You've seen them on television. You've seen them at your door on Halloween. "What an adorable puppy!" you gush as you pat his head and admire her costume.
Amidst the deafening kissy-noises, have you ever taken a moment to look in to their sad eyes and see the inner turmoil? The internal struggle of the trans-specied animal?
Right this minute, thousands upon thousands of animals are denying their birth species and entering the long and arduous process of species-reassignment. The costumes you perceive as frivolous and fun are actually cries for help. Pleas to be seen as the true beings they were meant to be.
"I never felt like a dog. Ever. The runt of a litter of six, I hated playing fetch, chasing cars, and all the other canine activities my brothers and sisters enjoyed," explains Simba Bloodthirsty, a pre-operative trans-specied dog/lion. "When I lived as a docile Maltepoo, I always felt like I was unable to fully express the lion I had within me. They named me Sweetcheeks, for crying out loud! It is only after I committed to the species-reassignment surgery process that I truly began to feel like myself!"
A grueling process, species-reassignment requires patients to live as a member of their desired species for an entire year before undergoing a series of extensive medical procedures that will permanently transform their bodies.
"The mane transplant, alone, will require several visits and extreme pain and swelling. But, after the strands take hold in my own follicles, I should enjoy a full crown of fur for the rest of my days," continues Bloodthirsty. "Plus, it will be much more convenient than having my owners put this wig on me every morning! Sometimes they forget so I'm left feeling naked and hiding under the bed all day long."
While, like Bloodthirsty, many animals have their sites set on transforming themselves into a fiercer and more ferocious species, this is not the case for all trans-specied patients.
"The expectations of society are brutal," explains Hammy, a bulldog-by-birth once known as Brutus McCutthroat. "Just because I have broad shoulders, a severe under-bite and menacing eyes does not mean I'm going to...or am even capable of attacking someone!" Adjusting his pig hood, Hammy ponders, "I often wonder the tragedy my life would be had I not realized, six months ago, that I was born to be a swine!"
Once thought of as a "dog disease," species-reassignment now affects beings throughout the entire animal kingdom. A bird in Baltimore wants to become a bee. An at-home-mouse in Mayberry believes she is an elephant trapped in a rodent's body. They are your neighbors. They are your friends. They may even be you!
"I thought I was the only cat in the world struggling with my identity," confesses Pierre Tastylegs, a pre-operative feline/frog trans-species patient. "It's been a tough year; I can't wait for my surgery to be complete. This time, next year, I'll be the Kenosha County Frog Jumping Jubilee champion! Last year, I was kept from competing because they felt I would run instead of jump. Oh, and that I might chase, claw and maim the other competitors."
Pierre receives criticism for his life choice on a daily basis. "I have people approach me on the street and call me names. Others will say, 'Why would you want to be a frog? Cats have it so good...sleeping all day, eating their weight in treats...' It's tough to deal with the negative people. They don't know the emotional struggle I've had in coming to this point of peace."
Despite the fact that species-reassignment surgery is a relief for many, critics question where the ethical boundaries are.
"My first surgery was from a poodle to a sheep. I had given it much consideration and had lived, on an actual farm, as a pre-op sheep for almost two years prior to my surgery," recalls Ewelanda Woolworth. "About seven months after surgery, I learned what rabbits were and my life would never be the same."
Ewelanda is preparing to undergo her second species-reassignment surgery. "No vet in the US will do the surgery, claiming it is best for Ewelanda to seek psychological therapy to deal with the core of her trans-specied tendencies," explains Horace Bowman, author of the best-seller, "My Animal is Queer: A Look at the Trans-Specied Pet." Bowman is full of concern for Ewelanda. "Not only is this transformation emotionally exhausting, it is major reconstruction on the body! I hope Ewelanda, and animals like her, take care of their insides with the same enthusiasm they butcher their shells."
"Fortunately, my poodle family is French, so I've found a great surgeon in France who is willing to make me into a cute little bunny rabbit," says a confident Ewelanda. "Being a bunny is going to ROCK!"
Whether a blessing or a curse--a solution or the problem itself, species-reassignment surgery is becoming more and more prevalent. The next time you see an animal dressed as a different animal, don't be so quick to attribute it to the craziness of their human owner.
Instead, look deeply in the animal's eyes and say, "Friend, are you trying to tell me something?"
He may thank you for it.