Sunday, January 27, 2008

The nature of “pet lovers”

Funny how the phrase “pet lover” brings up such different reactions from people.

Once I was tagged with that moniker at work, people immediately equated me with someone who squeals over puppies and kittens (which I do), would consider buying couture outfits or special music CDs for my dog (which I wouldn’t) and is thrilled every time I see a bit of fluff on the television screen (which I’m not). Many of these folks see some of the, let’s say, colorful characters on TV who are “pet lovers” and conveniently plop me into the same one-size-fits-all Jello mold.

Only problem is that it isn’t true.

Yes, some pet lovers are, in fact, those eccentric folks who buy special bottled water and hire pet psychics to make sure all is well with Fido or Fluffy.

But the hoarder who keeps far more pets than they can handle, often in heartbreakingly horrid conditions, considers herself a pet lover. Talk to someone who fights pit bulls and they will go into great detail about how much they love their dogs. So will folks who have kept their dog on a chain in the backyard for the whole of his life. They will refer to that dog as “part of the family”.

Maybe the word “love” is the part of the equation that’s so abstract.

I believe that the word “love” should always, always be bound together with the word “respect”, especially when referring to companion animals. While I think it’s entirely possible to respect someone for whom you hold no love at all, I equally believe that no matter what you may choose to tell yourself, there is no love without respect. Infatuation, obsession, passion, adoration…maybe. But, absent respect, then it is a weak semblance of love, at best.

To be a true “pet lover” is to respect the essence of the animal you chose to include in your household. To know, long before they cross your threshold, that you owe them more than food, shelter, and the semi-annual rabies shot to keep them just-this-side of legal.

To be a pet lover is to understand that there are fundamental differences between you and your furry friend and, through no fault of their own, they find themselves told to live as a member of another world. A world where a lot of the rules we have don’t make sense to them. Where we ask them to sublimate some fundamental aspect of their character for their safety, or our convenience, while providing them with frequently inconsistent and ambiguous direction. And for all of our foibles, they try and do their best to comply.

In return, it’s the least (and I mean the very least) we can do to show them some respect for the awesome creatures they are. To take the time and effort to learn about their species, their habits and habitats, the ways in which they process information and the things that can make their world a better place to live. If we are asking a cat or dog (or any number of the other creatures we include in our lives) to adapt to an alien society, it is our duty as the “intelligent ones” to meet them part of the way. And if it isn’t, are we still pet lovers, or merely owners of domesticated animals?

I am a pet lover, but not in the way most people think. I love them enough to look out for them, to speak on their behalf against the wrongs we as a society to do to them and to do what I believe is best for them to have safe, secure, long and happy lives. I love companion animals enough to know that we have a long way to go before we are anywhere near as generous with them and their spirit as they are with ours. But I love them enough to continue trying, to continue talking and educating and demonstrating and letter writing. Because I am a pet lover.

“In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.” ~~ Edward Hoagland

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Meet the home team

Although I pull inspiration from a variety of sources, there are currently four furry friends with whom my husband and I share our lives. I figure that introducing them to you now is as good a time as any. So here they are, in order of their tenure in our home.

Bo Kitty

Also know as Putt, Putter and a few other names that shall, for now, remain within the family, Bo’s given name is Baudelaire (but who wants to have to say that all day?).

Bo was our one shot at obtaining a purebred cat. After thirty years of rescues and strays who wandered in and didn’t leave, I decided that once in my life I wanted a cat who was exactly what I wanted, size-wise, color-wise and temperament-wise. A big, handsome Maine Coon.

We followed cat shows for about three years and finally settled on a breeder we had seen several times. When she had available kittens, my husband and I went to her home and were immediately captivated by him.

Bo is now nearly 11 and has been everything we could have ever dreamed of in a cat…and a few things we never imagined. But more about that later.


Musette was a rescue. She was brought into the veterinary hospital where I was working in one of those cardboard carriers (the kind with the row of holes around the top) by someone who had made an appointment to get her spayed. While the owner was filling out the paperwork, he went out to his car to get her shot record…and promptly drove away, leaving her in the lobby.

Once we opened the carrier it was obvious that she was quite pregnant. Having no history on her we placed her back in the isolation ward, where she gave birth to five kittens the next day. Although two of the kitten died shortly after birth, Muse was an excellent mother to the other three, and when they were ready to be adopted new homes were quickly found. It was a veterinary hospital, after all, so we had the odds stacked in our favor.

Muse was another story. Try as we might, no one was interested in a young adult cat, and she was growing increasingly “cage crazy” from living out weeks of her life in the isolation ward. Finally, the head veterinarian made the decision to spay her and informed us that if we hadn’t found a home for her by the end of the weekend she would have to go to Animal Control.

So I found her a home. She’s been with us for nearly as long as Bo, just shy of 11 years.


Weebles, or Weebs, is another rescue. Someone brought her into the veterinary hospital when she was approximately three days old, saying they found her on their porch and didn’t know what to do with her.

I decided to bottle feed her until she was old enough to be placed with someone. And, in the end, she was placed. With us.

Weebs is an odd cat in every sense, especially since none of the other cats wanted anything to do with her. Fortunately our dog became quite enamored with her, and he taught her all of the important things in life: Always greet your parents at the door at the end of a long day; come when you’re called; and, most importantly, if it’s good enough for them to eat, it’s worth begging for a taste.

Weebles is now 8 years old.

Front and center in the profile photo sits Darby, a dog of truly indeterminate heritage.

When our sheltie, Bosco, was euthanized due to cancer, it didn’t take long for the hole in our hearts (and our home) to grow so large that only another dog could fill it.

While I was busy volunteering at our local SPCA’s cat neuter clinic, the public relations guy called me out to take a peek at a couple of new arrivals, one of which was him. Seems he’d been wandering in the middle of the road when a woman nearly ran over him. Rather than driving on, she stopped, picked him up and brought him to the shelter.

One look at that crop of white fluff, only broken by his jet black nose, and I was done for. I called my husband out to peek at him, and we were hooked.

Although he was diagnosed with parvo only days after our adoption, we were able to nurse him through it and he’s been the high-king of household dogdom ever since.

Darby is now two years old.

So, there you have it. The cast of characters with whom we share our home, our lives and more than a little of our bed. Trust me, this information will save you a lot of head-scratching later.

A word of introduction


In the world of the Internet, should you choose to type the word “pet” into Google’s search engine, you’ll receive about 393,000,000 results. Typing the word “dog” garners 416,000,000 results, while “cat” generates 808,000,000. Obviously, in one sense, the very, very last thing the Internet needs is one more place where one more voice wishes to join the conversation.

Yet, here I am. I don’t claim to be an expert in anything. I hold no PhD, and don’t pretend to be anything other than what I am, which is someone who is deeply interested in all things cat and dog, and, to a larger extent, the nature of animals.

Every aspect of our relationship with our canine and feline friends fascinates me. The good, the bad, the misunderstood and the myth. Within these relationships lies, in many ways, the complicated nature of ourselves. How we define who we are and how we view ourselves in relation to the rest of the planet.

So, I will do my best to explore it all, from heartwarming and heartbreak, to humor and humanity. And I invite you to come along for the ride.

Again, welcome.


Blog Design By Sour Apple Studio © All Rights Reserved.