The Wide Angle: Reality is as real as really happy pitbull

Published 6:04 am Saturday, January 19, 2019

I got my first suggestion for a column the other day.

That’s pretty cool. I feel like a relative celebrity, but at the same time it kind of shoehorns me and in a way; kind of makes me feel like I’m obligated to start a YouTube channel.

Just like those channels where they talk about current events, top five countdowns of every sort, oddities of the world or give you some sort of news on celebrities that you’ve already heard or seen float across your Facebook feed.

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And then in an enthusiastic voice, they say, “If you’ve liked this and all the other videos I’ve done, hit that subscribe button and ding that little bell for notifications on when I post another video of countless nothing ramblings.”

And, of course, you do. Well not you. My readers are more sophisticated than that. It doesn’t explain me, but I have the sophistication of a Speak and Spell, so draw of that what you will.

It’s awfully early to start diverting off from one subject to another, so I’ll come back to the topic at hand.

This suggestion was an interesting one because once I got it straight in my own head what the reader was talking about, it didn’t take too long to know that we were of a like mind.

I should apologize to her for that.

This idea was reality animal shows, most often of the kind you find on Animal Planet.

I used to watch Animal Planet a lot because, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m an animal lover. And if you haven’t noticed, you clearly haven’t been reading this column and that calls into question just how serious the 22 of you really are.

I mean really, what adult in their right mind living in his mid-40s has as any cat photos as I do on my phone?

During my time on this Earth, I’ve lived with cats, dogs, horses, the occasional bat (not of my own doing unfortunately), an insanely large spider that mom and dad let me “keep” on our back step that I called Eight Legs (I know, not really imaginative) and a northern pike I “kept” for about a week after catching it up-north.

Wisely, after my parents humored my eight-year-old self for a few days, we released Hermie back into the world of the living fish in Bad Axe Lake — still the best named lake in the state.

So, with a healthy background of loving animals, I latched onto Animal Planet pretty hard core, specifically Puppy Bowl for the longest time along with a number of animal-based reality shows that started popping up on the channel.

I would imagine the executives behind the channel saw how well Jersey Shore was working on MTV and thought, “we’ll do the same thing only with animals — and higher IQ.”

So while there probably was a Snookie somewhere, it was probably a version you actually wanted to spend time with.

A while back we covered a reality show that came to Austin and I found the whole affair interesting, if not a little exasperating. You know those wonderful reactions you see on reality shows where everybody is just so happy after the big reveal? So yeah, a little secret, that reaction is filmed multiple times, in case the producers aren’t exactly happy with the level of exhuberance. To various degrees I’m sure, but it’s a formula to make sure everything is just right for the big airing and those sweet, sweet ratings.

So, the question I began asking myself was, how do they do it on animal shows? Living with animals for most of my life, I understand that they are a lot like seventh-graders: easily entertained and easily distracted.

Take for instance “Pitbulls and Parolees,” a show following a dog rescue that saves pitbulls and serves as a rehabilitation of sorts for those fresh out of prison or on parole.

I have no qualm about the show one way or the other, but if it’s true that some parts of the show are reshot over and over again, I wonder what a typical day is like.

Especially with pitbulls.

Animals are unpredictable. Oh, don’t you lie to me reader No. 11. You can train a dog all day long for a full year and at some point it’s going to do it’s level doggie best to get into some sort of trouble. And you’ll be there armed with your cellphone taking pictures.

I like the phrase “organized chaos,” because it sums up situations like this perfectly. Dogs can be all sorts of calm, but then the moment one of them gets riled up, then another, then another and suddenly you move from organized chaos to being tangled in three different leashes and if you’re lucky you get slobbered on.

If you’re unlucky, your 85-pound high school self gets dragged across a neighborhood’s worth of lawns by an excited German shepherd.

His name was Judge by the way, and I was a freshman.

In particular there were a number of vet-based shows I watched, as I see there is now. I watched “Emergency Vets” a lot, mostly for Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald who dealt a lot with exotic pets and who also was a bouncer for acts like the Rolling Stones. In fact, if you ever listen to the episode a number of years back on “Wait … Wait, Tell Me Another,” he talked about how it was Keith Richards who helped steer him toward veterinary medicine.

I was also a huge fan of “My Cat From Hell.” Certainly not because of Jackson Galaxy — I mean, that name … come on. Mostly, it was the contradiction of what he was whispering to cats and my own experiences, especially with the two chuckleheads we have now who seem willfull, at best, of our desires to train them.

My girlfriend is pleased she’s gotten them to sit before before being fed and I’m glad she does, because I don’t do that. All three of us want to eat as quickly as possible.

But I believe — NAY — what I know, is that these two would resist every training guidance Galaxy would give us, or really maybe they would fall in line just to spite us as they do most every day.

If nothing else, I don’t really want to film an episode of “My Cat From Hell,” not because I don’t want trained cats. I would love trained cats that actually want to be picked up and won’t pick on each other — Buster.

I just can’t stand the idea of the rest of the world, on broadcast TV, finding out our cats our smarter than we are.