The moment you become a parent, somewhere, in the deep recesses of your mind, you know that one day, this little bundle of joy will be walking and talking and will ask the question every young child asks their parents at some point – “can we get a dog?”. Or maybe it’s a kitten or hamster. It happens to all of us. Our little precious angels will make their case for bringing yet another creature into your home that will require food and care. Our instinct is to say no. Because we know that despite how emphatically they say “I will feed it and walk it (change the litter, clean the cage, etc.), eventually the care and feeding of this new family member will fall to us. Our first thought is usually to go for the goldfish as a “test” – to see if they actually will feed it and change the water or if we will find ourselves dispensing fish flakes twice a day and praying this slippery, flopping fish doesn’t jump out of the net before we get it from one bowl to another. (I’ve been there. Twice.)
As an animal lover and someone who has had pets all of my life, I always found it next to impossible to say no when one of the kids asked for a pet. And trust me, the kids have used that to their advantage. It is very hard to say no when your adorable child gives you those sad puppy dog eyes and makes the case “we already have one, what’s the big deal about getting another one?” And another one. And another one. This argument has led to the almost never-ending zoo that has taken over my home. From the stray cat we just HAD to take in to the kitten we are currently “babysitting” (for an undermined amount of time), most days I feel as though I live in a zoo. It’s hard to believe it all started 20 years ago with one cat.
At the time my daughter was born, we had one small cat. One. Life was easy then. When our neighbor’s cat had kittens, we thought it would be a brilliant idea to take one so our cat would have a friend. Except the kitten was a furry bundle of evil with claws. And they hated each other. So the kitten had to be rehomed to a friend with lots of land and big barn and many cats. When my daughter was 8, her and her best friend thought it would be a great idea to bring the feral cat that lived in the drain pipe behind our house into our house. It was not a great idea. It took 20 minutes, 2 adults, 2 kids, and several sheets to “trap” this very angry feline Tasmanian devil that was running spastically all over my house. New house rule: Do NOT bring any animals into the house without checking with Mom and Dad first.
But I can’t put all of the blame on the kids. Their father and I were just as bad. When we moved into a house with a yard, I had to have a dog. I found the sweetest Norwegian Elkhound at the Humane Society and made her part of our family. Several years later, while at the pet store buying mice for our snake (yes, we’ve had snakes. And rats. And mice), the kids father saw a boxer puppy he just HAD to have. The way he argued for this dog was worthy of an 8 year old dead set on getting a pet. “I’ll take care of it. He can be my birthday and anniversary present. Lacey (the Elkhound) needs a friend. PPPLLLEEEAAASSSEEE?????” I relented. The puppy was just so freaking cute. So Louie became part of our happy, crowded family. When Lacey passed away several years ago, I hated the idea of Louie not having a “pack” – another creature in the house that was like him. Even though I had made fun of my mother for doing the exact same thing, I got my dog and dog and Lyric joined our clan.
So here we are, 20 years later, sharing our home with 2 dogs, 4 indoor cats, and 2 outdoor cats. Over those years we have been home to a total of 2 snakes, 1 goldfish, 3 rats, 2 mice, 3 dogs, and 9 cats. It’s crowded. I feel as though I can never truly sweep or vacuum enough to get all of the fur. I have a hutch in the kitchen just for pet food. I am constantly tripping over one creature or another. I could have had a European vacation for the amount of money I have spent on vet bills. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The unconditional love they have brought to our lives is irreplaceable. The sound and feel of a purring cat after a bad day is better than any pharmaceutical. No one is ever as happy to see you when you get home as a dog, whether you have been gone 10 days or 10 minutes. While I’m not a fan of fighting the kitten for the counter while trying to make dinner or cleaning dog drool off the floor because someone got out the peanut butter, what they have given us in return is far more valuable that perfectly clean carpet and a European vacation.