The American Veterinary Medicine Association estimated that as of 2021 Americans had 77 million dogs and 58 million cats as domestic pets. If you currently own or have owned a pet you know the downs and ups of pet ownership, such as having to walk them in blizzards, feed and water them, clean up after them and pay veterinary bills. Or, as Peg might say, “You know, sort of like a husband.”
On the other hand, you could eschew organic pets and buy a pet rock. Pet rocks were marketed first by Gary Dahl (1936-2015). He came up with the idea while sitting in a tavern in California in 1975. Is anyone surprised the Genesis of such an idea occurred in the land of fruits and nuts? But Dahl had the last laugh as he made enough money selling what anybody could pick up for free to buy a tavern in Los Gatos (The Cats), California. Dahl named his bar Carry Nations to mock the prohibitionist Carrie Nation (1846-1911).
Dahl’s friends were constantly complaining about vet bills, the cost of dog and cat food and having to clean up after their pets. Dahl advertised his pet rocks as needing no maintenance and they never die. Also, Gentle Reader, if you, as have I, ever owned a beloved pet you know the very real sense of loss a whole family and often friends too experience when a long-time pet dies from a lingering illness or even worse when a sudden and unexpected loss, say being hit by a car, occurs.
Peg and I just did not want to go through such a trauma again after we lost Haley, our schnauzer. So we no longer have a dog or a cat although we have had several of each. It also hurts when friends or family lose their pets. We know there is nothing we can do to assuage the heartache but, I hope, we listen attentively and neither discount the loss or, much worse, say, “Get on with things, it was just an animal.” I am aware there are many other pets that people are fond of besides cats and dogs. However, a very high majority of domestic pets are dogs and cats.
Just last week one of our nieces lost a long-time good friend, Richard Parker the Cat, and another good friend of ours lost a one-time stray cat that he named Marvin after he had allowed the waif into his home. Both our niece and our friend felt the heavy body blow and now know all any of us can do is commiserate and encourage the owners to concentrate on the joy Richard Parker and Marvin brought with them when they slowly worked into family status.
Another well-meaning but counter-productive bit of advice we often give family and friends who lose a beloved pet is, “I know it hurts now, but perhaps you should get another cat right-a-way.” While we probably do not believe animals are interchangeable, our niece and friend might take our sympathy for a lack of appreciation of the pet’s unique qualities. We could not even fathom such advice for a lost child but somehow we sometimes let loyal pets be thought of as we might widgets in an Econ class.
So, what do we say and do when a family member or a good friend loses a good pet? I suggest we can affirm their deep commitment to the pet by listening and help to fill the gap with shared activities or just a quiet cup of coffee. And of course, here at JPeg Osage Ranch, while we no longer have cats or dogs, we do have skunks, armadillos and various other not so cuddly uninvited guests!