Groundhogging the Limelight

In the aftermath following Groundhog Day in North America, the Federation of Used Rodents is once again renewing their call for a ban on the annual event.

“I-i-it's barbaric,” said one groundhog, who requested anonymity before agreeing to be interviewed from his Manitoba burrow. “It's got to stop.”

Groundhog Day, for those of you unfamiliar with the concept, has been a North American tradition for many decades. Every year on February 2, officials take a groundhog out of its hole and ask it to find its shadow. If it sees one, the prediction is that there will be six more weeks of winter. If it doesn't, spring is just around the corner.

“Pugs,” as we'll call him, says that people don't realize the tremendous pressure that Groundhog Day puts on him and his fellow critters. “Oh, sure, it looks good on TV,” he said, nervously lighting up yet another in a chain of carrots, “warm burrow, care and feeding and so on. But only a select few get that sort of treatment.

“Then one day, the poor guy is poked awake, dragged into the daylight, and held aloft in front of dozens, perhaps hundreds of onlookers and as many TV cameras. Then they expect him to make a prediction,” Pugs says, looking disgusted. “Without even so much as a lousy cup of coffee! What sort of accuracy do you think you'd have if we dragged you out of your bed, naked, into the cold February air? Wouldn't your first instinct be to bite the emcee's nose off?”

Pugs goes on to say it's a lose-lose situation for them after that. “So your rodent says 'six more weeks of winter' and everyone hates the rest of our little groundhog guts. But if he says 'spring is coming' and it doesn't show up, everyone hates us even more! And I mean,” he said, finally breaking down and allowing the tears to stream down his furry face, “it's February! What do you think the weather is going to be like for the next six weeks? It's just so unfair!”

Federation representatives claim that post-Groundhog-Day harassment of its members is so strong and widespread that they're forced to go underground.

Chip DeBeak says she can sympathize with the groundhog's plight. “For years we canaries were used as toxic gas detectors in mineshafts,” she said, speaking from her “They Tweet No More Scholarship Fund” offices. “At the time, we regarded it as a noble calling. You know, better than being stuck in some old lady's house until her cat Sylvester takes you out.

“But those were the bad old days. Now they've got electronic sensors that are far more sensitive, and of course, less allergenic,” Chip said. “In fact, that's what I'd advise the Federation to do: Don't make it about you — push the technology alternative.”

Wiggles, a cottontail rabbit now retired from the cosmetics testing industry, agrees. “We tried all sorts of approaches. We thought our best shot was a poster and magazine ad deal wherein we had a bunch of young bucks done up in full makeup — garish face paint, mascara, lipstick (which is really hard to do in a species that doesn't really have lips, I might add), eyeliner, the works. We thought if we made it look ridiculous… unfortunately all that did was inspire a bunch of guys to put some rock band together called KISS. We didn't catch our break until we pointed out that cloned human skin would give better test data.”

Indeed, technology seems to the message of more recent Federation campaigns, although they admit they have a lot to learn about public relations. Last year's “How About Asking the Darn Weather Satellite Instead?!” campaign was a complete flop.

“We could do better. We'll have to rethink our strategy,” Pugs said, taking a long, slow, ragged pull on a carrot. “But not until the spring, and people forget. Until next year.”

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