With the summer sun simmering toward the west as temperatures rise and misery unfolds over the land, I listen to the hum of the air conditioner as it blows sensually throughout the house. There’s no doubt it’s more than comfortable in here. Especially when compared to the hellish environment outside. Only gluttons for punishment are enjoying this season.
It’s days like these when mostly I ponder what might have been for any of The Kids.
Vazra‘s the best example, of course, since he’s only been inside for little more than a week. And he’s black. Can you imagine? The poor thing must have suffered immensely out there in the baking light of day. One thing most smart people in Texas understand: never own anything black that has to go outside. Don’t buy black cars or cars with black interiors, don’t wear black clothing when it’s hot, don’t put your bike outside long enough for the seat to warm up just enough to send you into hysterics when you finally climb on to take a ride, and certainly don’t have black pets who are left outside all the time. It’s just too hot.
It’s during this contemplation I realize what kind of difference I’ve made in the lives of animals who otherwise might not have been so fortunate. Even when I feel stale, they can easily wash away the blahs and invigorate me. Sure, friends are great and work can be diverting, even therapeutic, but that’s never enough, is it? It shouldn’t be. There’s far more room in our hearts and minds to accommodate meaningful non-human relationships.
That’s why I’m not sure I entirely trust people who don’t have pets. Don’t get me wrong and don’t assume I’m just dumb. I understand allergies, those who travel for a living, and similar situations where it’s just not possible to have a pet. After all, what exactly is one to do when one is home fewer than 20 days per year? Is there a genuine relationship there if you have a pet who relies on you for everything? Truthfully, any pet under those circumstances would have a much better relationship with the pet sitter.
Despite the exceptions, caring for animals in my home is unique, an experience unlike so many others, a wonder and phenomenon that affects every aspect of my life. It’s as though it centers me. If I had an aversion to hairballs on the carpet or wood floors, that might be different. I don’t even mind the suspicious noises at all hours of the night that indicate someone is up to no good. Yet even those excuses are just that — excuses.
Having pets balances me somehow. I’ve grown up with them. From my earliest memories through more than three decades of life, animals have always shared my home and heart. They’ve been my roommates, my closest friends, my confidants, my caregivers, my adversaries, my charges, my nursemaids, and my children, not to mention a great deal more. In some capacity, they’ve filled every possible role one could imagine.
I’ve enjoyed the most essential yet silent agreement with each of them: I’ll do all for them that I can, including unconditional love, and they’ll return the favor. Seeing them sprawled about the place now enjoying the comfortable temperature and knowing food’s readily available, I feel good. It’s that simple.
Difficult fails to describe trying to comprehend life without animals. I look back and I look forward, and no matter where I look — when I look, there is a vacant hole only they can fill. Things could only have been different in the worse ways without them. And I can’t begin to think about their fate had I not intervened…
And now that I am completely off track from where I started this post, do let me attempt some recovery — and face saving — via a quick return to the point I lost before the first sentence.
Pets should not be purchased. There are far too many in shelters all over the world to make buying one anything other than a selfish and brutal act against the innocent lives that will be lost because someone got their pretty dog knocked up or forgot to let the cat in one evening. Bestial gallivanting aside, hundreds of thousands of animals are put to death each year, and a tragically large number of those are right here in the United States.
I know they might not offer the exact breed or color you’re looking for, and perhaps they won’t have the right gender to fit your requirements, but there’s a tremendous amount of unconditional love that’s put to death each day because someone would rather spend money to purchase an animal as though it were a piece of clothing or furniture, instead of reaching out to the great many animals we humans have placed in jeopardy from precisely that kind of mentality. Amazingly, and very much unlike people, they demonstrate the most wonderful ability to erase the chalkboard and start over. It’s a clean slate, and they create it themselves. All they need is the opportunity.
Is owning that purebred really that important? Is supporting mostly questionable breeding practices worth the life of an animal? Are you able to fight against the inherent genetic problems created by human desire by setting aside vanity to focus on being humane? Unfortunately, too many give the wrong answers to those questions.
All of my kids are adoptions. Most are rescues. They’re better people than a lot of pet buyers, and giving them a home rescued animals from certain death instead of providing financial incentive for some selfish human to continue the sexual exploitation of animals just to get that certain color or set of features.
Even if you can’t adopt, why not consider fostering animals? Maybe you already have too many and can’t permanently take another one, but could you provide care temporarily for an animal that needs to be saved?
In either case, stop buying pets. It’s repulsive and offensive. It’s also a selfishly signed death warrant for one or more animals not fortunate enough to have a home or a pedigree.