During troubled times such as these, people yearn for someone they can depend upon, somebody who will be there for them through thick and thin yet won’t eat all of the Wheat Thins.
Certainly a spouse or a significant other can fulfill this role. But the record numbers of pet adoptions that have taken place over the past several months indicates that people are choosing the companionship of four-legged creatures instead of the human kind.
My wife and I live on a small farm. In my opinion, no farm is complete without at least three types of animals: cattle, cats and curs.
We have a handful of Jersey steers living in our cattle yard. Jersey cattle are a friendly breed. If you were to wander out into our cattle yard, the biggest risk you would run would involve exposure to high levels of cow slobber. The steers would crowd around you with expressions on their faces that seem to say, “Hi there! How do you taste?”
It might be possible to make a Jersey into a house pet, but such an undertaking would be filled with landmines. I have never heard of a cow being successfully housebroken.
Our golden retriever dog, Sandy, came to live with us more than 10 years ago when we rescued him from an animal shelter. Sandy has repaid us by digging random holes in the lawn and by occasionally dragging home some sort of unidentifiable and thoroughly disgusting carcass. The look on his face tells us that he is overjoyed to share his great good fortune with us; the aroma on his breath tells us that he has already partaken of it.
Rounding out our trio of species is our cat, Sparkles.
Sparkles is supposed to be a barn cat except for when my wife thinks it’s too cold outside or too rainy or when the wind threatens to mess up the kitty’s carefully tended coiffure. We live in windblown South Dakota, so Sparkles gets to spend a lot of time in the house.
We give Sparkles cat food and she returns the favor by bringing home some of the delicacies she has caught while patrolling our farmstead. Many is the time when we’ve opened the front door to find the mangled corpse of some luckless mouse or vole. Sparkles must think that we are world’s fussiest eaters because we have never dined on any of her offerings.
The arrival of cooler weather means that Sparkles has been spending more and more time in the house. Her indoor activities mostly consist of 1) napping 2) working on her ‘do 3) using her irresistible cuteness to get us to pet her.
Another major activity for Sparkles involves shedding. One of her top priorities is to leave tufts of cat hair in every part of our house. She sheds enough hair in a week to construct an entire additional cat.
Not to be outdone, Sandy sheds wads of hair that are the size of an adult sheep. But Sandy is strictly an outdoor animal, which is good news for our vacuum cleaner.
Sparkles hasn’t spent time with anyone other than my wife and me, so she’s suspicious of strangers. If Sparkles is outside when someone drives onto our farmstead, she swiftly slinks away to one of her many hideouts. My wife currently feels the same way about humans, any of whom could be carrying the COVID-19 virus.
Even hearing strangers’ voices is enough to make Sparkles scurry off and hide. She would be a terrible public speaker, and not just because her vocabulary is limited to several variations of “meow.”
I recently had a Zoom business meeting that lasted a few hours. When it was over, it appeared that I was totally alone in the house.
After conducting a search, I found her hiding under a bed. I tried to use sweet talk to convince her that the scary voices were gone and that she could come out, but she wouldn’t budge. I finally had to dislodge her with a broom.
“Leave me alone!” exclaimed my wife. “I’ve made friends with all the dust bunnies. I’ve even given them names!”
It’s been said that people often come to resemble their pets. This has definitely happened with my wife and Sparkles. They both like nothing better than a warm bed, they both like long afternoon naps, and they both spend an inordinate amount of time fussing over their hairdos.
My wife and I are fortunate to have our faithful animal friends to help us through these turbulent times. Although I think I’ll draw the line at buying cow diapers.