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by [?]

As to feathered pets, who has not suffered from parrots? You buy a grey one at the docks, and pay four pounds for him on account of his manifold accomplishments. When he is taken home and presented to a prim lady, he of course gives her samples of the language used by the sailors on the voyage home; and, even when his morals are cured and his language is purified by discipline, he is a terrible creature. The imp lurks in his eye, and his beak–his abominable beak–is like a malicious vice. But I allow that Polly, when well behaved, gives a charming appearance to a room, and her ways are very quaint. Lonely women have amused themselves for many and many a weary hour with the antics of the pretty tropical bird; and I shall say nothing against Poll for the world.

I started with the intention of merely skirting the subject; but I find I am involved in considerations deep as society–deep as the origins of the human race. In their proper place I like all pets, with the exception of snakes. The aggressive pug is bad enough, but the snake is a thousand times worse. When possible, all boys and girls should have pets, and they should be made to tend their charges without any adult help whatever. No indirect discipline has such a humanizing effect. The unregenerate boy deprived of pets will tie kettles to dogs’ tails, he will shoot at cats with catapults, he is merciless to small birds, and no one can convince him that frogs or young nestlings can feel. When he has pets, his mental horizon is widened and his kindlier instincts awaken. A boy or girl without a pet is maimed in sympathy.

Let me plead for discrimination in choice of pets. A gentleman–like the celebrated Mary–had a little lamb which he loved; but the little lamb developed into a very big and vicious ram which the owner could not find heart to kill. When this gentleman’s friends were holding sweet and improving converse with him, that sheep would draw up behind his master’s companion; then he would shoot out like a stone from a sling, and you would see a disconcerted guest propelled through space in a manner destructive alike to dignity and trousers. That sheep comes and butts at the front-door if he thinks his master is making too long a call; it is of no use to go and apologize for he will not take any denial, and, moreover, he will as soon ram you with his granite skull as look at you. Let the door be shut again, and the sheep seems to say, “If I don’t send a panel in, you may call me a low, common goat!” and then he butts away with an enthusiasm which arouses the street. A pet of that sort is quite embarrassing, and I must respectfully beg leave to draw the line at rams. A ram is too exciting a personage for the owner’s friends.

Every sign that tells of the growing love for dumb animals is grateful to my mind; for any one who has a true, kindly love for pets cannot be wholly bad. While I gently ridicule the people who keep useless brutes to annoy their neighbours, I would rather see even the hideous, useless pug kept to wheeze and snarl in his old age than see no pets at all. Good luck to all good folk who love animals, and may the reign of kindness spread!

March, 1888.