Furry Friday: Pets Aren't Kid Substitutes

I don’t want kids. Never have. I won’t go into the reasons, as it’s simply enough to recognize and accept that being a parent isn’t for you. To each his or her own, I think the majority of PJ Lifestyle readers have agreed here this week, even if disagreeing with another person’s choice.

But I love animals, as you’ve figured out by now. I mean, to the point where I stopped and watched in fascination a northern brownsnake basking on the sidewalk the other day (he wasn’t so sure about me and eventually slowly slithered into the bushes). The animal kingdom is magnificent, and I can’t imagine life without pets in it.

Pets are not substitutes for kids, and I don’t know anyone who views them this way. They are their own distinct beings with own distinct personalities and behaviors. I do often, however, hear and completely understand statements like what one higher-up at AEI would gush every time I brought the puppacita into the office: “I don’t like people, but I sure like dogs!” Having been a criminology major in college and covering the crime beat as a reporter makes one appreciate all the more these bundles of fur and feathers that won’t grow up into serial killers. The political beat doesn’t reveal much different in terms of human nature, frankly, which is probably why an increasing number of lawmakers now bring their dogs to the office to get through the day (stay tuned to future Furry Fridays for profiles).

But there’s little to stop the dark side of humanity from inflicting itself on the animal world. It tears my heart out when I hear stories of animals being abused or neglected, and punishments for those crimes should be about tenfold what they are now.

Being a good pet parent does require time, energy, and money. I have veterinary insurance on most of my crew, happily pay extra for natural food, have a pet-sitter, and get nickeled and dimed by landlords, airlines, hotels, etc., in a way that would be illegal to do with kids. I’m behind on work today because the puppacita has a tummy ache and wants to be held, which makes typing difficult. The goal is not to raise productive members of society or construct some sort of old-age insurance policy, but simply to make a pet happy and healthy, to care for it in a way that extends that healthy life, and to soothe any memories of past trauma for rescues.

In return, many are loyally by your side whether you’re fighting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nuclear program or simply cleaning the casa. Many will teach you what unconditional love is, even my sweet old silly rat. But the point is not about what they give you back — a fish may be excited to see you, but isn’t going to cuddle. It’s about making a creature’s time on Earth, whatever the lifespan, happier, safer, more enjoyable.

I recently took the puppacita in for her annual checkup, and the vet tech asked if she was scared by the previous night’s thunderstorm. I noted that thunder used to scare her, but doesn’t anymore. “That’s because she knows she has a forever home,” the tech said. I never thought of it that way, but keep thinking about that hypothesis. Who doesn’t love some warmth and security?

Pets play an invaluable role in our lives. We play a valuable role in theirs. It’s about giving, not taking, and about loving and learning. It’s not about substituting them for any other type of being. It’s about loving and caring for a wonderful creature for exactly what it is — whether a rodent, a cat, a snake, a bird (St. Francis’ fave), or a tiny pound puppacita.

Also read: The Top 4 Reasons I Don’t Have Kids