The Back Yard Zoo by Jim Dunlap

Jim Dunlap     It seems that every time I ask my wife, "Who are you talking to?" her answer is always, "The cat!" I must admit I am not much of a movie buff, but I heard from more than one person that "Dr. Doolittle" was funny. People sometimes call me by that name. Of course my cat can talk. I ask her what she's doing and she says nothing at all. My animals talk to me in their own way. It is all body language.

     For example, "Face" our resident long-tailed macaque monkey. For years he has presented himself as an enraged caged monkey. Unless you have food, when you get near the cage, he acts as if he will grab and attempt to yank your associated body parts through the bars. I was having a noticeably stressful day. Cranky, sulky, down-in-the-dumps, I was generally an unhappy camper. I stopped near Face's cage. He usually bares teeth, screams, and grabs. Instead he sat down, turned his back to me, extended a hand, and gently held mine!

     I sometimes use the animals as sounding boards for things I write. You can tell from the end product that they prefer to keep their opinions to themselves. I rationalize and justify talking to myself by thinking of yet another bit of my grandfather's sage advice. He always told me it was all right to talk to yourself because it was good to talk to somebody with some sense for a change.

     The movie was a bit of a let down for me. The writer knew more about people than he does animals. It was all anthropomorphic. The rats were acting out Webster's second definition of the word, 2: a contemptible person. Rats can be real sweethearts if you remember they are animals.

     I once had a dog that could talk. I asked him what was on top of the house. He said, "Composition over wood shingles," then he would go on and on about how dumb I was to not have those old shingles removed before I had a new roof put on. I never did get along with that dog.

Jim Dunlap,

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