Pony Face Syn­drome


II was loung­ing on the couch in my daugh­ter’s liv­ing room, sip­ping my pre­ferred bev­er­age, when I saw it. There, on the cof­fee ta­ble, in the mid­dle of a di­sheveled stack of horse mag­a­zines and equine-sup­ply cat­a­logs, sat the re­cent edition of the pet-fin­der publi­ca­tion, Cats & Dogs. On the cover of this copy, some­one scrawled the sin­gle most mis­un­der­stood word in the English lan­guage: “No.”

I chuck­led. One-word sto­ries rely on con­text, and I had a pretty good idea who smug­gled Cats & Dogs into the house. I was equally con­fi­dent re­gard­ing the writer of the word “no.”

Daugh­ter Jamie has a long, col­or­ful his­tory of “ask­ing” that an­i­mals join the fam­ily. In one form or an­other, she’s been in a state of per­pet­ual pet re­quest since she was 4 years old. Now that Jamie is grown up and mar­ried, my sonin-law, Kyle, has picked up the twin man­tle of Gate­keeper and Sav­ings Ac­count Goalie.

Kyle is right to nip it in the bud, I thought, as the re­sid­ing cat head-butted my glass of pre­ferred bev­er­age, slop­ping its contents onto the cof­fee ta­ble. The re­sid­ing dog jolted from his re­pose and scur­ried over to lap it up be­fore I could do the same.

House an­i­mals often work in con­cert like this and aren’t to be trusted.

Equine Mother Ship

At the epi­cen­ter of this do­mes­tic an­i­mal bliss is Jamie’s horse. In the grand scheme of things, the cat, the other cat, the barn cats, the dog, the rab­bit(s), the things with wings, and the fish in the pond are mere satel­lites or­bit­ing the Equine Mother Ship. And Jamie al­ways seems to be ei­ther look­ing for an­other horse or pre­par­ing to look for one. Ob­tain­ing a horse — with all the ac­com­pa­ny­ing lo­gis­ti­cal bag­gage and fi­nan­cial con­sid­er­a­tions — is a pretty big deal. It takes more than a sim­ple re­quest. An ex­tended cam­paign is re­quired if you want to con­vince other vested par­ties in the house why get­ting an­other horse is the most rea­son­able thing you could pos­si­bly do. Af­ter all, no horse can do ev­ery­thing, so if you have a no­tion to do al­most ev­ery­thing, you need more than one. Or per­haps an­other horse would make your cur­rent horses hap­pier. Even in­di­vid­u­als who have un­fet­tered ac­cess to their bank ac­counts and credit cards have to wage an in­ter­nal cru­sade to sucker the arith­metic side of their brains into think­ing that buy­ing a horse ac­tu­ally makes good sense. Some peo­ple de­velop ad­vanced ma­nip­u­la­tion tac­tics, learn­ing to al­ter­nate be­tween the di­rect and sub­tle, the coy and the ag­gres­sive, the forth­right and the covert.

In the process, they be­gin to display ex­ter­nal signs that in­di­cate that a horse cam­paign is in progress. Chief among these is a com­plex coun­te­nance known as “Pony Face Syn­drome.”

No Cure

Pony Face is a cross be­tween a con­cerned, but de­ter­mined, Vladimir Putin kind of face and an in­tensely cute, cud­dly, plead­ing kitty.

So­cial ob­servers di­vide Pony Face into two ba­sic cat­e­gories: De­lib­er­ate and Rest­ing.

De­lib­er­ate Pony Face is an in­ter­per­sonal ma­nip­u­la­tion tech­nique, plain and sim­ple. In non-horse sit­u­a­tions, it’s called the Pony Ploy, a high-side open­ing bid, us­ing the same prin­ci­ple as sticker shock in auto sales.

A par­ent or part­ner con­fronted with Pony Face will be re­lieved — and made more mal­leable — when he or she re­al­izes the only thing be­hind this Pony Face is a pair of new shoes. Ex­pen­sive shoes, but still so much cheaper than a horse.

The un­con­scious form, Rest­ing Pony Face, is a con­di­tioned coun­te­nance cre­ated af­ter an ex­tended pe­riod of horse want­ing. The vic­tim’s face sort of locks into po­si­tion, giv­ing cre­dence to old adage, “If you keep do­ing that, your face will stay that way.”

Ex­perts con­sider it to be a valid med­i­cal con­di­tion. And they’ve come to re­al­ize that there’s no cure. It’s sim­ply some­thing fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als must learn to man­age the best they can.

Usu­ally, the only way to man­age Pony Face Syn­drome is to go ahead and buy the darn horse. TTR

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