We have become a nation of prophets. But our prophets aren't like biblical ones those wild-eyed freaks of gnashing teeth and rending garments fame.
Uh-uh. First, their eyes aren't wild - they're clear and soft. Second, their garments aren't rendered, since they aren't sackcloth sacks, but hand-sewn $3,000 suits. And as for gnashing teeth? No way, with choppers that cost even more than a closetful of their suits.
Our prophets are of course slickeroos like Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Deep-pockets Chopra and the rest, who day in and out tell us how to find endless joy, levitate, live to be 200 and all sorts of other groovy things.
Since I don't have a T.V. I don't see these sages, but even if I did, I wouldn't give them a passing thought. Not that I've figured out anything of lasting importance, just is I prefer to make my own mistakes - something I've become very good at.
But what amazes me about these Prophets-for-Profit is how people accept whatever they say as The Unvarnished Truth, as if they'd just heard it from the lips of Lord God Almighty, Hisself. There's no need for proof, objective evidence, or even impartial support - if the gurus say it, it must be true.
Of course there's a lot of truth to be gleaned in the media - if you can wade through all the bumpf. Last week I did some serious wading.
I read an article on the internet about how pet owners live longer than people who don't have pets. Predictably, when I first read it, I believed it.
Yeah baby, I thought to myself, why, with my stable of cats and dogs, I'm good for at least another 50 years!
Then I did some serious re-thinking.
The article's thesis was pets provide us with a companionship and unconditional love that buffers life's harsh realities, thus lowering our blood pressure, raising our sprits, grooving our Alpha waves and God knows what else. On the surface this seems perfectly true. But dig beneath it and it ain't all it's cracked up to be especially if you were me and your pets were my pets.
Let's look at my canine contingent alone.
There was Brother Phineas, the Pug Thug. To his credit, Phineas was a sweet little guy who loved everyone and had no aggressions whatsoever. But he also had a Napoleon complex that wouldn't quit. When he got up, everyone got up, and all too often it was way early rather than fashionably late. And it wasn't that he had to go out or even that he wanted to eat he just figured if he was awake, the least the rest of us could do was experience consciousness with him.
Beyond that, he hated to be left alone. If I went outside, for any reason, he'd howl piteously. I thought it was because he wanted to go for a ride in the car, which he dearly loved. But whenever I took him in the car, he'd bark joyously and deafeningly and nonstop. Then, if I had to pop into the store for a quart of milk, as soon as I opened the door, he'd shriek at the top of his little lungs.
Last spring Brother Phineas crossed the Rainbow Bridge, leaving a huge gap in my otherwise dull life. So I did the logical thing and checked out all the animal shelters and rescue societies till I found his replacement - a small mutt named Little Lulu.
Lulu was as sweet and unaggressive as Phineas. She was perfectly housebroken and slept through the night, only waking up when I did. She also was not the least bit bossy and almost never barked.
So my new canine addition gave me a stress-free life, right? Wrong.Lulu brought her own brand of mind-blowing mojo into the house. First, she had a world-class sniffer and in a matter of days she'd shredded about $500 of jackets, vests and pants, in her quest for sub-atomic-size biscuit crumbs in the pockets.
Next, she was sneaky. When I was busy, she'd slink into the kitchen and leap on counters, devouring whatever was on them. Her masterstroke was opening a full Tupperware container and eating two quarts of macaroni salad in one sitting. When she paraded into the living room she looked like she'd swallowed a basketball till she yakked it all up on the rug rug.
Beyond that, she had a fondness for my Hudson Bay blanket, out of which she ate great chunks. She also chomped some of my favorite hardbound books into tatters.
After a while she settled down, but then she seemed to settle down too much. She seemed listless, lethargic, almost sad. Immediately, I consulted the website of the famous British dog prophet, Melissa Mitford-Rumpsfelder.
In a passage describing behavior like Lulu's she said: "Canines, both in the wild and domesticated, are pack animals. As such, they flourish in the company of their kind, but languish without them."
She continued: "If one's dog suffers separation from the pack, the introduction of another canine companion will almost always provide a sudden and surefire cure."
Ah-ha! I thought. That's it - I'll get another dog so Lulu can have a pal! Not only will that end her moping, but it'll give the other mutt a nice home and a pal to go with it.
So I adopted another dog.
The new guy, Jessie, was thoroughly vetted, since he'd lived in a foster home for a year. He also was housebroken, gentle, and quiet. And best of all, he and Lulu hit it off immediately and within days became inseparable. They played together, they ate together, they slept together.
So now at last my days of doggie stress were over? Fergit it.
Jesse wasn't destructive - at least not in his foster home and not when he first came to mine. However, within a short time Lulu taught him the joys of eating books, toys and the occasional chair leg. It was fair exchange, though, because in return, he taught her how to chase the cats - something she'd never done. This drove the cats nuts, especially since it distracted them from their favorite pastime - shredding my furniture, and woodwork.
He also had great scent discrimination and an insatiable appetite, but he never jumped on the counters. Then again, because he's big, he didn't have to. Instead, he just leaned on them and gobbled everything in sight. Unfortunately, one thing was a container of ibuprofen, which is lethal to dogs. He was immediately whisked to the vet, where under Dr. Kim's scrupulous care he had a two day intravenous kidney flush. He emerged from his ordeal unscathed,which is more than I can say for my nerves and savings account.
Another quirk of Jesse's is his oddball sleep cycle. During the day he never leaves the arms of Morpheus. But during the night he wakes up sporadically and wanders in and out of my room, his nails going clickity-clack on the floor, his nose going under the covers, giving me an ice-cold wet willie on the neck or face. Sometimes he'll keep doing it into the wee hours till I'm wide awake, at which point I figure he has to go out. So I get dressed and take him out, only to discover his wake-up call was less a matter of bladder or bowel urgency than boredom and bonhomie: He wakes up and he wants company - my company, unfortunately.
Oh yeah, he barks loudly at thingd that go bump in the night. He also barks at things that don't go bump in the night.
So getting back to the hypothesis that began this tale of tails: Will pets give me a longer life?
I don't know.
I only know if my life with pets continues as it has, it'll sure seem longer.