Some people should not own pets, and I am one of them.
It’s not that I have anything against animals. Far from it. I consider myself an animal lover and I wouldn’t want any poor dog or cat or bird to be stuck with the likes of me. They deserve better.
I think about the TV ad that refers to “pet parents.” As stupid as that sounds (I guarantee that no son or daughter of mine will ever be a pomeranian or a chocolate point Siamese), I do understand what they’re saying. To be an effective pet owner, you have to love your charge as you would your child. This means going beyond the basics of providing food, clothing and shelter (although I’m not quite sure what type of clothing a pet is expected to wear). It means walking your dog even when you’re too tired and cleaning the cat box even when it stinks like the pit of hell. In the case of dogs, at least, it means teaching at least a modicum of discipline. I don’t think discipline exists in the cat world.
I have come to realize that I am not willing to do these things on a regular basis. I am just too lazy. When I was ten years old, my sisters and I allowed a poor hamster to die of neglect. I’m pretty sure the same fate awaits any quadruped that should happen to be unlucky enough to take up residence in my household.
My mother was a cat person, so we always had a cat when I was growing up. Actually, we had a long line of felines, each of which seemed to come to a bad end. Some ran away (I don’t blame them), some were run over by cars, and others were summarily fired.
Yes, fired. When the decision was made that the pet of the moment was acting inappropriately, it would simply be asked to leave. We even had a euphemism for this. The cat would be “taken for a ride” (and tossed out in unfamiliar territory). Today people are fined for animal abandonment, but back then it didn’t seem like a big deal. Particularly when the cat had just scratched a child’s eye or bitten someone.
My parents never took any of our cats to the vet. They simply had no intention of spending that kind of money on a nonhuman. Mom did her best to care of them when they were sick or injured, and often they did recover. She would make a bed for them out of a shoebox in the corner of the living room or apply boric acid to a runny eye. Home remedies were the rule.
In our house, respect for the cat was largely split down gender lines. My mother and sisters played with and cared for the cat, while my father and I did our best to ignore what he referred to as “the filthy beast” along with other, more colorful monikers.
As for those of our cats who finally gave up the ghost and padded off to kitty heaven, their corporeal remains would be consigned to the earth of our back yard. It seemed like they could never wait til summer to go to that big cat box in the sky. It would usually be the dead of winter when, beneath the snow drifts, the earth would be harder than rocks. My father would hack away at it with a spade and offer a few choice words that were decidedly not in the vein of prayer.
You can see that I nurtured a poor attitude toward four-legged companions from an early age. Pets and I are simply better off without each other. So, of course, my wife has mentioned on several occasions that she would really like a dog. (Cats, she tells me, are evil.)
I don’t claim to understand dogs. Having never lived with one, I believe I lack the requisite canine sensibility. As a kid, I was afraid of them, particularly the neighbor’s German shepherd. Its bark could be heard three blocks away and it liked to chase cats and kids and growl a lot. I wouldn’t go near it for fear of being bitten.
Still, I love visiting my nephew’s huge, white Labrador. For such a big dog, Mia is so friendly and gentle. But I wouldn’t want to have her live in my house. And I definitely wouldn’t have my sister-in-law’s Chihuahua, who likes to jump up on the couch, walk back and forth over my lap and beg for whatever food I happen to be eating, even tortillas dipped in thousand island dressing.
Fear not, pet lovers. We are definitely not obtaining a dog. You see, my wife wants one, but she wants me to clean up its poop. I can’t say I blame her. I don’t want to pick up the doggy doo any more than she does. Now, I know my wife couldn’t do doody duty even if she wanted to. The smell alone would make her gag. I, on the other hand, could take charge of the canine waste products, but I simply won’t. Perhaps I would feel differently about being a “pet parent” if I had been a “people parent” who had to change dirty diapers.
My father used to say that the ideal pet would be one that didn’t eat and didn’t shit. I won’t go quite that far, however. I would definitely consider a pet that is toilet trained.
Please flush, Rover.