Enslaved by Ducks by Bob Tarte, 2003.

Similar in flavor to Jim Mullen’s It Takes a Village Idiot–long-suffering, neurotic guy is won over by his wife to rural living/raising animals while retaining his snarky “only a hopeless fool would do this” attitude. Quite funny, and strangely touching. Tarte talks about his depression and how medication sort of helps, but it’s the bizarre, time-consuming routines imposed by the constant parade of needy, nutty animals that do the most to keep him happy. I really love animals, but reading this book reminded me why I would never consider owning a parrot. It also made me thankful not to have a whole menagerie to put up with and cry over. We used to own pet rabbits, and it was nostalgic to read about brothers Bertie and Rollo, who fight when together, but:

If Rollo lay against the right side of his cage, Bertie would press his body against the left, letting fur and flesh mingle through the wires. As long as they didn’t share a common space, they were inseparable.

When we had rabbits, we ended up with two bonded pairs of rabbits. When the male of one pair and the female of the other died, Eiffel and Ruffin, the survivors, had exactly the same relationship as Bertie and Rollo. I strung chicken wire inside the hutch, creating two triangular cages, and they clearly enjoyed living together yet separately. Like people who need to each keep their own apartment?

The Tartes devote their lives to making their pets happy–no effort is too great–and they adopt abandoned or injured animals. But the book does reveal a side of pet ownership that I sympathize with but which bothers me: the desire to collect, to sample, the drive to get a new type of animal the next time around, to try them all. And it’s exactly that which motivates the buying and selling of pets, and has a lot of unfortunate side effects. The monkey side of human beings coming out…

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