Several years ago, my husband and I took our two kittens to a veterinarian who kept referring to them as our kids. I smiled with indulgence at the vet and rolled my eyes toward R. He smirked.
What we didn’t know then and have since discovered is that the vet’s expression would sound normal and right to lots of people. He spoke from long experience of working with folks who do consider their pets to be furry members of the family—their kids. Empty nesters, especially, it seems, elevate their pets to the status of substitute children. Retirees? Certainly.
We do. Moose and Chloe—the kids. When the kitties climb into our laps at inopportune times to vie for our attention and cuddling…. When those little furries roll around on the floor or chase each other around the house…. “Just like the grandchildren,” we say, and giggle. Our toddler grandchildren play chase with us or clamber to retrieve a foam ball we’ve thrown. We chortle and declare, “Those babies act just like Moose and Chloe.”
Having the ability to take our cats along was one of the primary reasons we bought a fifth wheel RV in which to travel, rather than renting condos or staying with friends. It is nice to go back to the RV each evening and find excited little cuties waiting for a feed and some cuddles. They curl up on the bed with us at night, just like at home.
My mother is an animal lover from point go. The year she moved from her house into a retirement building, we searched for ages to find a place which would allow her to bring her little dog. He was old, and they needed each other—both were still grieving after my father’s death. Since her little doggie’s death, Mom has made friends with every dog in the building, taken in an abandoned cat for a time, and now, at age ninety-one, “dog sits” a small dog for a neighbor woman who works part time. For every animal, she buys treats and toys and spoils them as much as she would a grandchild or great grandchild.
I have a friend who prefers her summer home in Maine to her winter home in Florida mainly because her dog likes Maine better. Another friend takes her lap dog to work with her every day. No kennel for that pup—a dog sitter comes to the house and stays when the friend is on a trip. One of my walking group buddies has a huge Doberman. We plan our walk times around that fine animal’s need for outings. And we hear wonderful stories of the parties where the relatives bring their dogs and the happy Doberman romps around with them like a puppy. A good friend lost her two old, old kitties, one at a time, and vowed not to get another. That lasted about as long as most New Years’ resolutions. First, they adopted a neighborhood cat which ended up spending as much time with them as with his real family. Now they have two cats which needed a place to go when her daughter moved into an apartment where cats aren’t allowed. Cat stories abound when we get together.
My groups of friends consist of intelligent people who talk about books, movies, plays, politics, current events, spiritual concerns, and more, but—at most every gathering we all tell a few funny pet stories. Those critters play on our emotions, our minds, and our sympathies. Hooray for our ancestors who welcomed the first wolves and the first little cats into their caves and huts.
P.S. I have fun writing about animals, too. The mystery books I’m writing include a cat as an important “character.”