Anyone who has followed me on twitter or has visited my website knows that I am an unrepentant animal lover. It’s been that way my whole life. Some of the earliest pictures of me include my father’s favorite hound Whiskey or my mother’s pet raccoon, with whom I shared my kiddie pool. When I was around nine and one of our cats smothered some of her kittens, I sobbed like they were my own children and made my father bury the little babies in their own tiny graves. The first animal I could call my very own pet was a white cat left abandoned near my house. Her “proper” name was Snowball but I only called her Kitty.
Growing up, my favorite television channel was PBS and I soaked up such programs as Nature. My father and godfather taught me how to identify birds by the sound and I fell in love with robins because of the description of them in The Secret Garden: “His red waistcoat was like satin and he puffed his tiny breast out and was so fine and so grand and so pretty that it was really as if he were showing her how important and like a human person a robin could be. (Chapter VII)”
And I’m not an animal lover because I have a fanciful view of them. Spiders are cannibals. Orcas will toss around and kill seals just to do it. Male lions, when they get a new mate who has had cubs with another male, will kill and eat the cubs to preserve his own genetic line. And house cats and dogs will eat their owner if said owner drops dead and if said pet is hungry enough.
(Though, some articles I’ve read suggest that dogs will go hungry longer than cats to avoid eating the dearly departed master for as long as possible. Or, that could just be fanciful anthropomorphism since dogs are omnivores, therefore widening food options, whereas cats are carnivores and no one leaves steak casually lying around. On the other hand, my mother once told me that cats will put their faces near their owner’s nose while the owner sleeps, not to steal their soul, but to check to see if they’re still breathing. Sandra might have been pulling my leg but I’ve been the recipient of one of Frankie’s long, soul-searching stares, so I’m not so sure about that. But I digress.)
I am an animal lover because they are so different. It’s a whole other way of interacting with the world. In order to learn about how an animal perceives and interacts with their environment, you have to see things as they do. I love getting new perspectives and learning new things. And it’s really fun finding a healthy animal who doesn’t always do what science says they should do! That’s just simply how they are. Exceptions to the rules are awesome. It was both frustrating and funny when I discovered Frankie doesn’t lose his mind over catnip (about 15% of cats couldn’t care less about the herb). I’ve also recently acquired a betta fish and it’s been fascinating, learning how to care for it and how it behaves.
An example of this is that I’ve learned you can actually play with a fish. One such game is to take a mirror and hold it up to the tank. The male betta will think another male has invaded his territory and he’ll flare his fins and puff up. Naturally, you shouldn’t do this too often because you’ll stress the fish, but I did it for a few moments earlier today and it was the coolest damn thing I’ve done all week. I also learned they’ll chase lazer pointers, which will certainly make my husband feel better. He bought one to use to play with Frankie, but Frank wasn’t interested. (My husband is also an animal lover.)
I honestly think that people who don’t like animals are closing their minds off to new views and new ways of doing things. Being an animal lover sometimes means I’m challenged to discover the reasons why I do what I do and if what I’m doing is making a positive or negative impact on the environment. After being around animals long enough, one can’t help but to question one’s own place in the natural world. And if you love animals, and keep animals around, you’ll never be bored for too long. Animals are always up to something.