In Praise of the Painted Pet
A recent article in the Neopian Times was written “In Praise of the Unpainted Pet”. (I encourage all Neopians to read this article before this one, as it will clarify some ideas in this article and allow you to develop your own view on the subject.) While I agree with many points in this article, I feel the author has overlooked some key points: painting pets is not necessarily bad, nor does it mean the owner no longer loves anything about the pet except its color. I refuse to justify the motives of those Neopians who see color-changing as only a status symbol, but this article will endeavor to clarify reasoning behind the decision to paint a pet without glorifying an appearance-based culture that has become all too common.
The first reason _Tangerina_ presented against painting pets concerned equality. She claims that owners are often faced with limited neopoints and so must choose a pet to paint, leading to resentment among other pets. Tangerina saw the solution to be the painting of all or no pets. The inherent issue in this argument is that an owner must be entirely equal with all pets. The understanding in a Neopian household should be that each pet will be given what it needs—sometimes one pet will get something, and perhaps later a different pet will get something, but in the end, every pet’s needs will be met. Imagine the problems an owner would encounter if she tried to always be exactly equal! Perhaps one day Natasha is in Neopia Central and sees a slushie she knows her Kougra would jump for joy at having. Does she choose not to make her Kougra happy simply because there is nothing in the shop that her other three pets would like? And then, the next day, when she sees the perfect shirt for her Lupe, what should she do? If she were to be “fair”, none of her pets would ever have anything especially for them; they would all be dependant on each other to need food at the same time, to all want the same toys, and to enjoy exactly equal treatment. Somehow “equal” always feels like less. Therefore, if it becomes clear that one of your pets dreams of flying among the clouds one day but you can only afford one faerie paint brush, by all means buy it. Do not deny your pet happiness only because your pets all have different needs.
Any mother knows that small children grow quickly. By the time they are a year old, they have outgrown even clothes that were too large at infancy, and they continue to go through new clothing sizes at an astonishing rate. Tangerina seems to imply in her article that it is a waste of neopoints to change a pet’s color with the seasons, because the seasons are constantly changing. While it is undoubtedly important, though, for owners to teach their pets frugality and the importance of saving neopoints rather than excessively displaying wealth, is the answer really to not change a pet’s color at all? By this logic, it would be better for a mother to leave her child naked until it is through growing (or perhaps let him wear a neutral but likely unflattering toga) and then buy him some clothes, rather than “wasting” it on clothes he will just grow out of. And then, when these children reach their teen years, they find themselves questioning their identity and therefore building their own sense of self and style, often experimenting with one ideology one day and completely different clothes and ideas the next, until they settle on a belief or style that suits them. Likewise, it may take several color changes before your pet settles into an identity or style that matches their personality. However, it is still important to remember not to squander neopoints unnecessarily, but to repaint your pet only as appropriate.
One reason Tangerina gave for keeping pets unpainted is that owners begin to love only the color, not the pet. This leads to a variety of problems, one of which is the question of what Neopians with access to the Lab Ray should do when all four of their pets are painted. Sadly, many Neopians choose to abandon pets or move them to side accounts, where they are played with considerably less. But this problem is not limited to owners of painted pets, or those with the Lab Ray. For example, someone could be looking through the pound for a pet in need of a home. He soon finds one, in part because of the multitude of pets that now live in the pound. But what if he finds two pets he wants to take back to his Neohome? Does he abandon a different pet to make room for a new one? He is left with exactly the same problem discussed above, and even the absence of a “rare color” on all the pets involved could not solve the problem.
The time has now come for me to correct a common misconception that many owners have about painted pets: contrary to popular belief, a pet’s personality is not determined by its color! This makes sense when given some thought: muscular people do not necessarily like punching people, just as not all mutant pets are evildoers (Bruno the Gelert being a case in point). This means that when a pet is painted, its personality remains unchanged. In fact, the only thing being changed about a pet when it is painted is its color—its name, likes, dislikes, and hobbies remain intact. So why does color changing make some of us so squeamish? Perhaps it is because our culture focuses so much on appearances. It is near impossible for us to imagine how a pet could look so radically different but still think and act the same way. Learn to look past the outside of a pet and see what it is really like—and perhaps, to some extent, this is even more difficult for the owners of painted pets, because it is so easy to make assumptions about what, for example, snow pets do or do not like to do. So, in a way, the point of this article is the same as “In Praise of the Unpainted Pet”, in that owners should see past a pet’s outward appearance—but it must follow, then, that when appearance is truly disregarded, painting poses no problems to owners or pets, but provides only a way for pets to be given specific abilities, such as swimming or flying, that they would not otherwise have.
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