Living with pets is a lifestyle choice, if you're doing it right.
"You won't have to take care of him. I will, I promise."
"We're up to $200 and we still haven't bought food."
A mom and her daughter negotiating in the small animal and parrot aisle of PetSmart. I was there to get as many packages of AviCakes as I could grab. And a package of bedding for rabbit. And a bag of ... who am I kidding? I'm in PetSmart because we have 13 companion animals and I'm always in PetSmart.
Mom and daughter browse small animal and parrot toys. I can't tell if she's angling for a guinea pig, or a parakeet. I can tell mom is taking in the entirety of her home, adding any animal. She's using shopping to buy time. They meander to the end of the aisle. Touching each Oxbow toy lightly, considering.
"I promise he won't be any trouble."
"We have to consider what he'll live in."
I am now a stalker, with a business card in hand, ready to swoop in and offer my future help and website for reference.
We're in the lizard aisle. Mom is pointing out aquariums. I ready my sword of matte cardstock. Preparing to insert myself into a situation that is really none of my business. Yet it's personal.
"Mom. You can't put a guinea pig in an aquarium! He's not a fish."
"These cost less than that big cage. Where are you going to put that cage, anyway?"
"The same place I'd put an aquarium if I wanted fish. But I don't."
I step back to head back to the parrot aisle. The daughter knows what she wants. Mom knows what she doesn't want. Neither knows what they are looking at is a lifestyle choice, not a pet choice. You do this right; you'll find yourself in a relationship.
Having companion animals is inconvenient. Messy. Costly. Tiring. Worrying and wonderful.
- You'll look forward to their company. Even after a full afternoon of barking at the roofers, during a tear-off and roof lay.
- Even after one throws up twenty minutes after lunch because he found a place outside to chew his toenails without being caught. Leading to a gross level of saliva that had nowhere to go.
- You'll give up things you want to afford new dog beds and parrot cages filled with new toys. Because they are so grateful and happy.
- After sharing a bit of your lunch with all the birds that smelled you making their favorite thing you are eating, you're left with a dieter's portion. They drop half of the shared bits, bringing in the dogs that hunt and grab, move furniture, and surf parrot stands with wheels. The birds get perturbed and fly to another area to be followed by the dogs who displace all the staged towels intended to catch the things that drop to include parrot poop. And you knew the minute you shared bits of your lunch; this would play out. The parrot lifestyle can feel like the definition of insanity.
- You'll worry when they are quiet, not getting into trouble. Five minutes after saying out loud, "Felix would you please stop beeping and complaining for five minutes."
- You'll wake up in the morning to a dog cinnamon rolled against you in bed. You'll hear your parrot's voice whispering, "Hi." You'll brush your teeth with whiskers tickling your feet. You'll find a guinea pig running wild with excitement because he's just so damn happy to see you again. A rabbit will hop over and stand on those big bunny back feet to measure you up and down. Then wait for your caress and that favorite brush. One may have eyes that speak languages older than the first love expressed. He is shy. But yet ready to follow fearlessly. All the way to lunch.
We fill animal shelters with the inconvenient, messy, costly, tiring, worrying and wonderful. They wait there for the one choosing a lifestyle, not a pet.
I found mother and daughter looking at the largest guinea pig cage available. I introduced myself. My books. My website. I gave the daughter my business card. And I let them know of the four guinea pigs waiting at the SPCA, a few minutes away. I answered a few questions about messes and care. We talked about lifespans and health. I told them about my Basil Exposition and Jamal-Pierre.
The daughter thanked me while her mother suggested she get a shopping cart. She squealed with excitement toward the cart corral while mom searched for the address of the nearby SPCA. They were open for another four hours. Funny how easily a new lifestyle can take root.
My life revolves around Loki, my parrot. I just want to be sure he is comfortable and happy. Toys, food, cage, treats-it all adds up but I am glad to get things for him that he will enjoy. We also spend a lot of time together.
Thank you for this writeup.