February 14, 2005
Shall I compare thee to my dog? The Pig and I Why It’s So Easy to Love an Animal and So Hard to Live With a Man
Hudson Street Press: 246 pp. $22.95
By Rebecca Eckler, Special to The Times
Rachel TOOR likes to joke that animals disappoint you by dying, men by living. Happily, this joke-turned-memoir makes an entertaining, moving read for your Valentine’s Day.
Amusingly titled “The Pig and I: Why It’s So Easy to Love an Animal and So Hard to Live With a Man,” Toor’s book describes her devotion to four-legged friends–dogs, cats, a mouse, a rat, horses, a donkey and, obviously, a pig–over the course of her ups and downs in romance.
No man in Toor’s life–there have been many–could, or will, it seems, ever capture her heart as much as an animal’s has. Ever. (She looks more forward to seeing a stray cat than her boyfriends.)
A self-admitted control freak, which led to the demise of many human relationships, Toor writes of men, “Believe me, it’s easier to train a pig.”
Heading off to college, it was hardest to leave Barkus, her dog. So she “borrowed” dogs, shamelessly dating one man to have some canine contact with his pet (in fact, she uses men often for this reason).
Toor is obviously a very intelligent woman (she’s a college admissions counselor and a former editor with a publishing house) who is less intelligent when it comes to men. But her how-could-I-possibly-date-a-guy-not-as-smart-as-me? shtick can be grating.
Still, when she compares men to animals, it’s hard not to appreciate her views. “He paid attention and he wanted to please,” she writes of one man (or was that a dog?).
Toor also understands the agony of being alone:
“He didn’t call…. Maybe the phone was broken. All night I checked it, making sure there was a dial tone.
“Then I hated myself for being a woman who checked a perfectly functioning phone for a dial tone. But still I checked, just in case.”
The first time Toor gets dumped, she asks a friend, “Why didn’t he want me?” We get chills. We’ve been there.
One can’t help but like the author, especially when she writes lovingly of one pet, a mouse: “When I looked at her, into her ruby red eyes, touched her impossibly soft white fur, stroked her transparent ears… my heart felt full to eruption.” And when one of her pets dies, we share her devastation: “Hannah [her dog] is not–has never been –a pet….She is my heart, my soul… I wonder how I will go on without her.”
What kind of woman, you may wonder, wants a pet mouse, rat or a pig? Obviously, Toor is quirky. But pets have also helped to open her eyes to the successes and failures of her relationships with humans. “Over time my connection to Hannah had deepened as she opened up to share her life with me. My connection to Patrick seemed ever more tenuous,” she writes of loving her dog and wanting a divorce from her husband.
Halfway through the memoir, Toor gets a pig–what her title has promised us all along–which she “co-parents” with her ex-boyfriend, who remains her best friend (everything about this sentence is strange). Toor sees herself in this little pig, named Emma; she recognizes her own lack of tolerance, her bullheadedness, her unconcern for others: “Emma was a selfish, demanding, noisy little pig. Just like me.”
Even if you are not an animal lover (what is wrong with you that you’re not?), this book will be of interest. Most people, after all, are interested in relationships. Especially today. And though Toor has fallen in and out of love with humans, she has never fallen out of love with an animal.
One ends “The Pig and I” rooting for her, hoping that Toor will one day find a man who means as much to her as one of her animals. But maybe we shouldn’t worry too much about her–no matter how a cat falls, she always lands on her feet, right?
Rebecca Eckler writes for the National Post and is the author of “Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother-to-Be.”