Sunday, March 26, 2006

'Pets in America: A History,' by Katherine C. Grier - The New York Times Book Review

'Pets in America: A History,' by Katherine C. Grier: "Twenty-first-century pet keepers may be obsessive and conflicted, but Grier's portraits of our ancestors reveal that earlier generations had their quirks. Some Victorian families were, she allows, 'extraordinarily tolerant even by modern standards,' and offers as evidence the owners of a 'pet sparrow named Bob, who had never been confined in a cage, was allowed to take 'anything he wants' from the family dinner table and slept at night in the globe of a gas lighting fixture.' But the most inspired pet-keeping was surely practiced by the Rankin children of late 19th-century Albany, who turned a hutchful of rabbits 'rescued from their fate as someone's dinner' into a carefully documented kingdom that was reorganized as a republic, complete with a declaration of independence, a census, a postal system and taxes. Over the years, the Bunnie States of America spun off a map company and a medical college. Its calendar included a legal holiday, Fish Day, on which the family goldfish was released into the bathtub. The longevity of the entire enterprise can perhaps be attributed to Article 1 of its constitution: 'No one can sulk' in a meeting."

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