Pets have always been a part of my life. When I was an infant, living in a new, suburban house, my mother had a Welsh Corgi. Unfortunately the dog didn’t have a long life, but was quickly replaced by our notorious Beagle, Rusty. I’m pretty sure the first cat I remember was a tabby named Bootsie. He used to sit in the manger on top of the TV cabinet at Christmas. Then came Mimi, a terrier mix, followed by Pudgie, a miniature Poodle, and her puppy, Pixie, also a poodle. He-She the gray cat, rabbits, canaries, parakeets, goldfish, Thumbelina the tuxedo cat with thumbs, and probably others I have forgotten, were a staple in my mother’s house. My Dad wasn’t as enthusiastic, but he never interfered with the animal activities. Kids in the neighborhood would bring injured animals to my mother for help. There lies the beginnings of my attraction to and affection for animals.
When I was in college I acquired two cats and the best dog I ever knew, Too-Sweet. She was a one year old Standard Poodle/Old English Sheepdog mix. I answered an ad in the newspaper- which didn’t say free to good home. I wasn’t discouraged. When we first met I realized she needed my help and probably my mother’s help as well. She was a matted mess, very scared to leave the only home she knew, which was also home to her mother. Somehow I managed to just load her in my car and take her. I didn’t offer any money, and I guess they people were just relieved that someone wanted her. I could write a whole blog about this dog. She was perfect.
When I got married, I came with these two cats and Too-Sweet. My husband knew from the start I would never be without pets. He didn’t seem to mind. We had our first child, and Too-Sweet guarded her crib while the then baby Michele slept. Not long after we got a Too-Sweet look-a-like from a Humane Society Shelter that my cousin directed in Florida. She was known as Short-Cake and was also a fantastic dog and a good companion for Too-Sweet. Our son also enjoyed Short-Cake. Once these two were gone I was attempting to take a break from dog ownership when a friend introduced me (and my mother who was then living with us once my father died) to a adorable Corgi mix. This dog did his best to impress, get adopted, and then turn into the dog from hell. My son, my mother, and I were probably the only people who did more than tolerate his bad habits and somewhat nasty temperment. I chose to believe his behavior was due to previous treatment, including being left on a road with a bag of food. Luckily my friend rescued him. We named him Ferris after I ran a contest with my high school students. I described his reddish fur and other traits. Ferris was the perfect name, probably conceived by my student after the movie character, Ferris Bueller.
There have been a multitude of cats, all of them special. I have reached the point where I have endured watching twelve dear pets undergo euthanasia. I now have three pets…one fourteen year old dog, Bella, a sixteen year old cat, Demi, and an eleven year old cat, Nebbiolo. With the advancing ages of all three pets comes the inevitable health issues and medications. I administer a total of fifteen medications daily to my pets. It becomes difficult to leave them in the care of another person. Luckily I have a brother who is very cat saavy and able to deal with them when both my husband and I have plans away from home. My husband will also care for them when I am away. All these trips are brief, since I only ask that essential medications be given. That has worked fairly well for the cats, but now my dog, who always traveled with us, is no longer able to deal with riding in the car. It has become better to just limit my own trips away.
My pets are totally dependent on me. This is a responsibilty I take seriously. It is one that takes priority in my daily life. I know when they are happy and also when their behavior has changed. I lost my beautiful Maine Coon cat, Frederick , to a tumor that was an indication that I should have even paid closer attention to his health. He was on a diet to lose some weight and by the time I noticed he had lost too much, it was too late. Only a few months after his annual well visit, he went back and the tumor was found. A week later I had to euthanize him.
It has been mentioned by some that my animal priorities seem higher than my family priorities. At first I am angry about that statement, but in a way it might be true. My family, although extremetly important to me, is no longer dependent on me. I did my job, along with my husband, and we produced two wonderful children who grew into wonderful adults. They all live their own lives, and for now, luckily, don’t need me to be present all the time. The fact that we all don’t live in the same area is also a factor. Would I like to see them more often? Of course I would. If they neede me, would I make arrangements for my pets? Yes. Two grandchildren make it unbearable at times. But I made the choice to care to these animals, and for now, I happily live with that choice. Our family is always welcome in our home. Our children visit when they can. When my pets are gone, I will be able to visit my family more often. They may just suggest I get another animal.
So, for now, my answer to the title question ” How much is too much when it comes to our pets?” is fairly simple. I believe once I sign on to pet ownership, it is my responsibility to provide all the care I can. I will always attempt to provide comfort for them and remedy their ailments with medications and supplements. Surgery is considered, but usually avoided. If my absence causes difficulties in this pursuit, I will remain with them.