THIS HAS always been a difficult issue to discuss, perhaps because I tend to take sort of a hard line on people who go to pieces when their pets die.
Yet before this spurs a visit from the sensitivity police, let mquickly say that losing one's pet is never easy.
Obviously we all love our pets, cherish them, derive immensenjoyment from them and so on and so forth.
By the same token, they are pets. P-E-T-S. Therefore, I woulthink it unseemly to engage in histrionics such as wailing ("OH, TABBY! TABBY!") and repeatedly slamming one's head against the wall when a pet passes to the Great Beyond.
After all, it's not your uncle keeled over on the bottom of that bircage, it's your parakeet.
It's not grandma you're dragging stiff as a board frounderneath the coffee table, it's only the cat.
So I think we have to keep that in perspective, something thawas certainly not in evidence during a recent airing of Sally Jessy Raphael.
Apparently it was a slow day on the talk show circuit. Becausinstead of trotting out the usual lesbian bikers, obsessive-compulsive transsexuals and obese mothers who hate their thin kids, the subject was people mourning the deaths of their pets.
Normally, of course, I would speed-click past a show of thinature, as would any sensible person who was not shackled to a cot in a penitentiary and therefore unable to change the channel.
But something on the show caught my eye. And that somethinwas a forlorn-looking woman with a cat that was sitting remarkably still in her lap.
At least I thought it was a woman with a cat that was sittinremarkably still in her lap.
On closer inspection, however, it turned out to be a woman wita cat that was sitting remarkably dead in her lap.
And here's the kicker: During the sometimes teary monologuthat followed, the woman revealed that not only was her cat dead, it was also, um . . . FREEZE-DRIED.
Well. As you can imagine, that just about tore any plans I had ocatching "Wheel of Fortune."
Quickly I grabbed a Diet Coke and a bag of potato chips anhunkered down for an hour or so of quality entertainment, as I can recognize a big story when I see one.
Oh, what a story this poor woman told.
It turned out that, like her fellow mourners on Sally Jessy, thwoman had grown enormously fond of her cat over the years.
Fine. That was a given. And naturally enough, when the kittfinally kicked the bucket, the woman was greatly upset, distraught, beside herself, etc.
OK. But here's where the woman allowed her grief to spicompletely out of control and overwhelm the last vestiges of her common sense.
At first, the woman buried the cat in her back yard aneverything was hunky-dory -- at least as hunky-dory as it gets when your pet checks out suddenly.
But that night, she began to feel guilty about leaving the cat "outhere." So a few hours later, she dug the poor animal up and took him to someone in the pet freeze-drying business, which apparently you can find by the dozens in the Yellow Pages nowadays.
Whew. Disturbing? You betcha. But here's the part that reallgot to me.
When the woman was through telling her incredible tale, not onperson in the studio audience rushed the stage and smacked her upside the head and shouted: "WHAT IN GOD'S NAME IS WRONG WITH YOU?!"
Not one person leaped to his feet and grabbed the microphonfrom Sally Jessy and shrieked: "LADY, YOU ARE A FREAKING WHACKO!"
Not only that, but instead of wrestling this woman to the grounand quickly summoning an ambulance, Sally Jesse continued talking to this woman as if she was perfectly normal.
Me, I was dumbfounded. Absolutely dumbfounded. Here wasome lunatic appearing on national TV with a dead, freeze-dried cat in her lap -- a little souvenir which probably occupies a place of prominence in her china cabinet back home or maybe over the fireplace with the family bowling trophies.
And yet people were listening and nodding their heads at her aif . . . as if this was perfectly acceptable behavior!
Boy, you talk about the world going to hell in a handbasket.
If this show was any indication, I'd say we're taking the expreselevator.