I’m having a bit of a public relations problem with the neighbors. Maybe not a public relations problem, exactly, but it feels like one. I’m worried they’re going to take to Twitter any day to denounce me and then someone will start a petition and then I’ll receive angry emails from irate people from the Internet, because that’s the way these things usually seem to go.
In my defense, I thought I was being nice, and that’s what started this whole thing.
As I discussed in an earlier post, the down the road neighbors graze their horse and donkey on our pasture sometimes, which means that I get equids in the yard, which is rad. I am pretty much a sucker for any sort of animal, big or small, but especially equids, so after obtaining permission from their owners, I got in the habit of giving them carrot or apple slices now and then.
It makes a nice break in the workday; I’m often looking for an excuse to stand up, stretch my legs, and force my eyes to focus on something in the distance, and sometimes I’ll take a turn about the yard to accomplish that goal. With the equids, I have yet another reason to go outside. Now I’m not just following the doctor’s recommendation, I’m also getting a chance to play with a horse and a donkey!
So I bring out a few treats and I talk to them for a bit and pat them and then I go back inside. Sometimes one of my landlords is out in their yard and we have a brief conversation over the fence.
Over time, I started noticing that they (the equids, that is, not my landlords) were more and more eager for treats, which makes perfect sense to me. I mean, if some random person gave me cupcakes on an intermittent basis, I would definitely make a point of showing up whenever that person walked by my house, on the off chance cupcakes were on the docket for the day. At first, it was kind of adorable; I’d walk out in the yard to do pretty much anything and they’d come moseying over, crabwalking and nibbling grass, acting all casual-like before swinging their heads up to watch me.
Then it started getting creepy. As soon as I open the front door, this is what I see:
And then it got worse, because the thing is that there’s basically a clear shot from the pasture gate through my office window. Once Joy and Chico figured that out, they’d spend up to half an hour at a time patiently waiting and gazing at me with sad eyes. Chico would make little grumbling whiffling noises and sigh deeply. Joy would give a little half-bray, as if to indicate that he was perishing from lack of treats, and did I want to be responsible for that?
I’ve been around a lot of equids in my day and I know a fair number of them are very treat-oriented, but I’d never seen any quite as determined as these two. And then, I discovered the secret: They’re on a diet, you see, which makes me their #1 favorite person. Unlike their mean, cruel, horrible owners, I freely dispense treats like a walking vending machine.
Unfortunately for them, I’m in collusion with their owners, so I limit the handouts, and that’s where the public relations problem comes in. You see, in a world with no free lunch, they seem to think they deserve exactly that. And now that I’ve established a past record of sometimes handing out treats, they’re demanding that I hand out treats all the time, as though this is my job; I visualize their ideal image of me as something like a giant vegetable drawer, periodically spitting out produce.
Even though too many goodies would cause them to founder, they’re willing to take the risk. Much like me and too many cupcakes, they’re way too oriented on the here and now to care about the possible future. And since the only thing standing between them and an endless supply of delicious apple and/or carrot slices is, well, me, I have become a controversial figure in their world.
When I pony up with the goods, I’m their best friend. I get nuzzled and gently head-butted and they’ll stand still so I can pet them. Chico in particular likes having a spot right behind his ears scratched; it’s a hard spot for him to hit, so I can see why.
If, however, I do not have anything for them, when I step out the door, I get pointed stares. It’s like those creepy paintings that feel like they’re always watching you even though they aren’t moving, except with more hair.
So you can see why I’m worried about the possibility of an Internet petition here. They’re a little too invested in reducing me to nothing more than a snack machine.