Exciting Times For Favorite Political Animals
Written by
regina barreca
September 2012
Written by
regina barreca
September 2012

Everybody seems to agree that politics is going to the dogs. All we have left to decide is how the dogs would vote.

People who haven't cast a ballot in an election since the Carter administration are, I recently learned, passionate about their pets' political opinions. They know their pets' position concerning Kazakhstan's development of nuclear capabilities as well as their views on Medicare cutbacks; they will to explain these details to you with almost the same level of enthusiasm they display while explaining how their ferret Nomad got his name ("He was just wandering around the cage, see? Just, like, exploring! Get it?")

I discovered this recently as my husband sat with our cats in the living room and watched the national conventions. Some speakers made the cats purr; some speakers made them fidget. On several dramatic occasions, they started grooming themselves in what could only be interpreted as elaborate satiric commentary worthy of the commedia dell'arte.

"The cats are independents," I observed.

"All cats are independent," sighed Michael, who doesn't enjoy having his television viewing experience interrupted by what I consider to be my absolutely delightful conversational whimsies.

"No: I mean they're independents as in unaffiliated. They're undecided. They're swing voters."

Expecting him to leave the room and pour himself another scotch, I was surprised when Michael replied thoughtfully, in his sonorous, professorial voice. "I doubt they'd vote for this particular Republican team. Cats are, after all, pro-choice in everything."

Even with their back legs lifted like chorus girls in the Moulin Rouge, the cats paused to stare. "Do we have to go to the polls?" they seemed to ask. "For ID, can we use donation slips in our names from the Humane Society?"

Since the conversation on the couch, I've discovered that many people, even the sort who will not tell you their favorite dessert topping because it might reveal too much about their inner lives, have strong opinions concerning their pets' political views.

Just ask an acquaintance "Who does Earwax, your puppy, like for November?" and watch the person launch into passionate detail. If you're smart, you'll get a cup of coffee and sit down. You're going to be there a long, long time.

Although many proud pet owners trust that their furry dependents would vote the appropriate party line, others are denied the satisfaction one might expect of a proprietor. One of these is Steven Dupler, a filmmaker from New York whose rescue puppy is named Oliver. Dupler admits, with a sense of apology, that his dog's vote could be easily bought because "He operates out of economic self-interest (read: treats), so whichever candidate offers the most attractive treat-based incentive will likely win his support. Also, a note to both parties: A belly rub couldn't hurt." (I presume he was talking about the dog.)

Barbara Taylor, who wrote me on Facebook, agrees that her cats might also be a bit too easily bought off: "My cats will vote for whoever will subsidize catnip and treats or give mommy and daddy a tax deduction for maintaining them in their accustomed high standard of living."

Interestingly, a significant number of people believe the animals in their lives represent the political opposition.

This makes a nice change from the significant number of people who believe the political opposition are animals.

For example, Jennifer Cain wrote that her cat would vote Republican because, "She already thinks that she owns everything and tries to destroy anything she deems less worthy than herself." This rather neatly balances out a remark made by a conservative pal, author Mark Goldblatt, who, although not having a pet, feels free to comment on behalf of his girlfriend's cat: "She is ridden with white liberal guilt, so she's voting for O so that the other cats will think well of her." (I presume he's talking about the cat.)

We're given many important lessons by our pets: lessons concerning loyalty, playfulness, and how to coerce somebody into following you with a scooper and a plastic bag. And I believe both major parties make a serious error in not courting the pet vote, especially in households where the feral, furry and unaffiliated live (don't presume I'm talking about the pets).

There's more than one way to swing a cat.

Originally published in the Hartford Courant: 


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