Man’s Third Best Friend

Recent columns have noted my hearty agreement with the notion of dogs being man’s best friend. On a side note, I’m not sure whether it’s proper to say “dog is” or “dogs are” nor if it should be “friend” or “friends.”

“Dog is man’s best friend,” is how I originally wrote it, which is a common expression. That sounds right, but when I substituted “cat” for “dog” it gave me an odd sensation. I don’t know if that’s a grammatical issue or evidence of a bias toward canines. We tend to defend what we choose to approve.

Cats hold a solid second place in my personal rankings, but I was baffled as to why some folks place them ahead of dogs. I asked the renowned research department at Joiner’s Corner to investigate why people would elevate felines above canines. In 87 percent of the cases, it was due to the person never owning a dog. Now it makes more sense.    

Regardless of their friendship position, there is ample evidence that dogs and cats hold the top two spots. Thinking about that led me to do a bit of pondering. Who or what is man’s third best friend? I don’t know the answer. These are random thoughts in a quest for truth.

Although I am reluctant to admit it, the bronze medal may go to chickens. I’ve disclosed earlier my childhood traumas of gathering eggs guarded by vicious setting hens. Nightmares of their attacks are infrequent now, but I have no interest in befriending a chicken, not even one that’s house-broken and can carry a tune.

In fairness, however, there are respectable citizens who keep layers in their back yard, give them cute names, and cradle them in their arms like babies. That seems like a recipe for disaster. Surely it must be distasteful when they quit laying and wind up in the dumplings.

I’m not interested in any long-term relationships with chickens. We do, however, buy cage-free eggs. It only costs a little more and I figure everything deserves room enough to square dance to Wildwood Flower. I’d go crazy cooped up in a small pen, which so far has been sufficient incentive to avoid behaviors that could lead to a jail cell.

If chickens seem a foul choice, perhaps pigs should be ranked as man’s third best friend. Rufus was my childhood buddy. He was a remarkable young barrow, both brilliant and affectionate with impeccable manners. I still have a tinge of guilt when I recall his bewildered look as he walked toward the truck from the sale barn. It wouldn’t have helped to explain so I turned the other way.   

A significant problem with having a pig is they keep growing. The little pot-bellied pigs are a manageable size, but they don’t strike me as the optimal choice for residential living. Pigs are smart and trainable. It seems like a miniature and more mobile version of domesticated swine could be bred for pets. If that’s ever done, dogs and cats may be in for some competition.

Rabbits deserve mentioning, but I’m not sure about their ranking. They’re cute, have gentle dispositions, and don’t awaken you at night with barking or shred your shoelaces with their claws. They’re good listeners, and if you get tired of taking care of them, they taste a lot like chicken.          

Perhaps fish should be considered. When Jane and I were newlyweds living in Tallahassee, we bought an aquarium and several varieties of colorful tropical fish. They were enchanting until our angel fish attacked our neons by taking cheap shots at their eyes. And our catfish, even with a filtration system, couldn’t keep the bottom clean so the water required regular changes.

Turtles, snakes, frogs, hamsters, ducks, and other critters are kept by some as pets. The late Billy Patton, from Pinehurst, had a skunk, a perfect solution for company that stays too long.

I’d love to hear other thoughts regarding man’s third best friend. Our cat, Tabs, nominated gerbils and wants one for a playmate. So far, I’ve refused, because her intentions may not be honorable.

On a temporary basis, I’m awarding the third spot to fish. I don’t think they deserve it, but at least I won’t have to decide between “fish” or” fishes.” Or will I?  

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4 Responses to Man’s Third Best Friend

  1. Ellen Hunsucker says:

    Very cute, Neil! Definitely needs to be something cuddly and not a reptile!

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  2. Judy says:

    I believe I’ll stick with a dog for a man’s or a woman’s best friend. I had a biddy when I was a toddler, and a cat ate it. So, it’s been dogs for me since then.

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  3. Sue Goodman says:

    Fun read! My daughter in law would say a spider! Yep! She has a beautiful tarantula ( named Rosie)as big as your hand- fuzzy, quiet- doesn’t eat much- sheds yearly- no walks needed-does not make any noise/just a cage cleaning once a year!! Of course, this IS the family with 2 dogs, 2 cats, a gerbil, spider, many fish-and… a snake named George! I will not have them read this as May give them the idea to consider a piggy!!!
    Keep up the good writing! I love knowing it’s Friday when Joiner’s Corner appears in my mailbox!

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  4. smittydennard says:

    Neil, I am definitely a dog person ( Cinnamon would be extremely hurt if I said otherwise) but, people have been trying to get me to get a goat (kid) to play with her!!! They are so cute, the way they just hop around. Cinnamon doesn’t need a playmate as she has me, but I think I’d put a baby goat in second place!!!!!!!! Not really a cat person, no kidding!!!!!!!

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