Is It Time for Me to Adopt a Pet?

Last updated: September 2018

Several neighbors in my retirement community have small dogs and a few cats. The dog owners have to walk them several times a day, some ambling across the lawn near my patio. I sit in my little apartment way too much, watching my neighbors get exercise trailing behind their pooches with a plastic bag while my behind gets wider. Sometimes I watch with a little bit of longing, too. Longing for a furry friend.

Swearing off pets

After my cat died in 2010, I was done with cats. The hair, the peeing everywhere except in the litter box. Done. After one of the love birds croaked that same year, then a cockatiel that had smooched with me one day before laying an egg in my lap, I swore off feathered friends. And after I divorced in 2012 and left our Pomeranian in the care of my ex, I swore never to adopt another pet. Ever.

Wonderful memories of past pets

It’s not like I haven’t had the experience. As a kid, we had a menagerie. Guinea pigs. Gerbils. Hamsters. A toad I named Hoppy that I entered in a school contest and won first prize for Most Unusual Pet. Another toad named Garfunkel hung out in the pool filter and took occasional swims with us. Turtles my dad brought home in Chinese take-out boxes. I would paint their names on their shells with nail polish. But the cat got to them, and that was the end of turtles. Our cats had kittens and we kept them. When the mother started delivering her babies on the couch, I was there with surgical scissors cutting the umbilical cord and putting the babies in a cardboard box when she was done. She let me help her this way and jumped into the box with her newborns as soon as she was able. When my dachshund had puppies under my bed, I pulled them out and put them in a blanket-lined little bed. Again, mother let me help. These are wonderful memories.

Lucky to have pet-friendly parents

I feel lucky that my parents were pet-friendly and allowed our childhood home to be full of feather and fur faces, reptiles and rodents. I had a yellow parakeet named Billy bird at age 8 and took care of his feeding and watering, cage-cleaning and medical care. When he escaped the cage and flew up to the curtain rod, I took a yardstick and coaxed him onto it, grabbed him and put him back in the cage. He was a card, that Billy. A real escape artist.

Turning towards more exotic creatures

At 14, I turned toward more exotic creatures. A South American boa constrictor. Back then it was legal to import them. I fed him live mice and took his discarded skin out of the tank every time he molted, examining it in wonder. He died of mouth rot, a common fate of those snakes. Later, it was a California King snake, another kind of constrictor. I named him Lucy, short for Lucifer. When I married, my Evangelical Protestant stepchildren and their mother were afraid of it and accused me of being a witch. That was a real hoot. Satan, living in a fish tank with a water bowl and all the live mice he could eat. I would have played it up except I didn’t want to scare the kids, so I taught them how to hold him and not be afraid. After all, Lucy was just another of God’s creatures, right?

Vet bills on top of medical bills

But look, I’ve become fussy in my old age. It’s impossible to keep up with the all the fur. I’ve also become poor. I can barely afford my own medical bills let alone a vet bill. I’ve had fish, but I’m not interested in adding a fish bowl to my décor. Another bird is still an expense. I would want to interact with a pet anyway, like we do with a dog. I just don’t know.

Loneliness vs. loss

Loneliness is a big factor. Dogs are great companions. But I get sad watching my neighbors grieve when they have to put down their pooches to spare them from the pain of their old age ills. Everything we love dies. I’m not sure I can take that anymore. Why am I so much more sensitive to loss now? I’ve seen and experienced so much of it you would think I’d be immune by now.

Maybe we never get used it. If we let ourselves love something, we’re going to get hurt. I’ll have to think about this pet thing some more.

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