Yesterday someone suggested that I get a pet to fill the void in my childless life. This is, for me anyway, a new one on the list of horrible remarks to make to the infertile. If I'd allowed the conversation to continue, doubtless the person would have gone on to suggest I go down to the local animal shelter and select the oldest, mangiest, blindest, most three-legged dog available, 'cause that's all I DESERVE.
I don't think most people would equate a pet and a child. Even people who use the word furbaby. I'm guessing that, to those who use it, the word means I love my pet so much it's like he or she is my child. I get that. For me it conjures up images of gestating, delivering, and nursing a puppy or kitten, but that's just me.
I love cats and dogs. And chinchillas and iguanas and all other pets. (Except parrots. And monkeys. Sorry, simply can't open my heart to parrots and monkeys.) But I don't want a pet, and here's why. It started with the pigs, Cheesecake and Piglet. I was about two years old when we got them, and about three years old when they were slaughtered. I guess it was intended as a lesson in food production, but turned out to be more of a lesson in how The Things You Love Will Be Taken From You. Next were the adorable fuzzeh bebeh ducks. This was a lesson to my useless, irresponsible mother in how If You Don't Provide An Enclosure For Your Ducklings They Will Wander Off And Freeze To Death. (You may know that song about the ten little ducks going out to play? Special poignancy for me.) When I was about five it was the three plump bunnies. Eaten by wild dogs. This was a lesson to my useless, irresponsible mother in how If You Don't Provide A STURDY Enclosure For Your Bunnies They Will Be Eaten By Wild Dogs. A year later there was the beloved dog we had to get rid of. My mother got knocked up by the married neighbor so we had to move out of town and couldn't take the dog. Then there was the beloved cat who jumped out of the car miles outside of town, found her way home, and, we later learned, got shot by the neighbor boy. Having the cat you love leap out of the car and having your mother refuse to stop and catch the cat is already an unforgettable memory. After a few more such incidents (e.g., the gerbils--my mother left the cage open and they were eaten by a cat who subsequently wandered off, never to be seen again), I hardened my heart to pets, and it has remained hard. To normal people, pets represent love and companionship. To me they represent heartbreak and death. My husband wants to know what will happen when our hypothetical child can't live without a dog or cat. I suppose I'll give it another shot at that point, though knowing my life, it will be mama, I'll diiiiieeeeee if we don't get a monkey! But the suggestion that I get a cat or dog so I don't spend all my time longing for a baby--while a totally brilliant solution for most cases of infertility--simply isn't going to work for me.