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In Praise of the Unpainted Pet

by _tangerina_


Natasha has been saving her Neopoints for years - every day she does her "dailies", free daily activities to earn Neopoints. She restocks and prices her shop religiously and never forgets to "Collect Daily Interest". She is only allowed to spend half an hour a day playing games on Neopets, so she has become an expert at earning Neopoints quickly. Natasha also feeds and plays with her pets every day. She has a red Lupe, her first Neopet ever; a blue Bruce she chose at the pound; a yellow Grundo rescued from Dr. Sloth; and a green Kougra - by far her favorite pet. That is why she has set herself the goal of - no, not increasing her pet's intelligence, or making it stronger or healthier, but changing a fundamental characteristic: painting her Royal. The reaction of her three other pets when they found that Natasha planned to spend all her Neopoints on the Kougra was subtle but immediate. They became less affectionate with Natasha and began to resent their owner's favorite pet. Soon there grew a divide between Natasha, her Kougra, and her three other pets. The solution was obvious, but Natasha was reluctant to accept it - paint all or none of her pets. And Natasha could simply not afford four rare paint brushes. This article, then, is in praise of the unpainted pet: both those whose owners cannot afford to paint them, and the pets whose owners simply like the colors green, yellow, red, and blue.

The permanence of color change is irrevocable. Pets painted Christmas wear their winter coats throughout the Month of Swimming. Those pets that are Halloween must forever scare younger Neopets. And pets painted with a baby paint brush can never grow up. Is this a service we are doing to our beloved pets, this subjection to a particular theme that only comes once a year? Imagine never being able to take off a costume, or perpetually bearing the load of a bulky winter jacket. Perhaps color changing is not the bed of roses Neopians have been brainwashed to believe it is. In fact, just how many Neopians sit down with their pets before painting them and discuss the pitfalls of what their new color will be? A pet should have a say in such a total and permanent change.

In fact, the only way to undo a color change is to have another one. If an owner does not wish to subject his Christmas pet to heatstroke in the Month of Swimming, the only way is to re-paint the pet. And given the price of rare paint brushes these days, the repainting of pets with the seasons can cost upward of six million Neopoints a year. And all these Neopoints (except for those that were used on the most recent painting) are now wasted - nothing remains of what were once essential characteristics: a pet's icy glow; its chocolate sprinkles; its Halloween mask. Pets learn from their owners. The lesson they learn here? That frugality is worthless; Neopoints should be squandered mindlessly on the whims of their owner. This excessive display of wealth, this usage of a pet as a status symbol, is both inadvisable and vain.

But even more than the dilemma of what lesson pets learn from painting is the quandary of ensuring they are loved unconditionally. Those Neopians who have collected all nine pieces to the Secret Laboratory Map, more commonly known as the "Lab Ray", zap their pets, in most cases hoping for a color change. Then, once the pet has "changed colour to Maraquan", the Neopian moves on to zap another pet. Then comes the day when all four pets are painted. This puts the owner in a quandary: keep all four pets and waste the 500,000 Neopoints spent on the lab ray, or pound one of the pets? Some people, thinking they can escape this predicament, create "storage accounts", and re-adopt a painted pet on this new account. Sadly, though, these pets receive but a fraction of the attention that they used to - people simply do not use side accounts as much. That being said, then, virtually all owners choose to "look for a better home" for one of their pets. And they often do find one: demand is high for painted pets. But what of the Neopians who adopt these pets? Often their unpainted pets are kicked out to make room for adopting someone else's painted pet. These unpainted pets were loved for only so long as there were no "better" pets to be adopted. Love for Neopets should be unconditional and undying.

Now let us return to the Help Boards, where adoptions are often advertised with cries of "Pounding Painted Pet!" Responses vary little: "cute pet", "me please", "I'd love to adopt". But when someone is "Pounding Blue Tuskaninny", the board dies within moments of its creation. People simply do not want to adopt a basic-color pet that, for whatever reason, needs a new home and a caring owner. But if that Tuskaninny were painted Christmas, the board would soon be overflowing with Neopians begging to adopt. Painted pets have inherent personality traits - Maraquan pets love to swim, faerie pets love flying, et cetera. The challenge, then, is here for the owners of unpainted pets: take the time to get to know your pet. This is a more difficult task, since it is not immediately evident what unpainted pets enjoy doing. In this age of instant gratification, Neopians are anxious to immediately know all about their pets. But real friendship takes time; it is a process to be savored, not simply a list of facts about one's pet. And a more important challenge: love your pet. Even newbies love painted pets and wish they could one day have one. So, again, true Neopians have the more difficult task of loving and caring for a pet that at first glance seems common. Soon Neopians will find themselves discovering the inner unique qualities of the pet. True beauty is inner beauty; discover your pet's inner beauty. Praise the unpainted pet, for it is not only unique but also a testament to the greatness that can exist even without being covered in speckles.

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