Pets: Just Animals or Members of the Family?

Posted By Wendy

For pretty much my entire childhood, we always had at least one pet in the house. When I was born, my parents brought me home and introduced me to their cat Pinky, who was a little wary of the newest member of the family, but who grew to at least tolerate me (or so I’m told. Pinky passed away before I was old enough to remember her). Then we had another cat, Feathers, and a dog, Frisker. Feathers was a gentle, beautiful soul—as soft as her name. Frisker, a black lab, was pretty much insane but always good fun. Sadly, neither of those pets lasted long (Frisker was run over by a car and I don’t remember what happened to Feathers, but I think coyotes might have claimed her.)

But the love of my life before Alex came along was my cat Piper.

Piper was part Persian with long gray fur, white paws, and a white muzzle. His golden eyes and his fluffy mane made him look regal, like a lion watching over his pride. But for all his grace, his most prominent trait was his loyalty. Piper sat down next to me and watched me do my homework. He slept in my bed across my forehead every night. He waited for me to get home by the door. When I called his name when he was outside hunting, he barreled down the street, mewing and mewing until he reached the door and booked it to the cabinet he knew held his treats. When he grew sick with liver disease in his later years, he sat patiently as my father and I administered a saline drip into his scruff two times each day. His eyes became cloudy, his sharp gaze disoriented, but he never strayed. He stuck by me through my crappy teenage years and he fought his disease for more than a year before finally succumbing just before I graduated high school. It was like he knew I was leaving.

Piper’s death hurt worse than the death of my grandfather just a few days before. Grampy had Parkinson’s Disease, and all of my memories of him are as a shaking, nearly-mute shadow of a man confined to a nursing home for the last 15 years of his life. I mourned for my grandfather mostly because I felt bad for my mother. But when I lost my cat, well, I felt my whole world come down around me.

Piper didn’t wear sweaters or go on walks on a cat leash or make an appearance on the family Christmas card. When we went on vacation, Piper stayed home and dutifully watched over the place while we traveled to North Carolina or Pennsylvania or to Disney World in Florida. When we got back, he let us know he was pissed. (He crapped in the bathtub for good measure.)

Piper was never called my brother. We knew he was “just a cat.” But he was a part of so many wonderful childhood memories. When I built forts in the basement, Piper was there. When I got my heart broken by a high school boy, Piper was there. And when I came home with a trophy from dance competitions, Piper helped me celebrate. (I *may* have put a few of my blue ribbons around his neck.)

Now, our son Lucas is obsessed with my parents’ dogs Toby and Tia. Whenever we FaceTime with them, he asks to see the “wow-wows.” He followed them around…like a dog…for our entire trip back east for Thanksgiving. He pet them and played with them—sometimes not-so-gently—and they patiently sat by while this stranger in their home made their week more than a little stressful.

Hi wow-wow.

Toby and Tia are 10 years old. They’ve got a few more years left in them, just long enough for Lucas to really remember them. They don’t live in his house, but I know when they pass, he and I will mourn their loss. Because they, like Piper, have made us fall in love with them. Don’t tell me they are “just” animals. They’ve become members of our family, and thus, a part of us.

Posted By Alex

I told Wendy that maybe I’m not the best person to argue this with. I have zero patience for animals and anytime my parents would buy a dog when we were kids, that poor animal never had proper attention. I blame my Mom for this because she refused to allow animals into her house due to her clean freak nature. She cleans the clean. The dogs we had were dumb as shit and having the little patience I had meant that I’d only play with them for a few minutes of the day. Mostly, I had more important priorities. Like sports, girls, and figuring out how to beat X-men for the SNES.

You see, pets are cool but they are not humans. Or video games for that matter. There was a lot of Street Fighter in my childhood, if I remember correctly. Long Ken vs. Ryu matches between me and my brother. “Go play with the dog!” Why? I’m doing hurricane kicks up in here, bitch!


The difference between Wendy and me is that she had/has the patience for animals and even more love in her heart for them than I do. She loved spending time with her pets regardless of what was going on in her life but in our family, we just didn’t care about animals enough to warrant that special bond she had. I remember when we were older and my Dad asked if we wanted another dog, I told him no because the poor thing would just be neglected like the rest of the dogs we had. Nothing was more important than soccer practice as far as free time went. And when I wasn’t gaming at home, I played a lot with our neighborhood friends—epic games of hide-and-seek as well as big football matches on the street. A pet would just get in the way of this and I’d hate it for giving me responsibilities I didn’t want. Sadly, not being able to be found was more important to me than caring for an animal. Sorry.

So whenever Wendy refers to pets as members of the family, I scoff because it sounds ridiculous. They aren’t. They are pets and most of them don’t give a fuck about you. All they care about is that you feed them, pet them, and clean up after their shit. That last part is just a bonus for them so long as you give them a space big enough to drop their load or mask another dog’s pee stains. Now, I know that some dogs are 100 percent loyal and would die trying to protect you, but most of them don’t give a crap until hey-my-owner-is-dead-who’s-going-to-feed-me-now?

Don’t mistake my apathy for hate because I do not hate pets. I think they are cool and if Lucas wants one when he’s older, I won’t deny him the pleasure of animal companionship. But I won’t refer to whatever dog or cat we get him as his brother or sister. Um, no. It just sounds ridiculous typing it. Animals as siblings, lulz. I suppose that ultimately, however you feel about your pet is entirely up to you. But don’t expect me to be all hugs and kisses just because our dog’s last name is the same as my last name. I will scoff each and every time I look at his dog tags and and laugh at how ridiculous it looks.

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6 Responses to “Pets: Just Animals or Members of the Family?”

  1. echavez

    We have two dogs and i would not just call them “just animals” but they also don’t get what my kids get as far as love and attention. I see them more as extended family. However, i voted for members of the family. If our dog, butters was attacked and hurt, i would take him to the dog ER (they have it). If he was just an animal, i would say, sorry foo, was nice knowing you! Time to get a German Sheppard now!

    • wtg22

      I am attached to your two crazy doggies, too. And the funny thing is, even though I don’t live with your guys anymore, I feel like Butters and Baxter still remember our special time together. I miss taking them on their daily walks around Marina!

  2. Gaby

    One holiday a few years back, we cut down on our gift budget because we took Butters to the emergency room after he ate a pan of Espresso Brownie cookies. We also took Baxter to the hospital after he was bitten by a bigger dog. I’d say our dogs are our family. Since having kids, they’ve been neglected and relegated to second-tier family members, but they’re in a better position that the dogs we had growing up. I grew up in a similar environment as Alex. Our house never smelled of cookies, it smelled of sterile. However, as much as my mom and dad weren’t dog people, we had some. But they were disposed of as easily as they came. We (Eric and I) aren’t like that and as much as Butters drives me crazy with his incessant barking, we love them and will have them in our home until they die. We love them so much we have Alex, who is impatient with dogs, visit them when we’re out of town. BTW, thanks dude. I’ll make sure to leave more dry-erase markers out, knowing how much you dislike dogs.

  3. Ozzy

    Like Alex said, we were never into animals. I think if my mom had been more lenient and let the dogs be inside we would have a different look on it. But I can also see how people can care for an animal so much that they are part of the family.

    I’ve never had that but it’s something I do want. I hope to one day (when our backyard is decent) have a dog and let it be inside and treat it like a family member. But I also don’t want to be one of those crazy animal people who dress up their pets and include them in family photos. But if I ever do dress up my dog it will be like Battle Cat from He-Man cause that shit was badass.

    • tHIsOrTHaT

      My cat Mr. Beautiful is part of my family, part of my whole life. He has traveled with me (kitty-car seat and all) and consider him unique and quirky (as no two animals are the same) and I love him dearly. I feel animals are not just animals, when you have truly had a relationship with one you know they become so much more than that, they are your family and your friends..


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