My friend Dee says that I’m her pets’ uncle. She has two dogs and two cats, so what species of animal does that make me? I’m happy enough as a member of homo sapiens and prefer just to be a friend of the family, not a relative.
Dee’s two cats are quite shy. Smudgie won’t come near me, but Sasha sometimes checks me out. There used to be another cat in the household, but George is no longer alive. George was much more friendly, he always made an attempt to greet me during my visits to see Dee.
The dogs are another matter. Dee thinks of them as her “kids”. An unbelievable amount of anthropomorphizing of dogs is happening with them. There is Marcos, a golden retriever mix and Lynda who is a medium size sort of Heinz 57 pooch. The dogs and I get along fine and its fun to see their excitement at my arrival. Here’s where our relationship status becomes more complicated. With Marcos, Dee says I’m his uncle; with Lynda I’m her uncle yet she is also my girl.
So, I wonder if Lynda is my niece, my daughter, or girlfriend. It seems like Lynda is some combination depending upon the day and Dee’s moods. Sometimes it seems like Dee is trying to play the matchmaker for Lynda. Recently, Lynda sat beside me on the street after a walk. Dee said that Lynda and I look good together. What’s that all about? I don’t play the favorites game because both dogs display enthusiastic affection towards me. Sometimes they even compete for my affection.
More than once, Dee has said that if she dies before me, I will inherit her dogs. Of course this is awkward, because I do not want to “own” any pets. I’m pleased as punch to have a pet-free household. Even though I love Marcos, Lynda, Smudgie, and Sasha, I’m not comfortable with the thought of them being in my home. They are my friend’s pets, not mine.
I often wonder why Dee believes I should be as enamored with her dogs, especially Lynda in her love affair with her “kids”. I doubt Dee would be as enthusiastic if she had a boyfriend or spouse and I expressed affection or developed a crush on him. I’m sure that would be a friendship deal-breaker.
Does my healthy distance between my friend’s pets put me on the continuum of psychopathy somewhere between Dick Cheney and Darth Vader?
I’m not interested in a relationship of non-equals. Blind love of pets has been elevated to superhuman status on the Web. We’ve all seen the memes that extol the supposed superiority of the love of dogs and cats over that of love of humans. There is no way that a relationship with an animal that cannot challenge me can be thought of as equal.
Then there are my sister Deb’s two cats. Sunshine is an elderly long-haired female, and Random Kitty is a one year old tuxedo tom. Sunshine fears and displays hostility towards Random Kitty. My sister does her best to keep the two cats separated. Thankfully, Deb does not think of her cats as surrogate humans. She loves them as felines that share her space.
I enjoy Deb’s two cats because I’m really more of a “cat person” than a “dog person”. Sunshine is laid-back like most very old animals become. Random Kitty is very energetic and is an aggressively playful creature. I like Random the best, because our bond goes back to his kitten-hood. Sunshine only warmed up to me after many years of avoiding me.
It is socially acceptable for me to say Random is my favorite while it is not socially acceptable to declare that I liked one of my siblings more than the other. I love Random for his feline qualities, not for any behavior that might seem human. Although I really like Deb’s cats, they don’t seem like family to me. I don’t like the idea of them living in my home.
We can anthropomorphize dogs and cats all we want, but they are still non-human creatures who probably do not share the same emotions nor the depth towards us that we do towards them. In the end Smudgie, Sasha and Random Kitty are still felines, while Marcos and Lynda are still canines. I love them as I do all sentient beings, but I love people more.
There is also my preference for independence. If I had a dog, I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere without either taking it with me or having to find someone to board it during my absence. Although cats are much more independent, the need to find cat care during an extended absence is still a worry.
Then there is the “poo-factor”. Just looking at doggie doo triggers my gag reflex. No way do I want to see it nor especially have to handle it. Cat poo is only slightly less disgusting. I don’t like the idea of having to clean a litter tray every day.
Even if I could learn to ignore the fecal disgust, there is the economic aspect of pet ownership to consider. My friends who own a dog tell me to expect a bare minimum of $800 in first year expenses per dog, much higher if there are any emergency trips to the veterinarian clinic. After that, a dog may cost around $500 per year, not counting any emergency vet care. Oh, and there is the cost of a dog license which is somewhere around $10. If I was to have a dog, it would probably cost about $100 per month for as long as the dog lives.
As far as a cat is concerned, I have a good idea, because I contribute a small amount towards food and litter for Sunshine and Random. I also paid Random’s neutering bill. To humanely care for a cat, not purchased, costs around $500 for the first year, not counting vet bills. Approximately $300, not including emergency veterinary care, remain for each year the cat is alive. These are best scenario expenses.
Even if I wanted a dog or a cat, I cannot afford the added expenses to my meager retirement income. If I had to cut corners on my personal budget, I’d probably grow to resent the pet expenses.
That means I will continue not to have a pet of my own, yet still share my love for the pets of my friends.