Here at the palatial West Philly estate, there has been much recent discussion on the subject of PETS. Specifically, whether or not our soon-to-be 8 year old can have a new hamster for her upcoming birthday. As you can see from the photo, her dearly departed Hammie was the cutest cuddliest lil puffball on the face of the planet. HARD TO TOP. But I am game to try. My husband, however, is slightly less inclined. Mostly he doesn’t want to deal with 2 screaming daughters fighting over who gets to hold the new hamster, who gets to play with the new hamster, but never of course the ever-important WHO GETS TO FEED/WATER/AND CLEAN THE CAGE of the new hamster. And yet, he’ll give in. And I’ll clean the cage. Who are we kidding?
As a child I had a LOT of pets, and would regularly take in new ones. Like when my perverted 6th grade teacher had us raise mice, then told us he was going to feed them to his pet snake. The 2 mice I brought home quickly reproduced into 100, and my mommy soon shipped them all off to the Great Pet Store in the Sky (really the pet store down the street, but you know they got fed to the whole department of exotics, so what’s the difference.) BUT I was not thwarted. My parents, the big-hearted mushballs, would inevitably give in to my begging on the condition that I first learn all there was about whatever animal I wanted before bringing it home. I therefore spent many hours glued to HAMSTERS or GERBILS or RABBITS or [insert name]. I must have read every “How To” pet book in our library. I just couldn’t get enough. And Now as a grown-up, I am still the same way. Reading pet books geared towards 9 yr olds and adopting every stray that steps on my path. I’ve even managed to marry a man who works at a vet school, who constantly forwards me emails about Free horses and puppies and MORE. And whether nature or nurture, or more likely both, we have passed this fascination onto our equally animal-obsessed offspring. B/c in this house, we simply live and breathe pets.
When you take an animal into your home, it typically isn’t too long before they make themselves an inextricable part of the family. Even if they are snarly and/or slovenly, as in the case of our former 3rd hand macaw. Somehow these captivating creatures work their way into your heart and they become a part of you. I know there are people out there who hate animals, those sick bastards, but being on the opposite end of extremes, I just cannot imagine my life without them. I spend the bulk of each day with a crazy ass bird perched on my shoulder, I cannot get her off. And yet, I adore her. We talk, and smooch, and preen each other like a couple of loons. We live with a dog so large people refer to him as livestock, and yet I refer to him as my 3rd child. YES, having such close physical presence of shedding, squawking, smelly animals DOES WEAR THIN AT TIMES, but more often than not it simply soothes my soul. A steady loving constant in an otherwise chaotic world.
And just because a pet dies, doesn’t mean they leave you. Not really. My husband plans on taxidermy-ing our dog when he passes. But I don’t really mean THAT, more like As any close friend, the times you’ve shared remain in your heart. If you ever need reminding of this, read Dog Heaven. AND for Heaven’s sake, bring tissues.
This is my old cat Sammy. YES he does looked thrilled, doesn’t he? What a patient soul. He lived to the ripe old age of 18, and up until the end people never could believe just how ancient he was. He was just SO PERKY. Sammy had been a stray with the unfortunate luck of being hit by a car and brought to a local vet for mending. His car accident had left his one lip hanging perpetually open, displaying a whole lotta gum and an enormous protruding fang. People always found his appearance comical at first, but his winning personality won him a legion of adoring fans. One of the funniest stories about Sammy revolves around his relationship with my other cat at the time, Nectar. Although Sammy was a neutered male and Nectar a spayed female, Sammy was always trying unsuccessfully to GET IT ON. YES I told you he was one perky cat. As you can imagine, Nectar was NOT APPRECIATIVE of these untoward advances. They were pals, sure, but enough was enough. Soon I was calling the vet to see what I could do about the weird little situation, growing uglier by the day. Before bringing Sammy in, he advised me to check and make sure Sammy was indeed neutered. This would be accomplished by AND I QUOTE: “Squeezing them.” Yep. I am no fading violet, but the idea of having to give my cat’s empty nutsack a tweeking really didn’t appeal to me. at all.
But ask any pet owner and you will hear a million such bizarro stories, all done strictly for the love of a pet. People do not treat other human beings this good. And it’s a sin. But it’s the truth. Like the recent weeks I spent syringe-feeding our rabbit Prudence. Or the THOUSANDS we spent saving our dog last New Years after we discovered he’d swallowed a golf ball. Which of course we proudly display since it’s worth far more than most of what we own.
My husband and I were talking yesterday – and for the life of me I cannot remember exactly how we got onto this topic – but we started talking about what we would do if we were starving. He said that I would do whatever it took to eat, which I believe to be true to a certain extent. But I told him that in no uncertain terms would I ever kill and eat our dog. Now I know this whole thing must sound odd, in oh so many ways, but it just brings home my point. If I were literally dying from lack of food, there are things I just could not bring myself to do. I could not cannibalize my own family – including my pets. Though I did not give birth to them, I’ve raised them very much like my own children. In the case of our dog, from age 7 weeks to now 7 years. When we he was a tiny puppy, we lived in a 2nd floor apartment. Our older daughter was then only a year old, and while housebreaking I used to have to carry both of them upstairs/downstairs simultaneously, one in each arm. It was truly a PAIN IN THE ASS, but I did it. Why? B/c of love, pure and simple.