Hearing the name Dr Seuss conjures up imagines of lanky cats in hats, galloping analects, green eggs and the Grinch. A childhood delight to read Dr Seuss books and get lost in crazy hypnotic drawings of Seussville.
In July this year, a supposedly long forgotten Dr Seuss (his real name was Mr Theodor Seuss Geisel) book was published, called “What pet should I get?”. Written between 1958 and 1962, Dr Seuss’ widow discovered the almost complete book and had it published.
On a simplistic level, the book is about two siblings trying to choose a companion animal at a pet shop. They are faced with many choices. They grapple with whether they should buy a bird, rabbit, cat, monkey, dog or a fantasy creature with long ostrich legs, big hairy paws and a supersized head plume.
The real message is about making choices and the angst associated with this. The words “MAKE UP YOUR MIND” feature in the book and these words highlight the dilemma of too many options. This is an issue that many years later in 2004 was written about in one of my favorite books called “The paradox of choice: why more is less” written by Barry Schwartz. Too many choices make making a final choice nearly impossible.
Dr Seuss’ two siblings in his book battle with this but do make a choice. They leave the pet shop with a basket and all we can see are two large eyes peering through the basket.
The imminent publication of the book caused PeTA to approach the publishers, Random House, about the other message it sends to children about animals as commodities and buying companion animals from pet shops as opposed to adopting animals from shelters.
PeTA succeeded in convincing the publishers to include a note in the book’s afterword. This is what it says:
“At Random House, we also love animals. In fact, many of us are crazy about them, and we celebrate them in our personal lives and in books we publish.
Pets are life-changing. They greet us like heroes when we walk in the door, comfort us when we are sad, and love us unconditionally. Dogs and cats are the most popular pets in the United States, but these wonderful, vulnerable animals can easily live for over a decade and are dependent on us for all their needs. So committing to caring for a pet as a cherished, not captive, companion is a big decision.
Choosing where to get your pet is also very important. When Dr Seuss wrote What Pet Should I Get? over fifty years ago, it was common for people to simply buy dogs, cats, and other animals at pet stores. Today animal advocates encourage us to adopt them from a shelter or rescue organization and warn us never to purchase our pets from places that are supplied by puppy mills. We wholeheartedly agree and completely support this recommendation. Choosing to adopt can save the life of an animal that may not otherwise get a second chance at finding a forever home. Did you know that you can rescue all kinds of animals, including birds, turtles, rabbits, and guinea pigs?
Many organizations have easy-to-find information about adoption, shelter locations, and animal-care tips, as well as how to help at-risk animals in your community. This is a responsibility all of us share.”
Well done to PeTA for succeeding in getting the note published and for striking a balance: not advocating for a ban of the book and instead allowing children to still get the chance to get lost in Dr Seuss’ jubilantly weird stories but with a suitable disclaimer.
Of course the inclusion of the note was not appreciated by all. In an article on www.timesnews.net (9 August 2015) its editorial board wrote: “Taken to their logical extremes, seems to us PeTA’s arguments would isolate mankind from the animal world so that rather than people eating some animals, we would leave them to their own devices, which includes eating each other.”
The editorial board may be right but PeTA has never said humans should not have companion animals, it just advocates that they should be adopted from shelters. Makes sense to me.
On another note, my unnaturally tall human being of a husband and I will celebrate 15 years of being married this coming week. To celebrate, I bought something I would not usually buy: I ordered a Sootkoekie ceramic platinum-faced rabbit. I am hoping this does not constitute kaggel-kak to quote a colleague at work!