Jigsaw Avitable

In contemplation of getting a pet

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 Avitable

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 . . .

Adam Avitable almost gets a cat

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.

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51 Replies to “In contemplation of getting a pet”

  1. Kirsty

    According to all those I’ve asked (and I have asked a few people, honest), there is absolutely no smell of cat crap in my flat, despite the permanent presence of my elder statescat (permanent in that he doesn’t go out, he’s always here). So there are ways.
    But if you don’t feel it, you don’t feel it and there’s no point pushing it.
    Of course, cats really are very low maintenance, and mine has pretty much saved my sanity these last 19 months, but well. Each to his own.
    I guess you can get pussy in other ways!

  2. Jess

    I think you and I are similar on this one. I don’t mind other people having pets and enjoying the company of said pets, but to have one of my own has never really appealed to me. I’m sure there will come a time when we are at a crossroads because “every small boy needs a doggie”, but until that time comes, I’m doing no such rushing to shelters to save all the homeless animals. ::pops a Xanax::

  3. GrandeMocha

    I’m a cat person. I was catless for the winter of 2010 and I missed their furry little bodies.

    You have to want a pet. It won’t be a good match if your heart isn’t in it.

  4. Nina the slackmistress

    Not knowing that you’re an animal person is also what keeps pets out of shelters. Some people do it because they feel like they should and then realize it later and fido comes back to the shelter.

    I love dogs. If I could return a kid to the shelter, I might give it a try.


  5. Karen Sugarpants

    And cue all the people trying to convince you that you actually do want a pet…oh wait – they already are on FB!
    If you were talking about having kids, and knew you didn’t want them, it would be the same thing. We all want you to be miserable like the rest of us who opted to conform to society’s standards and have 2.5 kids and a dog and a cat.
    Says the woman with 2 kids and a dog.
    If you know (and I think you do) that you do not want to have a pet, what’s the big deal? I wish more people who KNEW they didn’t want pets (& kids for that matter) didn’t get/have them!

  6. B.E. Earl

    I agree, shelters do smell pretty bad.

    We have four cats and a rather small place, but you would never, ever smell cat urine or crap in our joint. We clean out the litter boxes (four of them) in the laundry room every day. It’s just habit. There is a bit more cat hair flying around the place than I would normally enjoy, but it is so hard to keep us since two of the cats are of the shedding, long-haired variety. What to do.

    But I totally get it. Pets aren’t for everyone.

    Just like kids. They aren’t for everyone.

  7. calliope

    Hey, better that you’ve figured that out and are honest about it. The people who don’t/aren’t are the ones that usually end up accidentally or purposefully abusing their pets.
    I had 2 ferrets a while back and after a year or two £I moved into a place that wasn’t allowed to have ferrets. The breeder took them back cause he was a wonderful person, but I also realized I wasn’t a good ferret owner. A few months later I got a cat and realized I’m a total cat person, although two of them, a five month old baby and a husband do make for a lot of cleaning up around the house.

  8. Megan

    I was hoping you hadn’t decided to get a pet. You want to make a go of the standup thing, and that will entail a lot of travel. Not a pet lifestyle.

    It’s perfectly OK not to be an animal person. I love animals and have had them since I was 6, but they are a big responsibility. I think we are on our last set now; we want to start to travel more and it gets expensive to board them, plus it’s not fair to the animals to leave them a lot.

  9. Sheila

    I’m an animal person to an extent….I love my cat because he leaves us alone for the most part and keeps my back warm while I sleep. My dog however? I love him mostly because the kids love him and because the teenagers in our neighborhood are afraid of him. A ninety-five pound puppy can be pretty intimidating 🙂 But he has German Shepard in him, which means he requires a crapton of activity and even more attention – which is hard when he weighs almost as much as you do.

    The turtles and tortoise though? Best animals ever.

  10. the muskrat

    When I was single, all my gay neighbors had dogs and told me to get one, because “it’ll change your life!” So, despite my hesitance, given my long hours at work and my travel schedule (going to Nashville once a month, plus other trips whenever I could), I tried to adopt a dog. Twice I was turned down by shelters as unfit to adopt a dog (I really should write about these experiences on my blog, but I have yet to do so). The third time I tried, I had a girl I’d just started dating with me named Deb, and they let me take home a little black mutt I named “Winnie” after the girl on my favorite TV show, “The Wonder Years.” The neighbors were right: it changed my life. It taught me to love and care for someone/something other than myself, and I’m glad I did it. I think you’d enjoy the right pet at the right time. Clearly, these two per-qualifications haven’t converged yet (since losing Jigsaw).

  11. Zak

    We had to put our poodle down when he was almost 16 and it wrecked me. I don’t know if I can go there again.

    Cats are disgusting. They play in their shit and piss and then walk on your countertops. I’m glad you didn’t get one.

  12. Robin

    Honestly, I can totally see you as a cat person. They are very independent, take care of themselves almost entirely and you can leave them alone for like 3 days at a time. They have such big personalities and such attitudes. If you met Pilot, you’d want a cat. I think it would bring a lot to your life, honestly. The cat smell is only if you don’t clean the box regularly, we clean it about every day and it never smells.

  13. martymankins

    I’ve been a pet person since birth (a dachshund named Elmer and a persian cat named GG) and various cats and dogs over the years. I’ve taken pet breaks (the longest being from 1987 to 2001 if you don’t count fish). We are down to 1 cat now (he’s 18) and will take a couple years off before getting another pet (my choice will be a dachshund).

    They are a lot of work. This 18 year old furball wakes us up multiple times in the night needing help to go upstairs to eat and has a very noisy meow. We still love this beast, but the break is much needed, especially for my wife who has had a couple dozen cats over the course of her life with no break.

    So I understand the not getting a pet.

  14. KaraB

    As a kid, I was terribly allergic to all animals with fur. Heartbreaking to a kid. Now, I’m much better and have a dog, 4 cats, 3 fish and a hamster. Wait, maybe I’m overcompensating?

  15. Emily

    I have a dog named Haze who looks like she might be part hippo. I can’t really imagine life without her, but I know that before I got her I didn’t get a pet because I was drunk all the time and I knew I wouldn’t be responsible enough to take care of one. Nowadays, she’s my fave li’l buddy – but I get that with you, it’s not a lack of being responsible, but just an ambivalence. Be true to you… I know so many people who get pets that don’t really care about them one way or the other, and the animals are the ones who suffer, so good on ya for telling the truth.

  16. Liz

    Aw, Jigsaw is a cutie! She almost makes me want a dog. Almost. I’m not at all a dog person. I love cats, but I could never be a cat lady. If I were to walk into a shelter, I’d probably cry on the way out because I couldn’t take them all home. It’d kill me to see all of them crying for attention. One is enough for me, though; she has enough personality for ten kitties.

    Having a pet is a lot of responsibility, and I don’t at all blame you for passing. It’s a lot like having a child. When my cat was younger, she literally didn’t give a fuck about me, but now she is pretty much attached to my hip. This might sound sweet — and it is, it melts my heart — but sometimes it’s a huge pain in the ass. You know how in the movies, the parents are trying to get some alone time in bed and the little kid comes crashing through the doors and jumps in with them? That’s my cat. She’s kind of a cock block. #tmi She even sits on my arm while I try to write. She kills me. I love her to pieces, though.

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