It almost doesn’t bear repeating that Fall 2018 has been an exciting yet stressful time for many of us. We’re law students, so this will partly be related to school, as clubs, journals, clinics, and classes fill out much of our schedules. But there’s also that other Thing. The Thing that may not take up as much time as a hundred pages of casebook reading, but that’s a source of continual, intangible stress about the direction of the country. Sure, much about the 2018 midterms excited me, but the aftershock of the last election and the sheer relentlessness of the last two years had dovetailed together. My fall was hectic enough, and Nate Silver’s projections weren’t enough to soothe moments of politically induced anxiety.
“Fire and Furry: Pets Get Political” is a picture book edited by a Michael Woof, with a premise that is neatly captured in the slogan “we need border collies, not borders.” The book is 160 pages, but the only words in it take the form of political puns, references, and quotes plastered over photos of appropriately posed pets. The captions are straightforward and corny, and the addition of the pets infuses the book with a sort of innocent candor that I found refreshing.
When the President hops on Twitter and threatens to revoke the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection of birthright citizenship, it’s nice to flip to a picture of a Chihuahua with its paws pressed to its head in frustration, over the caption “Twitter is not policy.” Of course that’s not the be all and end all of responding to something so outrageous on its face, but in that moment, it’s soothing. Other examples of the gently therapeutic pets found in this book include a pug who’s peeking over the surface of a breakfast table, with the caption “Keep Hope Alive”; a droopy beagle in thick-rimmed glasses that’s somberly looking up from a computer, with the caption “But Her Emails”; and a focused kitten raising its paw, with the caption “Kittens Scratch Back.”
The pets in “Fire and Furry” don’t just offer moments of welcome distraction from politically-induced anxiety—the book also functions as the kind of light coffee table reading that helps momentarily alleviate stress stemming from law school. The gap in density between this and a casebook is steep, and flipping toward a picture of a kitten screeching “Fake Meows” offers a brief (but sometimes necessary) break from page seven of a judicial opinion.
While much of the political cycle feels like being endlessly pilloried with news bulletins announcing grim political developments, this book succeeds precisely because of how little it tosses our way (all while maintaining a charming irreverence about the state of the world). “Fire and Furry” appeals to the same part of us that enjoys John Oliver’s puppy Supreme Court; costumed pets allow us to confront intimidating and oftentimes frustrating political and legal realities without losing our minds. I think that “Fire and Furry” is a book that’s more ameliorative to our collective political health than its more popular namesake, and I’d be delighted if a genre ended up emerging in its wake.