At home, I have a bearded dragon, a cat, and a brand new leopard tortoise with a respiratory infection. (pictures at the end
Before buying both the bearded dragon and the leopard tortoise, I did my research, as of course anyone should do before investing in a pet, particularly an exotic pet. So when Genbu (that's the tortoise) developed a runny nose after coming home, I knew from my research that he was probably a carrier of a type of bacteria leopard tortoises are particularly sensitive to and that develops into infections when they are stressed, such as from a move. So he went to the vet and $300 later we are waiting on the test results, he has been deworned and force-fed, and we have to give him a shot in his pectoral muscle every other day for 20 days.
While we were going over the course of watching Genbu carefully, taking him to the vet and now, taking care of him, I was reading this book. For the first time it actually made me think, why am I investing time and money into a tiny little 3'' tortoise? He does not purr like my cat or curl up on my lap. He does not provide me with warmth and he doesn't play. He doesn't talk like another human companion would.
Back when I got my bearded dragon (Loki), I also did my research, kept an eye on her, and took her to the vet when she had a parasite infection. She did not have to have shots, but have you ever tried to stick a syringe into a lizard's mouth? It's pretty difficult and they do have claws. At the time, I thought nothing of it. She was my pet, and I had a responsibility to her even as she was slicing up my hands in a perfectly justifiable effort to get away from the weird plastic thing jammed in her mouth.
This book has made me wonder why I feel that way. I mean, I don't kill anything. I do eat meat (though not a lot), which is something the book addresses, the contradiction of animal lovers who still eat meat or condone medical testing, etc. But I won't kill anything. Not ants, not pigeons, not game animals or anything else. I feel a connection to animals that don't really give back a whole lot in terms of communication.
In fact, the animals I like are the animals most people are afraid of or that they don't care much about. I have heard people concerned that Loki is going to escape from her cage and bite me one night (the idea is completely ridiculous. My lizard is a scaredy cat who is afraid of strawberries) or that Genbu might be vicious (he eats hay. Like a horse). People find it difficult to empathize with reptiles.
The book addresses that, why people empathize with some animals (dogs, cats) and not others (mice, lizards) and don't care about eating others (pigs, cows). There's a wealth of information in here, and yes, some of it is really hard to read. One anecdote has stuck with me for quite some time, and involves guinea pig death for absolutely no reason that I can comprehend. If you like animals, some parts of this book are really difficult to read.
I think it's an important book though. Whether you are vegeterian/vegan/omnivore, whatever, whether you hunt, let your cat outside, volunteer for an animal rescue, or could care less about animals, it's still important to read. I mean, like it or not, we share the whole world with them, and there are more of them than there are of us. The way we treat them says something about us as a whole.
Loki and Genbu.
Sneakers the cat.