).

Anyhoo, the issue was this: Pet-loving parents of kids who suffer allergies sometimes find themselves in a precarious position. Should they (a) play trial and error with individual dogs and cats; (b) follow doctor's orders and eschew pets altogether; or (c) take the road less followed and take on a less traditional pet?

Assuming (c) was the final answer, I decided to write about which non-traditional pets might be best for allergy-prone kids and their families. Here's a sample of my take on the subject
As a mother whose only begotten son suffers the disease all veterinarian parents dread, I have a thing or two to offer on the subject of best non-traditional pets for kids whose allergies keep dogs and cats at bay. After all, I've tried them all at some point or another.

Which means I'm armed with opinions on the subject … lots of them. And these include not just my favorites but my failures, too. First up, my take on the five best pets for kids who can't keep dogs and cats.


At that, point, I went on to offer my "best of" list
1. Rabbits
2. Rats
3. Parakeets and parrotlets (petit parrots, like lovebirds and cockatiels)
4. Chickens
5. Goats

Though I did specify that not all these would necessarily interact with their kids' immune systems with equal success, they just might work out. Goats and chickens, in particular might've been a stretch, but hen- and doe-keeper that I am, I couldn't help myself from offering up my personal best-of.

So it went with the worst-of list (and there's no doubt here's where I went wrong). I offered the masses my personal take on the dark side of pet-dom. And as you know, there's nothing like a less-than-stellar take on a favorite pet to urge people to pen some hate mail.

1. Guinea pigs
2. Turtles
3. Snakes and lizards
4. Fish

Just so you know, I did qualify my best- and worst-of lists with words that explained my personal approach. My intent, in the case of the worst-of, was to provide a rationale as well as to soften the blow. But that didn't exactly work.

Snake owners, in particular, cried foul. This, in spite of this qualification
I love them. That's why I can honestly say: "Been there, done that." And perhaps because I love these slithery reptiles so, I felt uncomfortable keeping a mostly sedentary and therefore ignored animal in my home. Your kids may be different, but in general, I consider snakes and lizards not-so-good pets.


It seems that a great many snake owners feel very protective of their pets' fine qualities. Some even mentioned that I made it seem as if their snakes were not capable of affection (something I do not believe I alluded to, though I will admit to harboring such a belief).

But the worst? That I used the word, "slithery."

OK, I did not say slimy or some other disrespectfully inaccurate term. I used what I believe is a perfectly apropos descriptor: slithery. And they are, right? Having lived with many a reptile, only my turtles and tortoises have defied this description. And yet, I was called out on the basis of my exacting vocabulary.

I do understand the need to defend one's choice of pets … really I do (indeed, this goat and chicken owner does on a constant basis), but was it SO wrong of me to offer my personal opinion in the manner I did?

Here's the article. You decide.
 
 

Dr. Patty Khuly
 
 
Pic of the day: Corn snake by batwrangler

 
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