Friday, April 6, 2012

What we owe our furred and feathered friends

Today's Dear Abby upset me. A lady wrote in about her chihuahua because she can't decide if she should put him to sleep, or have him move to another state with her. Her reasoning was that he was old and she was worried that the change from Florida to New York would be too much for him. My first response was, "Dude, buy the dog a damn sweater and be done with it!" A few minutes later, I was thinking about how guilty she'd feel if the dog died in New York after only a few months of winter, but then I thought that she'd feel even guiltier if she were to put him to sleep now and then think about how much she missed him later.

The thing about animals is, that we're all they've got. We have jobs and hobbies and families and friends that take us out of the house every day, and while we're gone, our pets sit and wait for us to come home. When we do, they are excited, but I think a lot of people misinterperet their response to our homecoming. My guinea pigs would wheek for lettuce or a treat of some sort, my cat wants me to turn on the bathroom sink for him to drink, my bird wants me to chirp at him (he kisses, I kiss, etc. for several's cute...), my brother's dog will grab one of your shoes and greet you with it (she never greets you empty-mouthed), and my grandparent's dog used to demand pets and loves, just like my old cat used to do. I think a lot of people think that pets do these things because they're treating us like their meal tickets or personal ear massage slaves, but the truth is that we've been gone for a long time, or you know, however long it takes to get the mail downstairs, but we've been gone. Your pet wants affirmation that you still love him. He wants those scratches, those kisses, that faucet turned on, because it shows him that you were not gone because he was a bad boy, but because you just had to go out for a while. You're good with each other, bro. Really.

It's really easy, when you're out until midnight with your bestie, watching the premier of the movie that you've been looking forward to for ages, to forget that your pet doesn't have that. Your pet is confined to the house and the garden/balcony/whatever outside place you have, and they have no friends of their own species to hang out with. When you leave, your cat is not going to go hit up the kitty across the way and have a cup of tea while discussing the current financial crisis. No, he goes and lays on your pajamas because they smell like you, and you are his god.

And someone is thinking of repaying this loyalty by putting him to sleep?

I put my last cat to sleep because of health problems. Her kidneys were failing, and there was nothing I could do, but I still wonder if there was something I could have done differently. Both of my guinea pigs died after long lives and plenty of love, and I still wonder if I could have done more for them.

Thank goodness that little hateful bird is still going strong. (I love you, Rain. You know it.)

Animals give us so much and they ask for so little in return. So what if your piggy wants a carrot every time you open the refrigerator door? You know it's not good for him, but you also know that you can pluck off a sprig of mint or basil and that will make him happy. So what if your cat wants you to take five seconds to give his head a pat when you walk through the door? Yes, you are tired and probably had a really bad day at work, but so did he if you think about it.

Think about it. They aren't stuffed animals, they are real, living beings, and they deserve our respect and love and consideration. They aren't disposable. You will never have another Whiskers, Woodstock, Rain, Chekhov or Oskar again. Give them a chance.


  1. When I went to the rescue to choose our cats, the (lovely) people who greeted me asked me what colour cat I was interested in. I said I didn't really know, I was more keen on meeting some cats and seeing which ones liked me and seemed like they'd fit into our family. But apparently, colour is the primary thing most adopters look for when they're choosing their new cat. To the extent that black or black-and-white cats are cheaper to adopt than ginger or tabby cats.

    I was really baffled by this. It's like choosing your partner because they have the right coloured hair. And this isn't pet-shop-purchase people, either - this is nice people who are going to a rescue.

    Are we weird for thinking of our pets as individuals rather than accessories, do you think?

  2. When I went looking for a cat, I wanted a young female, preferably a kitten. I didn't care what color. I walked out with an older grey tomcat and eh, what the heck?

    In the end, I chose Chekhov for his personality, and I'm glad I did. I'm so glad Fran and Rihanna got you guys.

  3. It's probably very weird for you to receive a reply on something you wrote so long ago, but heck it, I've been reading your blog because I intend to follow it and to do so, I must have read everything you've written before (Well helloooo, OCD Dx)

    Anyway, I love this entry. This is something I try to make as many people as I can understand. We have the world, our pets only have us and to them WE are the world.
    I never really choose my doggie by the way, she was abused by our neighbours and eventually I stole her. We've been together ever since <3