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I Wanna Service Hamster
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I'm a long time supporter of service animals. I think guide dogs rock, and have long cherished the image of a guy I knew back in Oakland whose seeing eye dog was a poodle. A REAL poodle, mind you, not one of those icky wind-up things. And as someone with an interest in disability and how to deal with it, over the years I've been happy to read about dogs like hearing dogs for deaf people (see Penny Warner's books if you want to know) and god, I even watched some shows on "Animal Planet'" that showed training programs for service animals. Did you now they have them in prisons now? The programs to train the animals, that is. Way cool. And I've got friends who use wheelchairs who have service dogs, what I first called "canine companions" which is one term. Way cool again. I even have read about programs that train small monkeys to work for folks who use wheelchairs who have way limited mobility. In recent years, I've been wowed to read about animals who apparently can sense when someone is going to have a seizure. And of course there are all these therapeutic benefits to having a nice friendly animal around.

Back after 9/11, when I was looking around for a charity (that was the year it seemed righter to make donations than give gifts at holiday time) My mother and sister are both cat people and like to support animal welfare organizations so I googled around and found the Delta Society, which, to my surprise is based in this area, though it's a national organization. And its mission is two-fold; it trains service animals and it's big in the "therapy animal" field. During the horrid days after 9/11, Delta Society members were going to the Armory in New York - remember? Where folks were gong to find people and fill out paperwork? - with their therapy dogs. And the dogs provided some comfort. And oh god, they do amazing things in hospitals and institutions where people can't get out much and sniff, you know. I won't even tell the bunny story, it makes me cry.

And no, no, I don't need one. I still walk, and I live with someone who's way more than willing to reach stuff for me (Stu often claims he's there to open jars and get stuff off shelves for me. No no, I argue, also you can always reach that SPOT that itches…Well if he's gonna be dumb, so am I).

But well, um, I don't LIKE dogs. I don't like getting up at some disgusting (read before 10 am) hour and going out in the rain to walk a dog. I don't like slobber, I don't like noses in crotches, I don't like well, I, er, don't like dogs. I don't even get what some folks point to about why dogs are cool - that "unconditional love" phrase irritates me. It smacks of adulation and stuff and makes me twitch uncontrollably. I DO get why people do like dogs, honest, and I know they don't all behave that way, but that's my sort of reaction to most dogs. Many are lovely and I'm very glad to meet them.

So. A service cat. Yeah. Right. THAT'll work. "You want me to WHAT??? "Scuze me! Open that can. Now."

So. I've decided. I want a service hamster. That's right. Nice, tidy lil hamster. Stu says no, it can't wear a vest, because then it'll look like one of the greeter hamsters at Walmart. He suggests a little cap.

Getting me my coffee in the morning will still be a problem; that used to be the job of our imaginary houseboy "Raoul" but he ran off with "Fifi" the imaginary French maid that used to work for Mark and Elizabeth.

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