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更新时间:2015-8-2 9:50:41 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

When Your Pet Is a Four-Legged Peace Broker

I say things to our cat Linda that I’m too emotionally constipated to say to my boyfriend: “I love you so much. I wish I could take you on the plane with me, Mrs. Scruffins McDandertop. When I get back, we will have many hourlong sessions of adoration and nuzzle-based loving.”


It’s not that I couldn’t say this stuff to Greg, it’s simply that I’m not in the habit. I suppose I’m more apt to summon emotional baldness and affective need with Linda because she is mute and nonresponding; she can’t reflect back my candor and longing to scale, and thus I’m free of potential embarrassment. Linda’s typical response to such endearments is to extend one of her paws toward me as if my face were a touch screen.


Am I out of line here? It strikes me that, while, yes, it would behoove me to express my feelings for other humans more freely, my cat-talking is of offense only if I were to do it in front of Greg frequently. In which case I may be better served learning to scrapbook or to configure the foam on cappuccinos into unicorns or Mahatma Gandhi.


A friend of mine employs his pet-talking to different ends. When in the presence of his wife and his dog, my friend will turn to the dog and say something like: “Tell Mommy that Daddy is upset that Mommy canceled on him. Mommy should know that it’s important to keep her commitments.”


Here is provocation. Though this deployment of a four-legged friend is admittedly odd and possibly manipulative, if waged infrequently it may be an acceptable and effective avenue toward reconciliation as long as a) it’s not done in front of people other than the wife, and b) leads to conversation in a form that both husband and wife are comfortable with, be that form spouse to spouse, or be it spouse to dog to African gray parrot to pet astrologist to spouse.


The multimedia artist Camilla Ha said, “I tend to use animals as personal ‘feelings ventriloquists.’ ” Ms. Ha explained that her upstairs neighbor in Brooklyn, upon moving in, removed her own apartment’s wall-to-wall carpeting. Moreover, this neighbor and her partner both work in bars and come home regularly at 4 a.m. on weekdays, “which they seem to think is the perfect time to move furniture, drag heavy things up and down the stairs, and nail new pictures to the wall.”

多媒体艺术家卡米拉·哈(Camilla Ha)说,“我倾向于把动物当做个人的‘情感传话员’。”她解释说,她住在布鲁克林,楼上的邻居搬进来的时候,撤掉了原来铺满整间屋子的地毯,而且这位邻居和她的伴侣都在酒吧工作,工作日经常凌晨四点回来,“他们经常在这个时间挪动家具、搬重东西上下楼梯、在墙上钉新画。”

So Ms. Ha takes solace in talking to the couple’s French bulldog, Lilo, whenever she bumps into him and one of his keepers: “Oh, hello Lilo. You’re so frisky today! I wish I felt frisky, but your mommy woke me up again last night!”


Sometimes the neighbor “will snort in recognition, and then we go our separate ways.” But other times the neighbor will proceed to talk to Ms. Ha’s puppy, Zeus: “She’ll try to make amends with me by complimenting and conversing with Zeus while ignoring me. It’s become some kind of passive-aggressive-not-really-passive way of communicating.” What’s more, “I haven’t experienced any late-night disturbances in the past couple months, so maybe it’s working.”


The question of whether pets have an emotional life and whether their feelings can be “hurt” is a much-traveled roadway; the topic is to the book publishing industry as psychics are to the television drama. I have no, uh, dog in this race.


However, from the perspective of etiquette, the two questions that we should apply when it comes to the injection of pets into human affairs and disputes are: Is the dog being put in any kind of physical peril, and is any human other than the two having a dispute being in any way compromised or forced to stare into the middistance as if nothing weird is going on?


I would suggest that the problem area is occupied mostly by instances in which pets or their output are physically rather than conversationally deployed. Take the case of a couple I know who broke up some years ago; I would answer both questions with a qualified, “Maybe.”


The two lovers were so angry after their split that they could not bear to lay eyes on each other. So, when Partner A walked their joint-custody dog to Partner B’s apartment for the weekly handoff, Partner A would telephone Partner B from the sidewalk to announce arrival; then place the dog in the building’s operator-less elevator; then press 5, sending the dog up all by himself. I spend many hours imagining the facial expressions of the building residents on Floors 2, 3 and 4 who summoned the elevator and then stumbled onto McGruff the Crime Dog, busy on a new case.

这对恋人分手以后非常愤怒,根本不愿意正眼看对方。狗是他俩共同抚养的,每周都要换对方接手,其中一位带着狗到对方家里交接的时候,总是在路边给另一位打电话说他来了;然后就把狗放进没有管理员的公寓电梯里,按了五楼,让狗自己上去。我花了好几个小时去想,二三四楼的人打开电梯,看到这位“麦克古菲侦探狗”(McGruff the Crime Dog)的时候,脸上会是什么表情,大概是觉得它在忙着办案吧。

In the case of Danielle Cocanougher, a marketing manager for the iPhone app Allcal — or, rather, Ms. Cocanougher’s co-worker — I would answer the second question with a resounding, “Yes.” Ms. Cocanougher said that her colleague “dumps his kitty litter next to his neighbor’s fence in retaliation for tearing down his fence one day while he was out of town.”

还有丹妮尔·可卡努尔(Danielle Cocanougher)的例子,她是苹果手机应用Allcal的市场总监——其实应该说是她同事的例子——关于第二个原则,这位同事肯定是违反了。可卡努尔说,这位同事“把自家猫的屎扔进邻居家的院子,报复对方在他不在家的时候拆掉了他家的篱笆。”

Ms. Cocanougher said that her co-worker is “definitely proud that he has come up with this solution”; asked for her own response to the situation, Ms. Cocanougher said, “That can’t be good for anyone’s yard.”


Some domestic disputes are so acute that no amount of pet-talking or kitty-litter-distributing can clear the air or wreak vengeance. Ms. Ha said that she used to live in an industrial loft on the South Side of Chicago, where one of her artist roommates was an unemployed fellow whom she calls Droopy.


“On the rare occasion Droopy bothered to come out of his room, he shuffled around in a pair of tattered slippers that became my personal ‘Tell-Tale Heart,’ driving me mad any time I’d hear that sloven’s dreary shuffle across the concrete floor,” she said.

“德鲁比偶尔会从房间出来,穿着破破烂烂的拖鞋到处走,好像是‘泄密的心’(Tell-Tale Heart)一样让人发疯,我一听见那双破拖鞋在水泥地上刮蹭的可怕声音,就觉得受不了。

“Droopy had a cat named Cat Cat. Cat Cat had never been fixed. She meowed her tortured death sex meow all day and night. But the best part was the peeing. She peed everywhere, but mostly on anything that belonged to me. My housemates and I insisted that Droopy get Cat Cat fixed. He claimed he wanted to but couldn’t afford it. Anytime I found a new item of mine she’d peed on, I’d gently toss her in Droopy’s room, saying: ‘Oh, did Cat Cat pee on my favorite sweater? Doesn’t Cat Cat wish a responsible adult would get her fixed?’ ”


But this time, the ventriloquizing didn’t produce its desired results. “At some point,” Ms. Ha said, “we roommates all realized that we were no match for Droopy’s listless defiance, and eventually found a free neutering service not too far from the warehouse. On the day of the appointment, we gave Droopy $1.50 for the bus, put Cat Cat in a cat carrier, and gently pushed them out the door.”


Indeed, pets can be portal openers. The other day, I found myself cuddling and whispering to Linda. When my endearments started to get a little purple, I went into the other room and told Greg that I love him. Then I dangled a piece of string in front of his face.