Watching the summer Olympics has brought to mind a few of my own suggestions for a Pet Olympic Games.
While the list is by no means exhaustive, I think many owners might recognize the hidden potential of their own promising Pet Olympians in training.
ICE CUBE FISHING: Object: to reach into a glass containing ice and remove one ice cube without spilling the drink or being swatted by the owner of the drink. Escaping after the fact is acceptable and often required. Difficulty factor increases considerably with the number of humans in the room and the type of glass.
BED-MAKING: Object: to make one's bed and then sleep in it. Points are awarded for creativity, resourcefulness, difficulty level and technique. Beds created out of unusual materials are scored highest, but they must appear extremely comfortable to qualify. Pretending to sleep, but not actually sleeping in the bed, earns major deductions.
BED-MAKING INTERFERENCE: Object: to thwart another player from completing their bed-making. Bedmaking interference may be played with humans, a particularly challenging variation of the sport. Competitors taking a "lump-in-the-bed" approach are disqualified, as having the bed made around the participant is not in the true spirit of the sport.
STAIRWAY SLALOM: Object: to make it to the bottom of the stairs first, and intact, while weaving through the legs of the person descending at the same time. Difficulty levels of this sport can be extremely challenging, variations of which involve people carrying baskets of laundry, people in an extreme hurry, people talking on the phone or more than one person descending at a time. This sport may be played in teams of two or more. Points are deducted for actually tripping someone; however, points are earned for each expletive uttered by the people involved in the game.
WINDOW SURVEILLANCE: Object: to gaze fixedly out the window for as long as possible without leaving the position. With many hobbyist participants in households worldwide, the Olympic version of this very popular, beloved sport is an intense, focused, all day stare out the window. Sleeping at any time during this game disqualifies the participant. Yawning and stretching are permitted, as are muttering to oneself in undertones. Overt meowing, caterwauling or barking earns deductions.
BANISTER BALANCE BEAM: Object: to walk, sit or stand on the highest, most dangerous banister available without a humiliating or injurious fall. Falls are acceptable if the participant executes them well, landing on all four feet, or appearing as if he "meant to do that." Points are deducted for looking surprised at any time in the competition. As with human balance beam competitions, points also are deducted for stumbles, bobbles or balance checks, but the difficulty of the routine does factor into the overall score. Appearing smugly self-satisfied earns extra points.
MARATHON BARKING: Object: to bark incessantly for hours at a time. Two divisions exist in this sport: the low-level all-day barkers and the enthusiastic alarmists. Both achieve the same results, being that nobody pays them any mind when real danger looms, but via very different techniques. Judges look for stamina, passion and doggedness. While there are many backyard barkers out there, only the truly elite can be considered for the Olympic level of this sport.
SPEED EATING: Object: to eat as much food as one can as quickly as possible. The playing field may be one's own allotment of food, or a neighbor's, or the slice of meatloaf that fortuitously fell to the floor. As it is a timed competition, technique holds little importance. Chewing is not necessary, but swallowing is a must. Fighting between competitors is strictly prohibited, but is very common and often fierce.
HURLING: Object: to regurgitate at will, in an impressive and expressive way. Creative locations, attention-grabbing performances involving body motions and dramatic guttural noises, the colorfulness of the end product, and offensiveness of the effluvia are all figured into the scoring. This sport often is combined with speed eating.
KEYBOARD SURFING: Object: to compress as many keys on the computer keyboard at once while avoiding the wrath of humans. Any body part or combination thereof may be used. Competitors are permitted, but not required to leave sweaty paw prints wherever possible, and achieve bonus points for each individual hair left on the playing field.
LONG DISTANCE BEGGING AND MARATHON BEGGING: Object: competitors vie for food spoils from the table, kitchen, or any other source. Looking pathetic or cute are often great strengths in this sport, as is persistence. Size, age, strength and speed have no bearing on the outcome, which means it is anybody's game.
INDOOR LONG JUMP: Object: to jump from tabletop to couch to tabletop without touching the floor or falling. Sweeping objects off the furniture earns bonus points - the highest scores being earned for leaving long gouges in tabletops. Technique is not important, but points are deducted if a landing goes badly and the competitor looks anything but nonchalant.
INDOOR HIGH JUMP: Object: to be king of the mountain without toppling off ignominiously. The top of the refrigerator, kitchen cabinets or bookshelves are fan favorites, however, stacks of pillows present an interesting challenge, too. Points are earned for overall height, but also the difficulty of the jump. Dismounts are important, and sticking the landing loudly is a requirement. Points are deducted for any objects toppled or broken in this competition. It is a game of stealth, skill and strength. Objects broken by humans trying to extract the high jumper from his perch are not considered in the scoring, however, being removed from the perch by the human disqualifies the participant from the game.
NO-RULES WRESTLING: Object: to push one's opponent out of the "zone of desirability" without causing or becoming injured. This is a rough sport, in which there are no holds barred. Biting, scratching, face-raking, fish-hooking, strangle-holds and other dirty tactics are all permitted. All age, species, and male-female combinations also are permitted, although this is never a team sport. The "zone of desirability" may be an agreed-upon spot on the couch, bed, or human's lap, the front row at the feeding station or seat in the kitchen nearest the person cutting up a rotisserie chicken. Cheap shots leading to injuries or requiring a human referee disqualify both participants, who are generally given a time-out in separate penalty boxes.
TENNIS BALL STRIPPING (related sports are FRISBEE DEMOLITION, BASEBALL-SOFTBALL UNFURLING): Object: to remove the covering from a tennis ball or baseball, or reduce a Frisbee to 1 cm size or smaller crumbs in as little time as possible. Completeness is vital. Ingesting pieces of the objects is frowned upon, as these may cause serious injury, and that is why only serious, professional ball strippers-Frisbee demolishers should participate in this sport.
BOX CRAMMING: Object: to cram one's entire body into or onto a given box and outlast all others. The last competitor with his posterior touching the box is the winner. These grueling competitions may go on for days, or even weeks, thus requiring athletes to possess qualities of persistence, patience and incredible stamina.
PAIRS NAPPING, MARATHON NAPPING and TEAM NAPPING: Object: napping long and hard. Humans are encouraged to participate, and this happens to be my favorite, as I'm captain of one of the fiercest competitive napping teams in existence, thanks to our cats Wyatt and Virgil, and our dogs Miriam and Walter. In this sport, everybody's a winner.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to training - my teammates have all started without me.
Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport Veterinary Hospital.