Not because we are allergic, or because we are between pets, or because we live in a place where they don’t allow pets.
We don’t have pets because I don’t like keeping pets.
And because my job is managing this house and the lives of the people who live in this house, I choose for our family not to have pets. The three animals I take care of are enough work, thank you very much.
Now, look. I am not anti-animal. Not really, anyway. I don’t kick cats off of my front porch and I don’t set traps for rabbits. We feed squirrels, if you want to know the truth. But I’m not posting pictures of abused dogs and cats online and demanding justice and adoptive homes for them, and I’m not taking in strays I see wandering the neighborhood.
I will love your dog at your house, pet your cat and will even allow him to crawl into my lap. There’s something about the warmth of a pet who settles next to you, totally trusting and not caring that you are anything other than a comfy cushion to perch upon.
But please know that I will not pet-sit for you. At my house, anyway.
We’ve had pets. We had a dog for eight years who we had to put down when she got sick. It broke my heart into pieces to make and carry out that decision. A piece of me still nurses that terrible experience, the decision to end her life. That was seven years ago.
We’ve had fish since then. Hermit crabs. A kitten my father rescued and we raised for six months.
These relationships ended in death, with the exception of the cat. All the goodbyes were hard in different ways. The fish died ungracefully (floating sideways in a bowl with no warning, only to be scooped out and unceremoniously flushed), the hermit crabs died mysteriously (there were two, and what happened to the big one’s claw?), the cat was exiled (we received mildly threatening anonymous mail after he was spotted in several of our neighbors’ homes who employed doggie-doors), and the dog’s death was tragic, premature, unfair.
Our children still ask for a pet. Any pet. They promise to take care of it. I reply that we can get a pet when daddy quits his job and I find one to support us. They can all share the pet-keeping chores while I work sixty-plus hours a week. They will be in charge of the house cleaning, vet appointments, kenneling when we go on vacation, walking, poop-scooping, bathing, feeding, and shampooing of carpets when the pet has an accident. Their pleas for getting a pet eventually cease.
They rattle off the kinds of exotic and domesticated pets they will keep when they live on their own. They have given them all names. I remind them that I won’t pet-sit.
They continue to be disappointed. I frown at my husband when he joins my children’s pleas for a pet. I am the bad guy, the ogre who disapproves of their frivolity, the one who keeps hostage the happiness that will only come from owning a pet.
I am strong, and we are still pet-free.
But the warmth and comfort of a dog, the deadpan silliness of a cat, the gleeful chirp of a bird, the delicate beauty of a fish as it glides through the water – I still enjoy it.
At your house.
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