I often ask myself: why do we keep pets? Is it for company? Something cute to look at? Mechanism to enforce self-discipline? Obsession with ownership?
I had never really found an answer that I deemed satisfying. Until very recently, when a candidate presented itself.
I don’t keep pets. I move around too much. I practically live in one place for a year, then move, sometimes to a different country. So pet-keeping wouldn’t suit. We don’t keep pets at home in Thailand either. We did. Once. But a tragedy soon occurred involving a car and darkness, so the poor dog’s life was short-lived. Rest in peace, unnamed puppy.
In recent months, though, I’ve been spending more and more time at a friend’s. Now. Her house is full of animals. Literally. More specifically, dogs, lovebirds, and chicken. Here’s one of the birds:
Her name is Yokyek. She’s missing a foot, so when she walks she wobbles from side to side as her stumpy leg is shorter than the other foot-equipped leg. That’s actually why she lives in the house. My friend’s lovebirds (she has many of them) are normally kept in a cage outside the house, but Yokyek must have fallen in the cage when she was very young. So they took her in to nurse her. And now she’s a housebird. And a wilful little one at that.
So, recently I’ve been spending time at this friend’s house. I love it there. And I find myself wanting more and more to drop by. To see her pets. (Her too, of course.)
Never having kept a pet for an extended period myself, I have no way of knowing if this feeling of mine is representative of pet owners in general. But my answer to the above question would be: as a distraction.
If I were to buy myself a pet, now that I’m living more in one place, it would be to have it as a distraction. Now, distraction is often used as a negative term. Not here.
Fifteen minutes with The Bird, and all the worries and thoughts in my mind have practically vanished. I’ve never experienced a more effective mechanism for relieving stress and clearing my head. When you’re trying to get away from a pecking bird (oh it hurts. Take my word for it.), nothing else seems so important. Not anymore. And at the end of it, you’re left flushed from running around and laughing at yourself for behaving like a mad person because you’re scared of a bird that’s literally smaller than your hand. While the dog looks on, unimpressed at your undignified manners.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m playing with animals, I give them my full attention. The same way I would when engaged in a really intense or very interesting conversation. But my brain isn’t having to exert itself too much (as it would have to to follow said conversation), so the interaction doesn’t tire me out mentally.
So yes, my reason for having animals in the house would be to distract myself from things that weigh me down. Well, that wouldn’t be entirely accurate, actually. Of the many reasons I’d keep a pet, that’s the first one.
What are the others? Running a close second would be to feel connected. It’s hard to explain. If you’ve felt connected with an animal before, you’ll understand. The most connected I’ve felt with an animal (now don’t take this the wrong way) was with a horse. I was in Seville. And Seville is overrun by horse carriages for tourists (such as myself). And there is a clear oversupply of horse carriages, so most of the horsies end up standing there for hours on end in the blazing sun. Now, if I were in their position, I’d be bored witless. So for a few days I’d be going around patting the horses (believing that they’d welcome the distraction. They did seem to enjoy it.). And all of the drivers/owners were nice and/or uninterested enough to let me do with their horse as I please.
There was this one horse, a white horse, that seemed less fidgety than the others. So, after half a minute of letting him (it was a he) get used to my presence, I kissed him and put my hands around his very large head (horses are massive, aren’t they?). And he let me. And it felt amazing. And that’s what I mean by ‘feeling connected’ – reaching out to another living soul and being accepted. Being able to touch, feel, play with a living thing that has a will of its own. I get the same feeling – to varying extent – when a dog lets me scratch its tummy, when a cat brushes itself against my legs, or when a friend calls me when they’re crying and want someone to be on the line.
Why else would I have animals in the house? Hmm… well, they’re cute. Of course there are ones I find physically appalling. But I wouldn’t keep those, would I?
Look at these babies and tell me you don’t find them cute!
Do you keep pets? Or animals in the house you don’t consider pets mayhaps?
Share your thoughts.
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