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ROSE NOLEN: Don't tell friends when you're choosing a new pet

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 | 1:24 p.m. CST; updated 7:07 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 23, 2011

There are a few rare occasions in life when you can have too many friends. One of those occasions is when you are trying to choose a new pet.

All of my life I've been involved with people who love animals of all kinds. In fact, I have a lot of people mad at me today because I disapprove of them feeding birds unless there is snow on the ground. I insist that birds are uniquely suited by nature to search for their own food and those who feed them are making them dependent on human beings to take care of them. That's why they are often loitering in the streets where they can be run down by automobiles.

And when it comes to family pets, one would be surprised at how divisive cat and dog lovers are. I know people who can write a spur-of-the-moment, 1,000-word essay in defense of dog or cat ownership. These are individuals who have owned one or the other for their entire lives. You really don't want to enter a debate with these people. You could lose a friend for life.

So for the most part I have tried to keep my plans to myself. Actually, I plan to get a cat because my lifestyle is more suited to a cat's than a dog's. I've owned both and as much as I hate to disappoint my dog-loving friends, they will have to learn to live with it.

But this decision comes with a cost. When it comes to animals, people can be very selective. Several years ago I had a friend who had a funny farm.

She and her husband only took in animals that had been damaged in some way. She had three-legged chickens, two-legged dogs and a variety of animals that had handicaps of some kind. As far as she was concerned, anyone who didn't take in a damaged animal had a problem.

At that time I had a rather temperamental dachshund, so no one suggested that I take on another pet. In fact, very few people came into my yard to suggest anything. Our dog, Soul, was not open to receiving guests. My mother often complained that while he usually spent part of every night resting on her porch, any time she set foot in our yard he sounded as if he was ready to tear off her arms. He was not a happy camper.

Before that, I had a terrier named Worthless for several years. He had his own particular habit as well. Under no circumstance would he ever leave his own yard. One could stand outside the fence and call him for hours and he would never leave the yard. But for some reason, he had a grudge against men who wore caps. Somewhere in his subconscious, some man wearing a cap had done him wrong and he never forgave him.

But to explain my present dilemma, I lost my cat two years ago. Geronimo was with me for 17 years. He was born under my friend's bed. He was an orange and white tabby, and when he was at his best he weighed in at 25 pounds.

Most of my friends didn't understand what I saw in Geronimo. That's because mostly, my friends prefer pets that are totally dependent on them. They like obedient dogs that fetch and carry. But I prefer my pets to be independent creatures and Geronimo was that kind of pet.

My problem at the moment is that I'm afraid to mention that I'm ready for a new pet. Some of my friends have friends who are involved in pet rescue. At any moment I can have 35 cats and dogs show up at my house and be expected to choose between them. I want to proceed slowly at my own pace. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

On the other hand, I know people who never own pets. Some of them will not allow animals into their homes. I find that strange because most of us grew up with animals. I don't know whether some of these people had bad experiences with animals or if something else happened. I'm always tempted to ask. Because as far as I'm concerned, a house devoid of pets is an empty house.

So, one day soon, I'll get in the car, drive over to the animal shelter and pick out a beautiful black and white cat. By the time my friends find out, he'll already be in residence.

Frankly, I don't like having to sneak around but, as matters stand, I don't have a choice. I mean, suppose some dog owner catches me smuggling a cat in the house? Will he ever speak to me again?

For the next few months, my lips are sealed.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net.


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