Saturday, March 11, 2017

Throwing shade on those without pets is a haughty endeavor

I don't pass judgment on those who decide to forgo a life intimately shared with pets day-to-day. It's not for everyone. Having pets demands a mindset and resources that one might not be able to tap in to now or ever. 

There's a level of commitment, understanding, patience, time and thinking ahead that must be summoned. And it compels resources outside of that: the financial means to support a pet, an ability to provide a stable home, reasonable access to options when decision-making needs to be employed. Also necessary is a willingness to set aside one's own needs so that an animal friend can be put first, both in the minutiae of daily life and when big things happen. Not everyone can handle this.

But still, people with pets persist in their judgments of people who choose to live life without them. So, I'm going to do my best here to shift the direction of the sun so that the proverbial shade is casted more thoughtfully.  

Consider that there might be more than meets the eye when it comes to a family of any composition that makes the decision to be pet-free. 

I say, 'Hats off!' to those who forgo the notion of sharing their lives with pets. They most often understand what an undertaking it is. They don't live under the pretense of 'I'll figure it out', knowing deep down that it's likely they won't, and put the companion animal or their familial relationships at a disadvantage. Yes, that's very much 'pro-pet'.

Yes, even though these people could provide a physically 'safe' place, the humans—for work or other commitments—would never be home nearly enough to provide adequate time or enrichment that is so very much needed for any companion animal's well-being, or maybe they really don't have the financial means. This, while their outwardly pet-loving counterparts who are all-too-willing to hit up others for a donation to provide the utmost tops in veterinary treatment because their own resources are stretched too thinly with their multiple-pet household; the more, the merrier! they're known to exclaim.

I often think of the folks who murmur to me in those familiarly hushed tones, 'I just couldn't do it again': the thought of facing the grief of the eventuality of losing a pet. Yes, including those, who are the product of a different generation or attitude and bear the emotional scars of pet loss when euthanasia, as we are aware, was handled with much less care and mindfulness than it typically is today. Perhaps someone has their hands full with supporting themselves and loved ones emotionally and the idea of being responsible for another living thing is not even close to being on the table. I find that sometimes, cultural norms can be behind the practice of not keeping pets.

One thing that I know is that a rough exterior of, I'm just not as in to animals as you are often reveals itself. It's quick. It offers no opportunity for questions, and for cut-to-the-bone reasons. It's safe. It can be complicated. But an unfortunate, knee-jerk response from the other side is to take it at face value, and then some.

It's unfair to toss around judgments about people simply because they've made a life choice to be without pets, and worse yet, to rub it in. I've met people from all walks of life who really do love pets and would like it if their lives were different, but because of the barriers that they face or that they have the sense to impose upon themselves, they find themselves being unfairly begrudged or even shamed at least a little by those who make the decision to welcome a pet into the family. The snide comments, the social media posts, the transparent attitudes of 'Oh, they don't like pets!'

As an aside, I have to admit that find it unfortunate to be witness to the, "If they don't like dogs [or cats or whatever], I don't like them" idea. I'm very enthusiastic about traveling, but wouldn't it be silly to not like people who might not be as keen on it? Of course it would. 

There's no shame in having a pet-free lifestyle. The truth is, we often have no idea what's behind one's decision, and no matter the reasoning, all I can say is that it's good enough for me. And to be honest, I'm not concerned with that decision. So, let's stop and think before assuming or wisecracking. Those who don't have pets for whatever reason, or don't feel comfortable with them are equally as wonderful and thoughtful as those that do—and I find, sometimes more so. In that way, it doesn't seem too far fetched that pet guardians could learn a thing or two from their pet-free counterparts.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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