Friday, December 19, 2008

You could get a lot of counseling for that much money

One of my 16-year old cats, Hocus Pocus, was running a fever a couple days ago. He felt better the next day, but I decided to take him in for a checkup and maybe some lab work. The vet did routine blood work and decided to x-ray the lungs. An hour later, X-rays back, the vet went off on a new tangent. "The heart doesn't have distinctive edges," said Dr Harbach pointing at the x-ray film with her pen. "We need to do a cardiac sonogram," she advises. I scheduled one for the following afternoon. Well, as it turned out, there was nothing wrong with the cat's heart. (BTW, I changed veterinarians shortly thereafter). The point isn't actually the illness, but the opinions of other people about my spending money on veterinary procedures.

Back at work the next day I told our receptionist about the veterinary visit. Another worker overheard and retold the story to yet more people. Most of them felt it was their job to put me straight about spending money on cats. These were some of their comments:

"You don't spend money like that on cats. You can get another cat for free."

"You're nuts, you need a shrink. You can get some serious counseling for that much money."

"When they get old/sick best to just let them go."

"Cats are not people. It's wrong to spend that money on cats when there are so many people who need help."

These viewpoints made me a little queasy, but mostly they made me mad. Is it just cats that illicit deep resentment or is it all pets? I suspect the sarcasm was directed at me because I gave value to a non-human creature. I'm not exactly shy about expressing myself so I told everyone what I thought about their advise: On the subject of helping people vs animals. My co-workers are driving brand new, ginormous SUV's and telling me to give my vet budget to people. So, I asked why didn't they drive their last SUV for another 10-years and donate those car payments to a good cause? Can anyone, in good conscience, eat lunch and dinner at a restaurant when some poor folks need the meals much more. Why aren't they brown-bagging it and sending the money to the Salvation Army? Nobody agreed with those arguments. It isn't the same thing at all. A new Lexus is a necessity, a cat is a liability. Fancy stuff is important, cats, on the other hand, damage fancy stuff. On and on in that vein. I wanted to ask them to detail their last donations to our Rescue Mission for the homeless, but I bit my tongue.

I've heard the same ideas from pseudo-psychiatry personalities on TV. Pet owners substitute animals for children or human relationships. Isn't it possible to have both? As a child we had pets. I don't think my parents loved me less because we had a couple cats and a collie (altho I was certainly more trouble than all the pets combined;)

I know many of you have pets. What do you think about these arguments? Do you believe people are confused and think their pets are children? Or have they raised their children and now have some additional time and money to enjoy a pet? Or maybe they find raising children with pets helps the children learn empathy and responsibility? Is spending money on those pets somehow taking food from the mouths of hungry children? Do you think people with pets shun their friends and stay at home to interact with animals as a recent publication suggested? I'd be interested in your comments.

I hope everyone has a nice weekend. Stay warm and enjoy your pets--if you have 'em.
See you all next Monday.