Pets: You’re brave for having them

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You’re Brave for Owning a Pet.

My dog died this week. It’s been a rough one — he was the first pet I had remotely any responsibility in raising, unless you count a plethora of hermit crabs and three fish all named Herman (fed constantly and died rapidly). Bruno was a friend and my favorite dog and I’m still hurting a bit. It’s painful, losing a pet.

And it’s also 100% the end result of every pet-owner relationship.

We all buy pets, knowing with almost absolute certainty that we will outlive them. How insane is that? How crazy must we be to continually get into relationships we know will end in us crying face down in a dander-filled carpet after eating an entire jar of figs?

And my god, why a dog? Why a cat? Their lives are so comparatively short. Bruno was 10. That’s about one-eighth of the average human’s life. Cats only live a little longer. Why the hell aren’t we all getting giant tortoises as pets? They live as long as we do! We’d save ourselves so much pain (though it would be a commitment on par with marriage in terms of length, I guess; intimidating).

If I came up to you with a vague offer, saying you could have 10 years of ups and downs, responsibilities, wonderful times and a few tough ones, but ultimately, in the end, you will cry your face off and feel a confused kind of sadness for a while, would you take that offer? Would you tell me take my insanity elsewhere and stop offering stuff like I’m from The Twilight Zone?

Bruno dying made me realize that people are actually pretty brave. Every time we make the active choice to have a pet, we’re saying yes to heartbreak. That’s vulnerable. We may not think about it until it’s upon us, but we are accepting real sadness as a certainty. To me, that’s impressive.

People often go for the easy route or avoid conflict or avoid vulnerability, or so we think. But I think we’re actually braving uncomfortable emotions more than we assume. So here’s to pets: they’re wonderful, they’re a pain in the ass, and they’re proof that human beings can say yes to feeling.

Or maybe we’re just commitment-phobes.