A Snail Named Pseu

My-Wife-The-Shrink keeps snails. When she moved into her new office, she figured it would be nice to have a fishbowl with a few pretty fish, so she got some neon tetras and put them in this huge brandy snifter. Well, the tetras did the same thing as just about every neon I’ve ever owned — they rapidly departed for the big fishpond in the sky. So, on the theory that it might be more durable, she got this snail and named it Pseu.

After a while Pseu began to look lonely, so Shel went down to Petz ’r’ Us and brought back The Snail From Hell. This critter immediately crawled up on Pseu’s back in what we fondly assumed was a display of mollusk affection. After a day or two, I noticed that T.S.F.H., rather than doing what we thought it was doing, seemed instead to have been devouring the rather attractive golden coating from Pseu’s shell. So snail #2 went back to Petz ’r’ Us and Pseu was shortly joined by another golden snail named Frisky.

Pseu and Frisky now reside in our kitchen window, where they consume large quantities of pet store vegetables. Pseu has never recovered from the trauma of her partial consumption. Her shell is still white and she doesn’t seem to have grown at all. Frisky, on the other hand, has reached pretty impressive proportions, with no apparent end in sight. They seem to get along OK, and all is well in the snifter as I write this. (I guess — snails aren’t all that demonstrative. They could be rioting, for all I know.)

The point of all this is, people like pets. Some people even name their snails. We become attached to all sorts of critters, and they begin to assume personalities. (Let me tell you, neither of us will ever eat escargot again!) I don’t know if this is some basic human instinct or not, but it seems like an awful lot of people keep pets and ascribe to them, in varying degrees, real or imagined human traits.

I’ve had snakes, cats, dogs, an alligator, cats, a crayfish named Crawford, a hermit crab (who left his bowl and was found months later behind a chest of drawers in a condition described by my 4-year-old daughter as “stale”), turtles, cats, a couple of parakeets and heaven knows what else. And cats. I like critters. Most of them are more pleasant to be around than a lot of human people. Furthermore, I respect them, and abhor their mistreatment.

Nonetheless, I think those PETA people go just a bit overboard.

I don’t mind if Melissa Etheridge poses nude with her partner to make a point about not wearing furs. It’s OK with me if folks oppose killing animals to wear their pelts as adornment. (I assume, of course, that such people are also strict vegans, since by those standards it wouldn’t be very nice to kill animals for food, either, and dairy cattle and egg-producing chickens are treated rather badly in a number of respects.) If they aren’t vegans — well there’s another word that fits: hypocrite.

But, nudie posters notwithstanding, this thing they do where they vandalize fur coats with red paint and so forth is just plain stupid! Let’s look at this rationally — which they don’t seem capable of doing.  Perhaps it’s the vegan diet.

In the first place, throwing paint on people is against the law. Not only does it involve polluting the environment with noxious substances, it’s also aggravated battery — a felony in most places. Second, it isn’t appreciated by the victims, who are likely to register their displeasure by immediately going out and buying another fur coat. OK, now PETA’s efforts have resulted in the death of some more fur-bearers. Isn’t the point to discourage people from killing these critters? Then why behave in a fashion that virtually guarantees that more will die?

Finally, it’s just plain dumb. It’s lousy public relations. For every person who agrees with radical acts of that sort, there will be several who think, “I like animals, but those people are just NUTS!” Thus dies any real message, stillborn.

Mahatma Gandhi is considered to have been a great man because he protested non-violently — in fact, pretty much invented it. Ditto MLK Jr. It’s really hard to deliver a positive message by negative action. It smacks of saying, “Make peace, or I’ll kill you.” I don’t like it that folks buy fur coats, but it worries me far more that there are crazies who can think of no better way to get their ideas across than to assault strangers (or, for that matter, family and acquaintances). Delivering the message is more important than discharging personal anger, which is what these people seem to be doing, really. You’d think they’d catch on to that, wouldn’t you?

See. You come up with some deep thoughts when you watch snails. And it’s relaxing, too. Boycott escargot! Get a pet snail today! But you can’t name it Pseu. That name’s taken.

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