The term usually conjures up a mental image of an unkempt old woman stooped over by the ravages of time. She is wearing a faded, shapeless house coat or muu-muu and is shuffling through a furry sea of felines. She lives alone, as her companions are her kitties. She feels needed, loved and accepted by them. Her mutterings and odd behavior don’t seem to bother the cats, because after all, they are her family.
To be honest, I’ve always liked animals. We had various pets and farm animals growing up. But as much as I loved the cute dogs and furry cats, I always thought of them as animals and not as another sibling. The pets were usually kept outside, so that may have been part of it. I just didn’t understand those people who dressed their pets up in clothing, threw birthday parties for them or took them out shopping. Those who truly considered Fluffy and Fido to be full-fledged members of the family. I didn’t understand the sometimes smelly house with the sofa covered in animal hair or the ill-mannered pup repeatedly jumping up on me or (even worse) the over-excited dog riding my leg like a rocket while the (clueless) owner looked on adoringly.
Fast forward a few years. Picture me married with four little ones. My husband and I have agreed on having no pets for the time being. Me, being too busy with the children while the husband just isn’t a big fan of animals in the first place. The children, though, are obsessed with getting a dog. That is all they talk about. For every Christmas and birthday they tell us that a dog is all they want. Just a dog. And of course, what kind of parents would deny their kids the one thing they wanted most in the whole world? Well, that would be us.
So this little scenario goes on for a number of years until a bit of miscommunication changes everything.
The following is an exchange my husband, Shawn had with a guy from church and the miscommunication that ensued:
Carl: Would your family be able to watch my dog for a week while I’m out of town?
Shawn: (remembering his dog obsessed children) Sure, that sounds fine.
Now here is what my husband thought Carl meant:
Carl: Would your family be able to come to my home and feed my dog each day while I’m gone?
But this is what Carl was actually saying:
Carl: I’m a bachelor so my dog, Sassy is my baby. I wouldn’t dream of leaving her home all alone. Would your family be willing to let her come stay at your house for the week I’m gone? She’ll want to sleep on your bed and take the best spot on the sofa during prime time t.v.
So, consequently, Sassy ended up staying with us for a week. (Much to the bewilderment of my husband.)
Well, that episode of slight miscommunication turned out to be only the beginning. All the things we were afraid of: smelly dog, hair on the furniture, barking, biting, jumping up, chewing and potty accidents, we didn’t have to worry about with Sassy. She was extremely well-behaved and easy-going. (I truly believe she considered herself a human.) We ended up watching Sassy a few more times before Carl moved away.
And then we watched our neighbors cat for a week, too. (Causing me to immediately desire a cat of my own.)
So, to fairly shorten an already overly long story, we have had our own dog now for about 7 years and our cat for 4 years. And even though I don’t throw elaborate birthday pet parties for them or dress them in silly clothing (except for that Christmas sweater with the electronic blinking lights and that Tinkerbell Halloween costume) I consider them both, part of the family. Especially the cat. Who, despite her extreme snoopiness, is a total delight.
And you know, sometimes I even see that Cat Lady scenario in my future…