As a rule, if amateur radio operators desire human company, at least while pursuing their hobby, the only option is shackles. So it's no wonder that your 'umble cartoonist and so many other hams have dispensed with human company altogether and straightaway play the pet card.
Pets love you for yourself, including your ham radio self, providing you spill a lot of food in the course of operating your station. Sure, you could suspend suet from your chair or broadcast a layer of ferret chow over your equipment, but the best approach will depend on one's particular pet, although human snack food is hard to beat for cross-species appeal, suggesting a common microbial ancestor that thrived in a primordial soup of salty high-fructose corn syrup.
Once they suss-out the connection between ham radio and a full belly, you've got yourself one Gunga Din of an auxiliary operator for your next four incarnations. Pets will put up with minor RF burns and loud static. Pets will suffer hour upon hour of excruciating boredom punctuated by moments of stupefying ennui, impossibly tiresome conditions for which humans would expect to be compensated by a minimum of two cocktail weiners and a side of Thousand Island Dressing puddles.
The important thing is, pets are very, very THERE -- kind of like parents of children in pools. Pets are there to bear witness, whether you bust a pile-up or master the dog paddle. Hey Petey, look-look-look at me, I just worked Burkino-Faso!
Pets are also great for muttering. Go on, mutter away under your breath at Bowser, Kitty, Budgie or Mister Tumbridge-Wells your grumpy old Bearded Dragon. Feel free to mutter-on about the horrid band conditions, the barbaric Perth Amboy QSO Party contesters and truculent Gossip Net controllers, your Stepford neighbors and your preposterous antenna. To pets, it's much like listening to director's commentary while watching the grand DVD that is Life. Pets don't follow you word for word, but be assured your muttering has a certain pleasant sonic periodicity, in the manner of buzzing flies on a summer afternoon.
Perhaps the most compelling aspect of pets in the ham shack is your right to a Mini-You, derived from amateur radio's Implied Powers broadly suggested by Title III of the 1934 Communications Act. Given proper standards of humane treatment amateurs may kit-out their pets with radio paraphenalia for entertainment and educational purposes, such that said pets may resemble smaller versions of said licensees, usually to great comic effect.
The appeal of approriately-appointed mascots is hard to underestimate. We seem to recall a 1950s syndicated TV show starring Buster Crabbe, his son Cullen and Fuzzy Knight -- the incomparable, long-running series Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion -- in which the kid wore a Legionnaire's uniform just like dad's, and, we think, the real kicker was the kid's pet monkey, wearing its own little Legionnaire's hat and jacket. Damn! Was that cool cubed or what? Our dad was only a sports editor, we lived in New Jersey instead of Morocco, and not so much as a kitten was allowed in our apartment, never mind a Legionnaire's pony or a monkey in scrambled eggs.
We know, that's no excuse. Like most ham pet-fanciers, we could have taken a few snaps of Rover at the radio desk-- and we did -- and let it go at that. But no. We took a silly likeness to an extreme, such that our understudy now takes great pleasure whistling and singing in his very best Hank Williamsian manner, just within earshot, the familiar refrain of move it on over...and that's the name of that tune.
Dear Max is a Silent Key, yet his hapless spirit and a little something of his hirsute visage sustain Dash! The Dog-Faced Ham. In all honesty, he pretty much just pawed at bugs, maxing out around 30 WoofsPM.
Whenever DXing alfresco, Geoff AE4RVrelies on his fancy fishies in their Pool of a Thousand Serenities to help maintain his perfect state of equipoise -- and that, Grasshopper, is nothing to carp about.
Inside, Otis holds down keyboards while Lulu shows off her unorthodox CW technique during a 20 meter sked with "Stubby," a UK OP located on the Isle of Man.
Storm strikes a pose not unlike our own when we find ourselves in the company of our cherry five year old HT and its pristine manual. Call us retrograde, but keypad menu-based controls make us want to stretch out on the rug and dream about chasing squirrels, chewing furniture, anything but figuring out how to make this admittedly neat but ultimately sleep-inducing device do more than hiss.