My flatmate loves pugs. If you know her – which you probably don’t – then this is a gracious understatement. For Christmas I provided a set of ceramic pug salt and pepper mills for her twenty-first birthday.
I am also, as are all those surrounding her, compelled to send emergency photographs of these snorting monstrosities every time I spot one. I must confess that I don’t really get it. I know it’s some kind of animal sacrilege, but 'pug' does rhyme with ‘ug’ - as in ugly.
But it’s more than just pugs. If there’s one thing those in higher education are good at – bar sleeping, ordering Dominoes and guzzling red beer like the brewery’s about to close – it’s cooing and oohing and ahhing. Not specifically over each other. Over animals. Even the presumably-out-of-date governors and stuffy student’s union have recognised this, installing a petting zoo during exam season with actual puppies. Just like the Andrex puppy, I heard. Oh, the power of the puppy.
What I do get comes in the form of a YouTube search. Animal videos. Suddenly, I’m into them. It’s not even to pass the time – I have plenty on my wunderlist without needing a distraction, and I don’t need the cheering up. I just think they’re funny. Hours can be lost – embarrassingly – in a jungle of pug-running-up-the-stairs moving pictures and home movies of kittens getting into bed with great danes. Which, by the way, I can’t get enough of.
And clearly, I’m not the only one. Following my straw poll on the old ‘book, I counted more than fifteen recent links, gifs and otherwise adorable technologies displayed across friends’ profiles. We are a nation obsessed with more than just tea and the weather (and every which-way the weather can be embedded into conversation); we are pointedly and happily struck with adoration and respect for cuddly animals.
The Internet has planted a seed that creates FOMO (fear of missing out) if we haven’t, at one time or another, tweeted a cat gif (or jif, whatever). I haven’t actually, as it happens. Like I said, I’m a bit behind.
But I still don’t think I’m a dog person, despite this new interest. Yesterday a baby Pomeranian walked past me in the street and the cuteness nearly put me in the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. I felt ashamed, like I’d just committed myself to time in an institution for petty lust. And lust is all it is because I am not a dog owner, in theory or practise. I like dog walking if there's no excrement and cuddles if they’re fragrant, but I enjoy the let-me-go-outside whining even less than tripe.
An ode to four-legged cuteness wouldn’t be complete with a mention of Grumpy Cat. Now while she’s not strictly speaking ‘cute’ in a conventional sense, she has a certain allure. I like to think that about lots of people, give them the benefit of the doubt. I appreciate her angry little face because I’m sure I often resemble her. We’re on the same page, old GC and I.
So mostly this week I’ll be squeaking at the dachshund that lives on Ebury Street. I ought to just sign out here and now. But for some reason, on day three of our accidental lunch arrangements, I’m feeling a little less ashamed. After all, cuteness is a basic human right.
Eleanor Doughty is a second-year student at Queen Mary, University of London. Follow her on Twitter here. She probably won't follow you back.