“Sometimes I bark and it sounds real, so don’t be scared.”
These are actual, uttered-in-earnest words I said throughout childhood, often after volunteering — as always — to play the Labrador in a game of house. Or while using the Scottie figurine in Monopoly. Or on a Wednesday. To a stranger.
It’s because I was a dog girl. If you were, too, that statement needs no further explanation. You’ve been there with your battered copy of the Kennel Club’s official guidelines in one hand and an anatomically misleading Puppy Surprise in the other. No? Then set down the gavel, Judge Judy, take off your robe (unless it’s Givenchy), and ask yourself this: If not of the canine clan, then what kind of animal kid were you? Deep down, your 8-year-old self has the answer.
Pooch Princess (Dog Girl.)
Nothing thrilled you quite like identifying a dog breed correctly, especially with a nonchalant, insider baseball nickname, like “Rottie” or “Min Pin.” Captivated by the idea that there is such a diverse array of canines out there, you imagined each to have its own personality — not unlike in the movie Oliver & Company. Actually, exactly like the movie Oliver & Company, which you owned on VHS and alternated with All Dogs Go To Heaven every weekend.
The Amazing Horse Girl
Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague, The Pie — second string super heroes or noble, equine legends? If you choose the latter, chances are you spent recess reading Marguerite Henry books in the library, trying to copy the illustrations in your composition pad. Where most of your friends filled their extracurricular time with soccer and ballet, you would electively shovel manure at the local stables to get a discount on riding lessons. If someone referenced the brand “Breyer,” you were the only warm blooded kid in the room who didn’t immediately think of ice cream.
And you didn’t run. You cantered.
You have lot in common with The Amazing Horse Girl — in fact, you two were probably bunkered down inside the library after lunch together for most of grade school. But while she was in one corner absorbed in The Black Stallion, you could be found plowing through the fantastical works of Tamora Pierce, J.K Rowling and C.S. Lewis. In other words: Your interest in fillies and colts began and ended with horns or wings or (preferably) both.
Let me guess: You wanted to be a marine biologist when you grew up, right? Although not one hundred percent certain on this job’s specifics, you imagined it as a high seas adventure in which you’d get to swim around with majestic water mammals and decipher their cryptic modes of communication. In the meantime, you had a “Songs Of The Humpback Whale” cassette from the local mall’s “nature store” to study from — your second favorite form of audio entertainment after Michael Jackson’s title track from Free Willy.
Not to be confused with Whale Watcher! You were a strictly gill-only gal, with a regular rotation of small aquatic creatures as pets. Unlike most other animals — too big, too loud, too unpredictable — your fine finned friends felt safe and reassuring in their quiet glass container. You cycled through a lot of these little guys growing up, and always said a few poignant words about each before sending him or her to that big toilet bowl in the sky. A moment of silence, please, for Goldie I, II, and IV. (No, you don’t have a reason for skipping III.)
Did you have your own fossil making kit? Um, was T.Rex from the Jurassic era? When you weren’t busy casting fake bones in plaster or daring your friends to eat amber bug candy, you fantasized about how much better this world would be with giant bird-lizards.
The Lion Queen
Let’s also add elephants, zebras and monkeys to this list. Basically, if an animal hit the same restaurants as Simba and Rafiki then your attention was held. You campaigned real hard to turn every family vacation into a safari, but had to settle for a subscription to National Geographic Kids magazine instead. On your birthdays, you always asked for one of those WWF endangered species adoption kits.
Littlest Miss Pet Shop
Gerbils, rabbits, chinchillas — your favorite kind of animal was cute, furry and kept in a cage. You read a lot of books that involved rodents wearing people clothes — Angelina Ballerina, Little Critter, Miffy the Rabbit — and always felt slightly deflated when your fluffy charge did not deliver the same level of human sophistication.
The OG Doctor Dolittle
You haven’t just seen one thing on this list that sounds familiar, you’ve found four (okay, like, six) things. Your interest cycled through the better part of the world’s fauna before leaving your parents’ house for good, a vast collection of creature memorabilia with it. You haven’t got a lot of critter figurines and nature kits at home these days, but you do own a pair of Charlotte Olympia cat flats and the Loewe elephant bag.
Sounds like natural selection to me.
Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; creative direction by Emily Zirimis.