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Monday, November 24, 2014


I awoke today pet-less for the first time in 32 years. The coming weeks will impose adjustment to a house that will be more empty and less dynamic. Many heart-warming household routines have ended abruptly (and some occasionally exasperating ones, too). It's also a milestone in the sense of the old saying that "life begins when the kids move out of the house and the dog dies." All four of our household pets during the child-raising years are gone now.

Weepy hagiographies are not my style. Besides, living on a farm for a few summers taught me not to elevate animals, even pets, to the status of humanity. I believe that we can celebrate the joys of having pets, and also mourn the loss of them, without straying into anthropomorphism. Family, friends, and strangers are more important than pets. That said, I've had a pet — or at least cohabited with someone else's pet — for three-quarters of my life. I do miss them. I'm grateful for what they brought to our lives, and I'm satisfied that we were good masters for them.

The joys of having a pet may resume someday, but that's a matter to be explored thoroughly beforehand. Within the expected lifespan of a puppy or kitten there is certain to be some kind of discontinuity in my life. For example, I doubt that ten years hence we will be living in this house with its ample, fenced back yard. We do like to travel, and in arranging travel I think we would enjoy a degree of spontaneity that pets have often precluded. In time we will sort this out.

For the record: although definitely a dog person, I had a great relationship with the cat, Phantom, whom we buried at sunrise. I worked to forge that relationship, and I think he did too. I don't expect such a relationship to recur, but I never expected it to happen once. Life has its pleasant and rewarding surprises.