When I was 13, I had a dog named Smoky. I was conscientious about feeding her, but I rarely brushed her and only walked her early in the morning because it gave me an excuse to look in the window of one of my neighbors who used to walk around naked in her bedroom with the blinds open at 5:30 AM.
My mother brought Smoky to the Humane Society a year or so later. The way she tells it, we didn’t even notice that the dog was gone for 3-4 days and, to be honest, I can’t say that she’s wrong.
That was the last time I had a pet until I met Amy. She had two ferrets, and we soon added a third ferret to our little menagerie. They moved with us from Saint Louis to Los Angeles (where ferrets are illegal), and over the course of two years, died one by one from old age and normal ferret maladies.
When we moved to Orlando, Amy really wanted a dog. We went to a shelter and looked at puppies, but I wasn’t convinced that we needed one. While Amy was entranced with one puppy in particular, I encouraged her to give it more thought, and she left in tears, dogless. Her sister visited a week later and they went back and picked up the puppy that she had fallen in love with. Enter Jigsaw.
Jigsaw was a fantastic dog. She was the smartest dog I’ve ever met. She was sweet, curious, intelligent, and basically a four-legged human. After the divorce, Amy and I agreed to share her. Since I worked from home, I would get her in the morning and drop her off in the afternoon. It was a good arrangement and Jigsaw got plenty of attention.
After a particularly heated discussion, Amy decided to keep Jigsaw full-time, a decision that was frustrating and mildly depressing at first. As time progressed, though, I realized that I relished the fact that I had absolutely no responsibility, other than to myself and to my business. Shortly after this point, a former friend moved away and decided to abandon her cat. As I considered offering to adopt the cat, I experienced an immediate panic attack, one of the worst that I ever had. It was clear that the thought of increasing my responsibility in this stressful period was anxiety-inducing. A year and a half passed.
On Thursday, a friend posted a desperate plea on her Facebook page. Her 8-month old kitten needed a home or he would have to go to a shelter. After some consideration, deep thinking, and no feelings of anxiety or panic, I offered to take him. She said that she’d bring him over within the hour, and I started thinking about having a kitten. I started getting used to the idea of a companion, especially one that was low-maintenance compared to a dog.
Her phone call a few minutes later telling me that she had a family who also wanted the kitten, and she thought that maybe they’d be better, gave me pause. I realized that I was a little eager about getting that kitten and the anticipation had gotten me excited. Though I didn’t tell her, I was disappointed.
My friend Lanie suggested that maybe it was a good time to get a pet. She offered to go with me to the local shelter and help pick out a new feline friend. Off we went . . .
Three things stood out to me when I went to the shelter. First, the odor. No matter what cleaning supplies you use, you can’t mask that odor of animal musk and excrement. It’s unpleasant and slightly sickening. Secondly, there was a figurative odor of desperation and sadness that lingered. With the exception of the few cats who were clearly old and jaded, felines pushed up against the bars of their cages, mewling and reaching out for some type of human contact. Finally, as we looked at every single cat and dog in the shelter, I recognized the same feeling of indifference that I had experienced in 2005, going with Amy to look for a dog.
I left the shelter on Friday with one thing, and that wasn’t a cat. It was the realization that no matter how much I try, I’m not an animal person. I like animals, and I think they’re cute and adorable, but if I never have a pet for the rest of my life, I’m not going to miss a thing.