Animal People

Posted by mwallach on September 6, 2012 in New Yorkers |

Dear That’s Life,
As a child, I had always wanted a pet. Not looking for a fish or anything else I could not take for a walk, I asked my parents for a dog. “When you move out,” they said, insinuating that as long as I was living under their roof, it would not happen. The closest thing I was getting to a pet was my stuffed animal, “Scruffy”.

As an adult, I like dogs, not cats, and have no interest in having a pet in my home. With a blessed and full house, I need no more mouths to feed. I even resent when the token goldfish is brought home from the local carnival. I have enough to do. And with every year that passes, I consider myself less of an “animal person,” and more of a “people person.” I will pet my neighbor’s dog as she walks him around the corner and even pick him up on occasion, but I do not want him staying with us while they go away on vacation.

I respect that people love their pets and consider them part of the family, but I do not completely understand the craze of pet outfits and accessories which have erupted like a untapped market akin to striking gold. I am not knocking it nor am I passing judgment – but I just don’t “get” it. I would not buy some of those luxury items for my own children, let alone a puppy. And while I would never think of putting my child in a car without the appropriate car seat or booster, I did not realize until recently that people had car seats for their dogs.

Sitting recently at the nail salon (yes – it seems many crazy things happen when I get my nails done), I received a thorough lesson from a woman near me about the lengths people will go to for their pets.

The woman, who must have been in her 40s, was there with her mother who she says is constantly on her cell phone. She refers to her as a serial caller and even had to get a new phone plan for her mother because she went over on her minutes every month. “She’s like a Kardashian,” says the daughter, admitting that her mother spends even more time on the phone than her own children.

While drying our nails, the woman is informed by her mother that the woman’s daughter is going to be meeting them, and is bringing the dog she is watching for someone. It seems that the dog needs to be taken out for a daily activity beyond just going for a walk and meeting them at the nail salon was the event for the day. “And the dog has a car seat,” she said.

“Really?” I asked, incredulously. Before giving birth to my eldest, I knew the baby would not be released from the hospital if there was no infant car seat present. I began to wonder if people rescuing animals from shelters were held to the same standards. Did anyone really say, “I’m sorry, ma’am – but without a 5-point car seat, we cannot give you the poodle?”

“Oh, that’s nothing,” continued the woman. “My mother has a stroller for her cats.” At that point, I began to stare, unable to blink and certainly unable to speak. It seemed her mother took all of her cats for walks through their neighborhood in a stroller and while the daughter was embarrassed initially, now the community is used to it. The woman’s mother began to defend herself.

Her cats are so good, she said, that “they are really like dogs.” I laughed. “That’s the ultimate compliment cats can get,” I joked. “To be told that they are really like dogs.” She explained that she even sleeps with one of her cats right on her, or even sometimes on her head. I was stunned, but again: I am not an animal person. This might be completely normal, though I could not imagine that it was. “If you treat them this well,” I said, “they’ll never move out and will live with you even as adults,” but I was ignored.

I listened intently as the daughter then explained that her mother will not go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, should it be necessary, so as not to wake the sleeping cat. Again, I began to stare in disbelief, but the mother defended herself.

People say cats rule you and are very bossy, she explained, but said that was not the situation in her case. Her cats were great, she continued, and all get along really well, but she was still in charge. It was at that moment that her daughter had heard just about enough.

“Oh, yeah, Mom” she said. “You’re ready to catheterize yourself in the middle of the night before waking the cat – you are really driving THAT ship!”

I would have responded, but I was too busy crying from laughter. Once someone uses the word “catheterize” in a nail salon, even I am left with nothing to say.

As Seen in The South Shore Standard Aug ’12

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