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Sunday, 1 April 2012

All Animals Are Domesticated

Years ago, I worked at a zoo. One day, as I stood in the East Asian Forest exhibit, a visitor walked up to me.
'Hey, how much do I have to pay to pet the leopards?' he asked. I stared, waiting for him to say he was kidding.
'Um, we don't let visitors do that,' I finally said.
'That's not fair,' he said. 'You guys get to play with them all the time.'
'We don't,' I said. 'They're wild animals. And they don't want to play with us. Unless it's the way cats usually play with their food.'
Mr. Leopard Snuggler, I think, was probably influenced by the myriad media representations of non-domestic animals being cute little cuddlebugs for the right human.  As far too many unfortunate humans demonstrate, this is not the case. No wild animal can become truly domestic, even if raised lovingly by humans since it was young. Even domestic animals can act unpredictably or aggressively without appropriate socialisation.
If you want to give your character a cool pet, there are plenty of interesting and useful domestic animals. An animal which wasn't fully socialised can even provide a 'character tames skittish animal' subplot if you wish. Or if you're writing speculative fiction, there are a lot of options for a magically or scientifically enhanced critter. But please, no leopard snuggling. Being a zookeeper is hard enough work without having to keep people from trying to pet large predators.

11 comments:

  1. You mean I really can't cuddle a lion? People are funny, aren't they?

    I'm such a big fan of cats and love putting a little cat into my work. They're such characters.

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  2. I've petted a leopard! Seriously...it was only last month. I also got to hold a vulture.

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  3. Visiting your blog for the A-Z challenge!

    Glad you're getting the word out on this. I just don't get how people think they are somehow above getting hurt!

    Happy writing!

    Kathy
    http://kathleenmoulton.com

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. For some reason, Amanda Hocking's book, Hollowland, immediately comes to mind. Nothing worse than a domesticated, zombie-eating lion if you ask me. Nice post, and thanks for stopping by at my blog.

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  6. Love it. Funny story. I have had moments like that where I have to stare blankly at a person for a full minute while I contemplate their strange question. (I'm a teacher, so it happens frequently.)

    I'll be back.
    www.prose-spective.blogspot.com

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  7. Human/animal relationships add a great dimension to stories, and provide excellent opportunities for character development. McCaffrey did an amazing job illustrating this in her Dragonriders of Pern series.

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  8. Well dang, I guess I really won't be getting that tiger I want so much! Visiting from A to Z, looking forward to the rest of your posts! :-) Sadly people don't always use their brains when asking a question. I hear ridiculous questions all the time, I do think it would have been great to work at a zoo though!! Have a great rest of the day. :-)

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  9. I can't believe someone asked that! Actually, I can believe it, but it still shocks me how people can think that animals in the zoo aren't wild animals. Great start to the Challenge! :)

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  10. Hey! Thank you for your sweet comment :) This was such a great post, although I must admit that I would love to snuggle a leopard. My favourite animal to snuggle would be a polar bear, but I'm aware that I would literally die.

    I'm following you now, you have a great blog!

    Nikki – inspire nordic

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  11. Thanks for all the comments! I've enjoyed looking at all of your blogs.

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xx SB