No animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the off-season of winter.
~ Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
For weeks now my children and I have been arguing whether humans are animals. I insist that they are. They disagree, and disagree. And strongly disagree. They raise their voices, get red in the face and slam their little fists on the table. I explain that humans are, after all, classified as mammals, among the primates, and that even though we are (I admit) animals of a special sort and not like the others in some very important ways, we’re still animals. “People are NOT animals!” my son will say. “Monkeys think it’s okay to fling poo around but people know better!” As if that proves anything. People fling poo of one sort or another too, of course, but I don’t want to disabuse him of the notion of human decency just yet. Sister is squarely in brother’s court. Even if she sometimes thinks me “so very wise” (as she put it the other night), she seethes with righteous fury: “No, Papa!” (she’s actually yelling) “PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE, AND ANIMALS ARE ANIMALS!” Faced with such violent dogmatism I almost want to relent, if only to keep the peace. But then who wouldn’t really rather be an animal? If it meant, just now, that so much less would be expected of me, nothing strenuous or heroic, that I could curl up by the fire with a book and sleep late every morning, then I say – Sign me up.