“The Youth in Asia” Summary
Sedaris’s parents adopt their first pets in the early 1960s. The two collies, Rastus and Duchess, subsequently give birth to a litter of puppies, one of whom looks as though he is dead and is miraculously revived by Sedaris’s mother, who incubates the puppy in the family’s oven. When the family moves to North Carolina, the puppies are sold, Rastus runs away, and Duchess eventually dies of old age. These are just the first of many pets for the Sedaris family.
One day, Sedaris’s father brings home a German shepherd puppy they call Mädchen, but she is tragically hit by a car when she is six months old. A very short time later, their father brings home another German shepherd, whom they name Mädchen II. The family begins to lose interest in Mädchen II after she ceases to be a puppy, but their father is still fond of asking, “How many dogs can say they live in a redwood house?” in reference to the A-frame doghouse he built for her.
During this time, the family also owns a series of cats, who all bond with Sedaris’s mother. When their fourth cat develops leukemia and has to be put to sleep, their mother is devastated and refuses to get a new kitten, saying, “My cat days are over.” When Mädchen II becomes ill and also has to be put to sleep, their father is very upset, sadly asking the rest of the family how many dogs could say they’d lived in a redwood house.
One year later, with all but one child having moved out of the house, Sedaris’s parents adopt a Great Dane named Melina, whom they adore more than both their previous pets and, Sedaris jokes, their own children. The dog is given the run of the house, and her bad behavior is not only tolerated, but admired. Melina the Great Dane winds up being one of the few truly shared loves of both Sedaris’s mother and father. His father walks the enormous dog while carrying a shovel (for the droppings), enjoying the attention and comments from passersby in the park.
Around this time, Sedaris acquires his own pet, a cat named Neil. Sedaris and Neil develop an amicable relationship for many years; however, Neil becomes sickly in her old age and develops kidney problems. Sedaris thinks his vet is joking when he suggests putting Neil on dialysis. Unable to afford such a expensive procedure for an already elderly cat, Sedaris seeks a second opinion from another vet, who recommends euthanasia.
Sedaris pauses at “euthanasia,” a word he hasn’t heard since childhood. He recalls a scene from Fatty and Skinny , a Japanese movie featuring a chubby young boy who attempts to prove himself to his skinnier friend by climbing up a flagpole. When the boy claims climbing is “too hard,” his skinny...
(The entire section is 732 words.)