Coffee with Mimi: Being pet-friendly opens up the door to other experiences

By Mimi Becker

Contributing writer

Some people are pet friendly and some are not.  Sometimes those decisions are medically necessary.  For example, if you must be heavily medicated to share breathing room at any time occupied by a furry creature, you’re probably not a candidate for ownership of man’s best friend.  Or, if you have many time demands on your plate, pets are not a wise decision.  All promises aside, children are usually not the primary caregivers of the family pet.

Our family had various pets throughout the years.  Some experiences were more successful than others.

Fish really were my husband’s project.  The children named the fish, but he took care of the tank maintenance.  There was always some issue which caused multiple trips to the fish store.  I coached kids who swam in water; I had little use for uncooperative fish in a tank.  I complained often about the algae growth on the tank walls.  It seems natural sunlight and fish tanks don’t get along well — our house has 42 windows.   

We had various creatures which lived in cages.  Small children do not understand the concept of cleaning cages.  More to the point, they don’t grasp the mechanics of cage security features. Those latches that are designed to keep the doors closed and creatures in must be securely fastened.  One morning, Fluffy was not in her assigned spot.  No amount of calling for Fluffy resulted in her return.

Soon thereafter we heard a distinct scratching noise in the ductwork.  Conclusion, Fluffy had escaped the confines of the cage to explore the runs of the ductwork.  To appease the children, and avoid any lasting issue of an animal stuck in the ductwork, we tried an assortment of tactics to get Fluffy above floor level.  Food and water were placed at the duct closest to the cage.  We tapped the side of the duct to draw her attention to a familiar location in the house.  No luck.

It was determined that Fluffy could have easily slid down into the duct, but could not scratch her way out of the metal shaft.  Tube socks were draped down into the opening to give her a claw hold for escape.  (Parents will do any number of ridiculous things to comfort children in a pet crisis.)   

Someday, if the ductwork is replaced, just take the sections straight to recycling.  I don’t want to know any details about their contents.

Over the years we acquired an abandoned cat, a cat belonging to a foster child, my mother-in-law’s cat and a newborn kitten dragged into the basement by its mother through a broken window.  I am not a cat person.  I think it is a clash of personalities. 

Cats, in my experience, are extremely independent and demanding.  There isn’t room for both of us.  At least I can clean up after myself and fill my own food dishes.  We have two cats now, both of which have become attached to me.  If I sit down, one demands to sit in my lap.  One sleeps like a log at my feet.   What’s a person supposed to do in the face of such devotion?

I do love dogs.  As a child, we didn’t have house pets.  Understandably so, as there were quite enough living beings in our house without the added confusion, work and chaos pets add.  But, I do love dogs, so as soon as it was practical, I adopted a dog through the Humane Society.

It was my dog.  I took full responsibility for the dog and its care.  The kids all thought Sammy was ugly and perhaps a bit lazy.  I defended that dog against all attacks.  Soon, I found a sister for Sammy.  Sally, also from the Humane Society, could never be called ugly.  The children determined she was not very bright.  I would hear none of it.  Sally was the happiest dog ever.

To share in the wealth, I thought my husband should have a dog to call his own.  Again, a trip to the Humane Society was called for.  This time I allowed my husband to have some say in the matter.

It was a cold, nasty day when we decided to make the pick.  My husband chose a little, ratty looking thing which had been rolling around in every puddle it could find.  It wasn’t cute and it smelled, well, like a dog that had been rolling around in muddy water.  The Humane Society allowed us to take her to the vet for the required procedures.  I held her as well as I could on the trip without ending up as messy as she was.

We knew the drill, being experienced dog adopters.  We drop her off, they do the job, and we pick her up a couple days later. 

At home we were going about our business when the phone rang.  It was the Humane Society.  Due to some minor infection, the procedure could not be undertaken.  Now what?  Well, you can pick up the dog and then bring her back in a few days.  That ratty, dirty little thing, now, in my house?  Well, could you give her a bath first?  Sure, no problem.

The rest is history.  Sassy is our only dog now, the other two having died after many years as a part of our family.  Sassy turned out to be, after just a bit of sprucing up, the cutest, most lovable dog ever.  And she is devoted to me.