Let me re-phrase that. You don’t necessarily have to be a non-pet LOVER to be in a situation where owning a pet, i.e., a dog or a cat, is impractical, impossible, or unfair to the animal. Those who work long hours, travel a lot, are allergic, or whose living situations do not allow pets—i.e., dogs or cats—don’t really have any choice. If you are not the kind of person who has at least several hours, morning and night, to devote to a dog or cat, you don’t need to own one. If you love cats but own a dog, that dog will know, and resent you for it. And vice a versa.
Me? I’m a cat lover, but my husband isn’t particularly fond of the species. He’s a dog lover, and we did adopt, about nine years ago, an adorable little mini-Boston terrier. He’s the best dog anyone could ever ask for. He doesn’t bark excessively, is very neat and tidy, and doesn’t ask for much except to run in our fenced backyard a few times a day, and for a scratch on his neck as he snores on my husband’s lap in the evenings in front of the television.
But there it is: On my husband’s lap. Chopper is a smart little bugger, and instinctively knows I am not a big dog lover. I strongly believe we come into this world as either a dog or a cat person, and, like our sex or our height, there’s little that can be done—non-surgically, at least—to change that.
So, do I have pets? Yes, I do. Even though someday down the road I will talk my husband into adopting another feline son or daughter, in the meantime, I have transferred my affections to other living beings. I raise freshwater angelfish, and I collect orchids.
Possessed? Perhaps. Perhaps it’s because that unlike a dog or a cat, angelfish and orchids don’t give back the love I shower on them as perceptively as with a furry charge. They do, but it’s not as blatant, or as obvious to the onlooker. So, more is better.
In my office, there are three aquariums, two giant and one small. The two big tanks hold between them nine exotic, colorful Koi and marble angelfish. They are bright spots of color in my day who watch me as I write and never make a peep to distract me. In fact, the bubbling of their filters offer a soothing backdrop—and make delaying trips to the bathroom all but impossible. No bladder problems in my future, that’s for sure. The third tank is small and holds an electric blue Betta fish, who actually belongs to my grandson. The betta is also my token out-species, proving I don’t discriminate against species of fish other than freshwater Angels (not).
In the front of the house, there is an extra bedroom which I transformed into what my son calls the “Circle of Life Room.” Bathed in natural light from a south-facing window, the room is filled with more of my pets. Two tanks hold four more angelfish, two breeding pairs who occasionally bless me with dozens of baby fish. (Thus, the name, Circle of Life, I guess). There are also several flat surfaces covered—literally covered—with orchids. I believe I’m presently up to fourteen, but who’s counting? There’s also a passion flower vine, and a terrarium representing a miniature forest of plants who love humid climates.
Are these pets care free? No. I spend about 2 hours every other week vacuuming the aquariums and performing water changes—using a special apparatus I paid lots of money for that ensures the crappy tap water in my town doesn’t kill my babies. I also use this water to make ice cubes for my orchids, most of which are Phalaenopsis varieties who prefer three ice cubes a week to regular watering. I never drink my tap water, nor do I subject my orchids or angelfish to the stuff.
Do they give back? You bet they do. Every time an orchid sends up a spike with buds for yet another bloom, my heart swells. It’s saying, “Thanks, Mom, for not feeding us crappy tap water.”
Every night I thaw out frozen fish food—a concoction of brine shrimp and plankton that my angel babies love—and feed them from a teaspoon before I retire for the night. Do they eat off the spoon? You know, they actually do.
So, if you’re in a position where a dog or a cat is out of your realm of possibility, don’t discount other, less “cuddly” variety of pets. Love can come back to you tenfold no matter what form of living thing you choose to shower it on. My orchids and angelfish may never fetch a ball, but they warm my heart as certainly as a kitten purring in my lap.