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What is it about our pets?

[row][span size=’8′][slab_h3][slabtext]”I would like to see anyone, [/slabtext][slabtext] prophet, king or God,[/slabtext][slabtext]convince a thousand cats to do the same thing at the same time.” [/slabtext][slabtext]– Neil Gaiman[/slabtext][/slab_h3][/span][/row]
I have always loved dogs. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t like them. Even when a neighbor’s dog took a bite out of my hand, I still liked all other dogs. (You’d think the bite and the ensuing rabies vaccine series would have made me fear dogs.) However, because of our financial situation growing up I didn’t get to have a lot of dogs. One dog I had died when we were unable to take it to the veterinarian. Another dog ran away.

It was my grandfather who had dogs, and lots of them. He loved his dogs. He fed them meat from the slaughterhouse every evening. That’s one really good memory I have of spending summers with my grandparents in Chihuahua. Grandpa would come home and his dogs would go crazy for him. He’d stand in the backyard, cutting off pieces of meat for the dogs. My aunt had a house cat that ran outside and onto the roof to get his piece there. One time, grandpa threw a piece of meat up at the cat, the cat reached out for it and missed, falling into the pack of dogs on the ground. Poor cat. That probably cost him one life, at least.

When I was in college, my landlord, who lived right next door, had two dogs. He kept them hungry all the time, feeding them only once. He said that it made them more aggressive so they would protect his home. Those two dogs were anything but aggressive. I’d come home late and toss them some scraps. The way their tails wagged made me smile.

After college, I didn’t have any pets at all until I met the woman who’d become my wife. She taught me to love pets by introducing me to her behemoth cat. A few months into our dating, we adopted a little cat. Then I got a fish for my apartment. Once we moved in together, we got a dog. Let me tell you, that dog and the big cat got along famously. I have hidden camera footage of the two of them napping on the couch, one on each side, for hours every day when we were gone. Unfortunately, the big cat passed away from old age.

It was then that we adopted a new cat. We had him for a few months before he passed away from an accident in the unfinished basement. I was out for a run when my wife called me. She was very upset. She found him hanging by his collar on a wire in the basement. The snap-away collar didn’t snap away. It was awful. Ever since, she’s made sure to see all the cats as soon as we get home.

I write “cats” because we eventually got two kittens to give company to the little cat. The two kittens are all grown up now, but only in size. They still think they’re kittens, and they give the little cat a run for her money.

While we were dating, and after the fish died (as fish do), I got a couple of gerbils. When they died (as they do), I got a couple of Guinea Pigs. They sit in my office all day, doing what they do… Which is mostly eating. When I sit at my desk and do stuff, I’ll take one of them out to sit at the desk with me. He’ll look at the monitor or wander around, eating my notes and important documents.

It’s true what my wife said about having pets: They give the most empty home a feeling of being alive. Now that I have these quadrupeds around, I can’t imagine not being in this “pack.” It’s our little family, and it will always be our little family, even if we decide to fill the house with human children as well.

And, now, here are some pictures of our quadrupeds, including three dogs whose picture I took when I traveled to Chihuahua a few weeks ago.
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René F. Najera, DrPH

I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.

1 reply

  1. I know the feeling all too well.
    I’ve *always* had a dog in the house until recently. Recently, because I was forced, under financial constraints, to leave my last dog behind with a friend of sorts.

    Well, he called himself a friend, but also told my wife (I was nearby and overheard the conversation) that he’d “throw me under the bus to protect himself”, whilst also calling himself a former Navy SEAL.
    Small hint, I’m retired US Army Special Forces and personally know quite a few SEAL team members. Never cared about which team they were, we were all cut from the same cloth and on the same mission.
    Protect the rich guy. Or our nation. Depending on one’s own naivety.
    Sorry to burst some innocent’s bubble, but that is the real world today. 😦

    Back to wives and canines.
    My wife doesn’t like dogs. She grew up with one, one whose variety is from our good host’s namesake.
    I never really liked that particular breed, but manage to get along with them.
    Interesting, as I was bit by one in my youth and the good barber who owned such a beast administered first aid by introduction of alcohol into an open wound.
    OK, it was *really* unpleasant for my tender years, but I also learned from my own family dogs over the years.
    First and foremost, don’t stare a strange dog in the eyes unless you *want* a confrontation.
    I’m rather “fluent” in dog. I well understand their body language.
    My wife introduced me to cats. Over our 31+ years of marriage, I’m to “pigeon” cat. I can “converse”, but am far from fluent.

    Case in point, my best friend, a cat at that time, was our family youngest cat of two. She literally was my earmuffs when I was sleepiing.
    Or my skullcap.
    We rescued a dog, who was chained to a fence, with barely two inches of freeway in freezing rain.
    He happened to turn out to be Dutch Shepherd. A brilliant breed.
    Regrettably, he was both previously abused for a year and also still young.
    Our youngest cat, who happened to be overweight and chosen as the brightest cat in the pet shop, as she managed to outsmart the teen guarding the kittens while they were being examined, starved herself. Unable to find peace with this new species in our home.
    Granted, one that relocated furniture at whim…
    Said dog became my yard friend. As I’m an avid gardener for foodstuffs and spices, that worked out well.
    Still, the overweight cat died from liver failure. Never knew that an overweight cant could suddenly lose weight and die. 😦

    A couple of years later, we adopted a female pit bull, who was raised with cats, which we learned long after.
    Said dog was abandoned in a home on our street after “her man got locked up”.
    5 weeks inside of the house with two cats, all animals came out alive. One cat to expire that night, the other cat to expire a month later.
    The dog was one I behold as I returned home after work. At first glance, I thought her to be an old dog and not long for this world.
    As I grew nearer, I noticed that she was young and emaciated.
    I’ll suffice it to say, if the woman who abandoned said animals were present at the time I learned of the cause of the dog’s condition AND cat’s condition, I’d still be in prison.

    Still, we weren’t on the best of financial conditions, new house and young kids and all.
    So, at first, we called the city animal control, the local Philadelphia SPCA.
    On July 6.
    They were short staffed, but promised someone out that day.
    TWO days later, they arrived and were dismissed. My wife had come to love that dog and it was her birthday.

    One month later, one idiot made the mistake of attacking me over the condition of the dog, said dog helped defend both of us, without any aggression against a human (he sent his dog after me and our new and emaciated dog defended both of us as I defended myself against the idiot).
    Two months later, you’d not know that she was starved.

    That was back in 2001. She’s still hanging on, cancer ridden, incompetent and somewhat senile, being cared for by my eldest daughter.
    Still the same dumb and lovable dog.
    Though, annoyingly stinkier, due to the incompetence.

    I “speak” fluent dog. I’ve even played with the alpha dog, who happened to be female, who was infamous for biting idiot contractor handlers.
    I’ll never forget the chalk white face of the kennel manager as he came in to see me wrestling on the floor with that dog, dear Myra.

    Damn, but I miss having a dog around. For, when one’s wife is in a bad mood, one’s dog still isn’t. The converse is also true, when I’m in a bad mood, neither usually are.
    Either way, it rather fixes the situation. 🙂
    But then, over my 27 year, 8 month military career, I’ve been called an SOB more times than Carter has little liver pills. 😉


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