MARTHA THOMASES: If I Could Talk to the Animals
Is there anything more wonderful than a super-pet? A companion who can do anything you can do, and more. When I was a kid, there was nothing I wanted more than a super-pet to call my own.
Actually, what I wanted was Krypto. I lived in a relatively small Ohio town, with a backyard, and I really wanted a dog. My parents decided I could have one for my tenth birthday, so throughout elementary school I daydreamed about what kind of dog I would get. If I had Krypto, we could go for romps in space (not that I would have named “romp” as one of my favorite activities at the time, since no one I knew ever had one. Still, they looked like fun in the comics). We could play the greatest games of fetch ever. Krypto could help me hide my toys from my sister. Krypto could help me in my never-ending efforts to dig a hole to China.
On the other hand, there were leash laws in my neighborhood, and I wasn’t sure that I was strong enough to take Krypto for a walk. And what did a Kryptonian dog eat? In the comics, sometimes we’d see him with a massive bone from a dinosaur. There weren’t a lot of those at Loblaws Supermarket.
Ace, the Bathound, was not as cool. I couldn’t understand why Batman needed an animal companion. I didn’t understand how Ace could communicate any information from clues he’d sniffed. And I didn’t understand how the mask was a fool-proof disguise.
When Supergirl got Streaky, the supercat, I wasn’t as interested. Streaky didn’t have much of a character. No one I knew had a cat. I didn’t understand what the big deal was about an animal that wouldn’t do tricks and wouldn’t play with you in the back yard. It was only when I moved to college and lived in a dorm room that I understood feline appeal. A cat may not fetch, but is a good study-mate, keeping to itself or purring in your lap while you got your work done.
Supergirl also had Comet, the super-horse. The intent, I think, was to appeal to girls who are said to be especially drawn to horses for all kinds of psychosexual reasons. I like horses okay, but not enough to clean out stalls or braid their tails. Later, when it was revealed that Comet was sometimes a centaur and sometimes an enchanted man, it got too icky for me. Still, a flying horse would be big fun.
Now, Beppo, the super-monkey, was a pet I really wanted. I’d only seen monkeys in the zoo, but they seemed like they’d be really fun around the house. Obviously, if a regular monkey was that much fun, an invulnerable flying monkey with heat vision would be better. My parents didn’t agree.
The other member of the Legion of Super-Pets was Proty, the sentient blob of protoplasm who was the companion animal of Chameleon Boy. Later replaced by Proty II, when Proty showed his heroism by sacrificing himself for Saturn Girl. This was a pet I admired, but didn’t really want. There was limited cuddling opportunities with a blob of protoplasm, unless it turned itself into a furry animal. It was easier to get a dog.
The dog we ended up with, a border collie mix named Nancy, was smart and affectionate, and quite good at romping. She insisted on gravy with her food, but was otherwise satisfied with regular dogfood, not dinosaur bones. I soon learned that she did have the most important superpower a pet can have: she would sit with me when I was miserable, and listen to me complain about mean kids at school, mean parents at home, and mean times in my life.
After I grew up and got my own place, I discovered what my friend Mayer meant when he said God made cats so New Yorkers could have pets. I loved dogs, but it seemed cruel to leave a dog alone in my apartment when I went to work. Cats couldn’t care less, as long as I was home occasionally to feed them and clean the litter box. When I was a freelance writer, I found that I agreed with Dan Greenberg, author of How to Be a Jewish Mother, who said that cats existed to give writers an excuse not to write.
My pets have not been super, but they have been there for me, more supportive and less demanding than any other family members. As I write this, my cat, Midnight, who is 18 years old, is at the vets, and I hope she makes it through so I can show her this column.
Martha Thomases, ComicMix Media Goddess, says she doesn’t really think her cat can read.