And then some

“I am happier now than I think I have ever been,” I told Guion recently one night, as we were getting into bed.

Something I’ve been thinking about lately: I will probably only ever have dogs as pets, because dogs are perhaps the only animals who really want to be sharing their lives with humans. Cats could take us or leave us, and the rest of the lot (horses, rabbits, tarantulas, lizards, hamsters, parakeets, chinchillas, and so forth) would likely prefer not to share our company; they don’t revel in society of human beings. Dogs are perhaps entirely unique in this aspect.

I think a lot about animal well-being these days. And sometimes, even though we may love riding horses or wearing parrots on our shoulders, we are giving those animals a limited and frustrating existence by forcing them to live in the way we want them to. I love animals, and I want to collect them all, so this is a principle that is hard for me to accept. I’d love to have a veritable menagerie in my home, but in that instance, I am thinking only of myself and not of the animals.

What is the natural state of a parakeet? It is not in a cage in a living room. What is the natural state of a rabbit? In a den, in a meadow. What is the natural state of a betta fish? In a puddle in Thailand, not sitting in two cups of water on your kitchen table. What is the natural state of a lizard? Under a rock, in a sand dune, not in a glass terrarium. And yet, what is the natural state of a dog? In a house, connected to a human.

House cats are a secondary exception. Even though cats are not truly domesticated, many of them would not do well without human care and some seem to even like/tolerate people. I have no objection to people having cats, and I sometimes think I would like a cat, although perhaps for the wrong reasons (they strike me as excellent home decor; cats make every room look elegant).

That said, we might get chickens one day, but I don’t consider chickens to be pets, even though we will treat them with lovingkindness and not eat them. Chickens do not exist in the wild, so they, along with other livestock, are a notable exception to this rule (animals we have domesticated to suit our needs vs. animals we have turned into pets over time).

A strange thing to write or even think about, but it’s something that has been taking up space in my brain.

Gardening has become one of my chief pursuits — specifically, landscaping the front yard. (Guion has jurisdiction over the backyard, including the large vegetable garden.) My goal is to eradicate all of the grass and fill the entire space with plants. I want to spend every spare penny on plants. On Monday, we planted ferns, an obsidian heuchera, a young crape myrtle, and a full flat of pachysandra, to jumpstart my groundcover ambitions. (We also bought, in our overeager desire, allium and crocus bulbs, which will need to be planted in October.)

I consider myself an amateur, experimental gardener. The internet, along with vestiges of my mother’s advice, are the only reasons I know anything about plants. I do a little bit of research, and then I just go out and buy what appeals to me visually. Naturally, I’ve already made many errors, but my joy knows no bounds when plants succeed.

Animal nostalgia

Yesterday I probably spent a good two hours researching small animals I could be allowed to own in our apartment. I love animals. Guion thinks I want a pet because I’m dissatisfied with our marriage, but that is not the case at all. This is how this conversation went last night. Not kidding:

G: Am I not enough for you? Is our marriage so terrible that you must get a pet to lavish your affection on instead?
A: No, no, no, stop being stupid. That’s not it at all. You know very well that I love animals. I love them! Not being able to have an animal is like me telling you that… that… you’re not allowed to listen to music anymore!
G: What? No. Terrible comparison. You looked at animal pictures all day, and now you want one. It would be like me sitting on the Internet all day and then insisting on having a concubine.
A: A CONCUBINE. Really. That’s the BEST analogy you can come up with!?
G: No. But I need an argument.

Whatever.

So, this is the list I came up with (with links to the cutest ones on the Interwebs, in case you don’t know what I’m talking about):

Holland lop rabbit
Budgie
Zebra finch
Betta fish (This is actually our own Saul Bellow, with Grace imitating him)

Hm. The very interesting thing about this list is the fact that these are all animals I owned when I was a child.

We had a darling dwarf Holland lop named Spencer; to this day, the four of us still swear that he knew how to play hide-and-seek with us.

I had two beautiful budgerigars named Monet and Renoir (I was a pretentious 12-year-old), who drove me crazy even though I had begged for them for my birthday. I prayed one night that they would die, and a week later, off went Renoir. Monet stuck it out for a few more months, until he died of a broken heart, I surmised. I still feel guilty about this.

Kelsey got a Zebra finch named Sprite for some reason or another. He also died rather ceremoniously: apparently got all puffed up one day after we got back from church and we literally watched him keel right over. Sad. We were not the best at keeping birds alive.

And that brings us to the betta ownership. I had one named Napoleon for a while, and now we have Saul Bellow, the sole survivor of my unethical idea for a party decoration (fish in giant glass vases on the table! With names of important 2009 celebrities!). He has grown to be quite handsome and Mother swears that he recognizes her when she walks in. We let her pretend this.

As far as dogs and cats are concerned, I just want another Australian Shepherd, like our gorgeous, highly intelligent and highly neurotic Emma. And I’m not even remotely interested in a cat. Why? Probably because I never had one growing up. Unjust, I know. But true.

So we stand at cross purposes. Guion really doesn’t want an animal in the house; I feel the desperate need for one. A rabbit is my top choice, but Guion insists that they smell (which is only partially true). We also don’t have a pleasant yard for it to graze in. A budgie was my next choice. They are clever and companionable and they like to be scratched and carried around on your finger. But they are messy. And occasionally loud.

I guess we’ll just get a betta then. Ho hum. At least it’s something alive.

Anyone else feel this way? Do you own the same animals you did as a child? Do you wish you had the same pets you did growing up? Am I the only one who lives in this dangerous state of animal nostalgia?