Slinging back to my youth

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By DON VOWELL

I replaced the slingshot that broke when I was trying to scare cats away from the birdbath. The new slingshot has a sturdy metal handle and surgical tubing for propulsion of the sling.  There is no intent to actually hit or damage any cat.  I just want these cats to spread the word that I’m clinically insane, bent on doing them grievous injury.

The first wooden slingshot was bought at a cheap trash tourist trap in Anchorage.  It was the ordinary slingshot shape, but had a wolf’s head carved into the handle, just below the Y.  It was remarkably cheap, and worth everything I failed to spend on it.  On only the second or third cat assault, a stout pull snapped the right side of the Y right off and I was surprised by a sharp smack on my chest.  Maybe I broke the wolf’s jaw.  I am still grateful that the ragged end didn’t make the first contact – the splinters would have needed surgical removal.

Some of the adults who live here actually smirked a little, thought it was karma that caused the slingshot to whack me instead of my prey.  Again I say, I only hoped to terrify the invaders, not hit them.

If there were small children hanging around the birdbath, I would never use the slingshot to drive them away.  There is a difference between cats and small children – a difference being discussed a little on editorial pages in recent weeks.

In the first letter I saw, the writer said that our pets should not be elevated to the same stature as our children, and that love for a child is far more profound and deeply rewarding than love for a pet.  The follow-up letters were unsurprising.  Some responded that they loved their pets very much, regarded them as family, and were inconsolable at their loss.  Some agreed with the original writer.  Pets are pets and children are children.

That seems right to me.  In fact, in the case of the person that believes a pet owner’s love for a pet is the equal of a parent’s love for a child, it is hard to say for which of those roles they are least qualified.

There are some signs that the pets are winning.  Another story in the news had a hundred pets for whom California shelters could not find homes being shipped to Oregon in order to find more candidates willing to adopt them.  We can only hope that the homeless children of California can stir the same level of compassion.

Many of you will think me an unfeeling lout.  You are right; there is some genetic defect in my makeup that makes me unable to love the neighbors’ cats as I do my own children.  The miracle of Google says that we Americans spend more than 50billion dollars on pets each year.  That seems completely out of balance if there is one kid hungry and abused anywhere.  Or maybe it is just that thirty-some years of being a mailman has given me a jaded view of domestic pets.

(Don Vowell lives in Keizer.)

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