Hello fatso. You know, we all need a little love in our lives; that's why it's always nice to have a furry little friend about the house. A cat or a dog - something to stroke and pet and make a fuss of. Even a hamster, or gerbil, or rat, or tortoise.
Yeah, why not a tortoise? I guess even reptiles need love. Hell, you might even collect stick insects. Okay, it's unusual but then who am I to judge, weirdo?
Come to think of it, I knew a bloke who lived his whole life with just a tin of tuna to keep him company. Do you know something, that tuna was his only friend, right up until the end. When he finally passed away it kept a vigil at his graveside, pining for its owner. For all I know, it's still there. Well, that's no kind of life for a tinned fish, is it?
The cat's fallen off a stepladder
The point is, whatever you choose to share your life with - be it Pomeranian or parakeet, Siamese or salmon - sooner or later, they all get sick. We've all experienced the distress of coming home from work to find that the dog is coughing up its lungs in the living room, the cat's fallen off a stepladder, or the goldfish has been done over by a gang of vicious guppies who've left him with nothing but an empty wallet, a pair of black eyes and a dislocated pectoral fin.
And what do you do when you find that your parrot's got jet lag, or the tortoise needs re-tiling, or your freaky little stick insect thing has become all knobbly? Well you phone a vet, don't you? Course you do, and so along he comes, dribbles a lot of complicated medical stuff, probably in Latin, tells you not to worry and then charges you a small fortune. Sorted.
Except that you're considerably out of pocket.
But then, you're calling upon the skill and expertise of a qualified professional, so it's only fair that he should charge a barrel full of cash for his services, right?
All that James Herriot stuff
Ask yourself, just what kind of qualifications do you need to be a vet? Go on, do it - ask yourself right now. Out loud...
...Done it? Right, well I'll tell you - fiddly squat, that's what. Oh, you might have been led to believe that they spend six years studying at veterinary college, then another decade on probation under the watchful eye of a senior surgeon, but all that James Herriot stuff is what they spout for the benefit of the punters.
In point of fact, all you need in order to set yourself up in your own little veterinary practice is a certificate from ILVSAOF - that's the International League of Veterinary Surgeons, Abattoir Workers and Furriers, in case you were wondering.
And all you need to do to get the certificate is attend a day release course at a farm in East Anglia.
You dissect a pork pie
How do I know this? Because my brother-in-law went, that's how. You do three hours in the morning, you get an hour for lunch, then you do another four hours in the afternoon. It's easy. They show you a few pictures of cats, you dissect a pork pie, then you spend the rest of the day playing 'who can get their arm the furthest up a cow's arse?'
My brother-in-law won.
At the end of the day they gave him a badge and a pair of pliers, and told him he was a qualified vet.
He set up on his own shortly after that, but he didn't have a clue what he was doing. When he was younger he had served his apprenticeship as a welder, and so - seeing as how old habits die hard - he ended up welding budgies. Made a few quid out of it as well, until the RSPCA closed him down.
Happy days. Still, it just goes to show - your trusted professionals aren't always as professional as they might seem. And if they're anything like my brother-in-law, then they're certainly not to be trusted.
Sticky the stick insect has got the shits
So where does that leave you when Fido's come over all feverish, Tiddles has got a dislocated lung or Sticky the stick insect has got the shits? Well cheer up fat head, all is not lost. The answer is blindingly simple - do it yourself.
Now I know what you're thinking - you couldn't possibly start fiddling about with your precious pet. Quite right too. You can't leap straight in and give the Airedale a heart transplant just like that - not without studying a few diagrams first. That would be the behaviour of a right twat, as we say in the business. But with practice and a little patience, you will soon be competent in all aspects of pet maintenance.
Trust me, it's not difficult at all once you've got the hang of it. I first got into pet repair when I was just nine. We had a Yorkshire terrier named Sparky. Lively little thing it was, always running about, yapping excitedly, scratching away in the garden looking for bones and stuff.
Well, being quite mechanically minded I was always rather curious about how it worked, and so one day, when I was in the house on my own with nothing better to do, I decided to take it apart. After twenty minutes with a screwdriver and an adjustable spanner, and following a couple of good belts with a hammer, I soon had old Sparky in pieces.
Well, I won't lie to you, I made a right old mess of it. There were bits of dog everywhere. I thought I was being extra careful, making a mental note of where all the pieces went as I took it apart, but when I came to reassemble it I'm afraid I made rather a hash of it. You know what it's like: you end up with a leg where the tail should be, or you put the spleen in upside down, or the head doesn't quite swivel the way it ought to. And no matter how hard you try, you always have bits left over.
He always looked nervous when he saw me with my toolbox
Still, you've got to start somewhere. It was a learning experience for me - for Sparky as well, in fact, and from that day on he always looked nervous when he saw me with my toolbox.
The important thing is not to be frightened of getting in there and having a good rummage about. Yes, you're going to make mistakes, but it's the only way to learn. I was a little hesitant after my first experience of canine upkeep, but over the next few years I got more confident, and was able to undo some of the damage I had inflicted on my first botched attempt.
In time, as I became steadily more proficient, word of my skills began to spread and it wasn't long before the kids in our neighbourhood were bringing along their own pets for me to mend. It started slowly at first - so-and-so's pet guinea pig isn't eating its food; could I take a look at it? Thingy's goldfish keeps sinking; could I mend the puncture? Little Jimmy's millipede has got a broken leg... that kind of thing.
Soon, however, it got to be quite regular, and pets were arriving from far and wide. It was all pretty mundane stuff, the kind of thing people could do quite easily themselves if they put their mind to it, and to be honest it got a little boring.
Mother Nature doesn't always know best
You see, at this point, I had kind of moved on. In my continued tinkerings with Sparky, adjusting this, modifying that, I had not merely kept him in serviceable order - I had improved upon the original design. Something of a grand claim, I know, but then contrary to popular belief, Mother Nature doesn't always know best.
For instance, by removing over sixty feet of excess artery, I significantly streamlined Sparky's cardiovascular system. And the installation of shock absorbers on his hind legs reduced wear on his hips by about forty percent.
I also stuck a rocket motor up his arse, which could be activated by a simple wag of the tail. Because of the enormous fuel consumption it would only burn for a few brief seconds, but that was enough to give Sparky a real burst of speed whenever he called for it. On his first test flight he scared the living shit out of the postman.
I don't think the poor man was quite ready for the sight of a ragged old Yorkshire terrier, held together with fishing line and gaffer tape, rocketing up the garden path towards him on a plume of flame.
I was called upon to fit an outboard motor to a prize racing duck
Inevitably, the kids in our neighbourhood wanted their pets customising in the same way. I was asked equip snakes with castors, poodles with spoilers, and on one occasion I was even called upon to fit an outboard motor to a prize racing duck.
I seem to remember doing a lot of parrot work, re-sprays mostly. People were never really happy with the colour schemes, especially if they'd just redecorated and found that the bird clashed with the new wallpaper.
However, my proudest achievement was putting a global positioning system in a pig. It was later sold to a local butcher and turned into homing sausages.
I'll be truthful and admit that things didn't always go without a hitch. I turned the shed into my own little pet surgery, and I usually had two or three animals on the go at the same time. It wasn't unusual to walk in there of a morning and find an Alsatian up on ramps, a couple of hamsters in a vice and a parrot hanging up to dry.
Considering how busy I was it was inevitable that confusions would arise. And so cats that came to me suffering from fur balls would go away with gills, or some poor kid would come to collect his ferret only to find that I'd accidentally bolted a lizard's head on by mistake. This is why it's vitally important to label everything properly and keep the bits separate.
I started to adapt the animals in more imaginative ways
Of course, when I say 'accidentally', this wasn't always the case. I got bored fixing the same old problems and making the same old predictable alterations, and so to keep myself amused I started to adapt the animals in rather more imaginative ways - grafting genitalia onto their heads, replacing the legs with caterpillar tracks, fitting periscopes and that kind of thing.
My favourite trick was to re-route the poor creature's digestive system so that it looped back on itself, causing an inevitable build-up to occur. Oh sure, Flopsy the bunny would seem perfectly alright when I returned him to his grateful owner. But then, a couple of days later it would begin to show signs of stomach cramps. Then the fever would set in. Gradually it would become worse until, finally ... Oh, can't you just taste the suspense!
You see, you never knew just when it was going to blow. One minute Flopsy would be sitting there quietly munching a carrot. The next - BANG! - up goes bunny in a shower of shit.
I was shunned by all and sundry
That's when things started to get ugly. I began to get myself something of a reputation. The animals stopped coming in and I was shunned by all and sundry.
Parents told their kids to keep well away from me. According to them, I was evil, twisted, strange. People would whisper and point at me in the street. "There he goes," I would hear them hiss. "The monster maker. It's not decent. It's not natural..."
Natural? Ha! Listen spotty, I'll tell you what's natural: swinging about the trees, stark-bollock-naked, flinging your shit at passers-by - that's what's natural. But you don't often see any of these squeaky-clean do-gooder types baring their arses to the birds, do you? Course not - the hypocrites are all sat at home, munching on their natural microwaved ready-meals and watching their natural TVs. And quite right too, because nature leaves a lot to be desired.
I'm done with decoking badgers
That is why my work must continue. Oh, I'm done with decoking badgers and rewiring squirrels. All that stuff belongs to the recklessness of youth. These days I'm genuinely trying to improve the fauna of our planet, correcting the mistakes that natural selection has failed to address.
Giraffes, for instance - they've got those long necks to help them reach the leaves of tall trees, but they're prone to snap in high winds. Me, I'd give them proper knees so they can climb ladders. And bats - what's all that business with the sonar about? Apparently, it's so they can 'see' in the dark, but why not just fit them with headlights? And as for koalas, what are they for? I mean, what do they actually do, apart from swing around all day munching on leaves. We'd be better off without them...bastards.
Is it wrong to want to produce an animal that can fulfil its potential? No, I don't think it is. That's why for my first major undertaking I attempted to build a racehorse that could ride a motorbike. I entered it in the Grand National, but the stupid bugger kept falling off.
Damn and blast it and back to the drawing board. With my next project I was a little more successful. I crossed a baseball cap with a chameleon and came up with a hat that could blend in with the head of the wearer. Initial sales have been quite promising.
Less successful has been my attempt to cross a Chihuahua with a Doberman, to produce a dog that can crap three times its own bodyweight.
Over the past few years this work has earned me a degree of notoriety, in addition to the unwelcome interest of several animal rights groups. But these people simply don't understand. With stupefying predictability, I have been tarnished with the appellation 'Dr Frankenstein' by an unimaginative press, and the significant advances I have made have been completely overlooked.
That was why I felt the time had come to embark upon a venture that no one could ignore. I would construct a giant monkey! Oh yes, with a giant monkey, I could rule the world!
It took me many, many weeks of hard work, toiling long into the night with hammers, soldering irons, hacksaws and tongs. And when he was finished he was magnificent - twenty feet high, when he wasn't slouching. A marvellous specimen of monkey kind!
I thought at last that I had achieved my ultimate goal. And where is he now? I'll tell you - he collects shopping trolleys at the local Asda. Fantastic! All that potential just wasted. I've argued with him, pleaded with him, desperately tried to make him see that he's throwing his life away, but he just won't listen. He says its because he's happier doing that. As if! How can a twenty-foot monkey be happy collecting shopping trolleys? Exactly.
My big mistake
Trouble was, the monkey had a mind of its own. That was my big mistake - and my last mistake. I'm done with adapting existing animals to my own ends - botched jobs on other people's work, that's all it is.
No, I'm better than that - I'm an artist, a creator. My next project will be a totally original design.
I've drawn up the plans already: the powerful back legs of a hare, the vicious razor-sharp talons of an eagle, the sweeping graceful frame of a gazelle, the sly calculating brain of a fox and the head of a potato.
And when I finally breathe life into my creation, then the world will truly understand my vision. I shall make them understand, for I shall create a whole army of potato-headed creatures, each one subservient to my will. Oh yes, you ain't seen nothing yet, mate.