I have never considered myself a ‘pet’ person. Dogs are messy and chew up your furniture. Cats smell and leave hair everywhere. Birds have no personality. Fish can barely be considered pets. Give me an animal and I’ll give you several reasons why I don’t want it in my house.
My current aversion to pets exists in spite of (or perhaps because of) a childhood surrounded by animals. My mother has always been fond of taking care of things that need her and even before I was born, had a habit of bringing home the most desperate and woeful cases from the animal hospital at which she worked as a young woman. Three-legged dogs or cats with one eye would routinely become semi-permanent fixtures in the small apartment my parents rented in the Bronx.
Eventually, my parents moved our growing family to a house in Westchester, and from the day I was born until the day I moved out, (probably closing the door behind me fairly quickly so as not to allow something to escape) my household included multiple dogs, cats and even a few gerbils thrown in here and there. And, most of the time, the pets ruled the roost.
Now, don’t get me wrong – although cumulatively, we probably owned upwards of 20 or so animals, we didn’t own them all at the same time. An episode of Hoarders we were not. But the animals were treated more like members of the family than pets, which is not a problem as long as you don’t mind your family members peeing on a pile of your freshly washed clothes or pooping on the expensive imported rug you just bought. There was no training, no heeling and no walking. Our fenced-in backyard became a doggy bathroom, which made getting to the swing set a tedious and time-consuming set of careful maneuvers. And while I was grateful the cats were kept outside, (because I was highly allergic to them), our front porch was quite often strewn with the dead and decomposing bodies of rodent ‘gifts’ and overrun nightly by neighborhood raccoons stealing cat food. I remember having to yell or bang something while approaching my own house if I was returning after nightfall, in order to scare raccoons away.
Even though I remember enjoying having pets as a child -especially the dogs -I don’t recall having ever seen a single picture of me cuddling or even petting one of our animals. I just wasn’t really into them. The cons just always seemed to outweigh the pros of having them. Sure, they loved you, but that meant getting licked or slobbered on or rubbed until you were covered with sheddings. Yeah, they protected the house, but they barked at friend or foe – in fact, sometimes you couldn’t get them to stop. They chewed up toys and blankets, demanded (not just begged, mind you) scraps from the table, got sick and retched in dark corners of the room (sometimes not discovered for a day or two) and could even turn family events into disasters. The night my grandmother tripped over our dog gate and broke her leg, I recall feeling very responsible. Pets were just more trouble than they were worth.
To be continued…..