After last week’s column about my attempt to locate some squirrel meat at a grocery store, I received a lengthy email from a reader protesting my interest in eating an emotional support animal.
Attached to the email was a picture of her pet squirrel, Charlie, who she says regularly visits hospitals with her to lift the spirits of the bedridden.
Her • “That you could eat an animal like this is disgusting.”
Me • “He certainly looks delicious enough.”
This was followed by a profanity-laced email calling into question the legitimacy of my birth, the contents of my skull and a “big [shag] you from all the service animals in the world.”
I understand her anger. No one wants to think that someone would eat the treasure of his or her heart, especially not a cute emotional support animal that might also look good with peas and carrots.
Emotional support animals differ from service animals in that they make people feel better rather than fetching, alerting or physically assisting their owners. For example, you’ll never see a blind person being led by a guide squirrel.
Give a large guide squirrel to your sight-impaired grandma and it might drag her up a tree, onto a roof, followed by a huge leap to a bird feeder.
Still, I can see the value in Angry Reader’s Charlie allowing himself to be petted in a hospital, making residents smile because they see him as adorable instead of edible.
But what if it’s the kind of “emotional support” animal that thinks you look entirely toothsome?
It’s a fair question. I had an emotional support animal in 1972, a Great Basin rattlesnake named Pike Bishop. He was about a dozen kinds of mean and not interested a bit in helping people feel better.
But he made me feel better. It was soothing to come home from a hard day at work and watch Pike swallow a mouse.
Last week, Fox News aired a story about an emotional support alligator named Wally, who visited seniors living at the SpiriTrust Lutheran Village in York, Pa.
According to the story, Wally’s owner Joie Henney says, “He’s just like a dog. He wants to be loved and petted.”
I don’t know how soothing Wally would be for someone who, as a matter of policy, doesn’t trust alligators. Someone like me.
A scenario: Imagine me waking up from surgery — because I had bet Sonny that a golf ball backed by a mere ounce of black powder wouldn’t go clear through me — and finding a 5-foot gator snuggled up against me.
I wouldn’t find that calming at all. The same with an anaconda, a honey badger, a shark, a leopard seal, a polar bear, a buzzard, even a woodpecker.
I suppose all folks have their own idea of the type of support animal they find comforting. My mom is old and doesn’t get out much.
She’s been my mom for 65 years, and I know she would feel better if someone brought around a tarantula for her to pet.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.