Adjusting to Life Without a Pet

It's hard.

taken when I volunteered at an animal shelter

I had never lived a day without a pet. Before I was born, my parents had already adopted a dog they named Jackson. Jackson was a beagle-basset hound mix. He was black with white splotches. From what I understand, he was a bit of a handful. My parents have told me a story where he had eaten an entire thing of Vaseline and, the next morning, regretted it. When my parents brought me home, he wasn't sure how to handle it. I'm sure it didn't help that when I learned motor control, I would pick on him by tugging on his floppy ears. Then, as Jackson and I aged, we became the best of friends. By the time I had reached the fourth grade, he very much became my dog. He slept in my room, typically on my clothes. I fed him, let him outside, and played fetch with him. In his old age, he became a grumpy old man. Of course, I'm assuming this is due to the fact that we had adopted another dog who is a psycho towards any other animal. Anyway, Jackson began to only tolerate the rest of my family, but his love for me remained the same until he passed away.

As mentioned earlier, before Jackson's passing we had adopted another dog. We had named her Natty. She is a black lab-golden retriever mix with the possible Chow based on the black markings on her tongue. Even though she has very little tolerance towards other animals, she adores humans. As big as she is, and as threatening as her bark may be, the only threat she poses to people is licking them to death or causing them to fall when she leans against them in her not so subtle way of asking for attention.

Now not only were their dogs always around, but I also owned three pet rats during my childhood, Jasmine, Jennifer, and Cutie Pie. Don't ask me why I named them the way I did because I really don't remember. I loved them. I'd take care of them, always feed them treats, take them out, and let them wander around on my shoulders. I even bought a leash that I had attempted to teach them to love, but rats are clever and had always found a way to escape. Two of them lived full lives which, for a rat, is three or four years. These were Jasmine and Cutie Pie. Jennifer loved her wheel and would run on the dang thing all night long. One morning, I woke up and she was laying stiff, next to her wheel. The only explanation we came up with is that she must've had a heart attack.

I even had a mouse. He wasn't initially mine. I had offered to take care of him over a summer. That summer turned into two or three years. He was a grumpy little guy. He and I didn't get along. Nonetheless, I took care of him as best as I could. With how long he lived, I'd say I did an excellent job.

Alright, what's the point of all this? Why should I care that you had all these pets growing up? Who cares? Well, it's simple. About nine weeks ago, I moved out of my parents’ house and began going to college. I currently live on my own. I've been told by my parents that while I'm in college I should refrain from getting a pet. This makes sense. They are expensive, they can ruin the apartment of which I'm renting, and after college it's likely I'm going to move, and that would be hard on a pet.

Over the past nine weeks, this has been rough. I've gone from a madhouse of sound—parents talking, siblings yelling at video games or each other, rats running on squeaky wheels, or gnawing on a chew toy, and dogs barking at presumably nothing. I've gone from all this to absolute silence, other than when the landlord occasionally visits the upstairs of my apartment, or his youngest child plays Minecraft upstairs and begins to jump up and down excitedly.

When you grow up with constant white noise, the sound of silence becomes sort of a foreign concept—one that threatens your ability to concentrate when the world introduces it to you. You're used to having the constant noise that animals bring to a household, so when you are in a situation where you are living on your own, then you begin to realize just how oppressively quiet the world can be.

Noise is one of the things you begin to realize you've taken for granted your entire life. The sheer joy of simply seeing your pet, one who loves you for you and the fact that you feed them, is another. No longer am I greeted by an overjoyed companion who apparently missed me so much while I was at school that they nearly tackle me upon arrival. No longer do I have a giant fur ball to suffocate with affection, especially if I am having a rough day.

The worst part is simply being alone. With pets around, you are never alone, especially with dogs. Dogs always want to be around you, they make sure you’re okay, and without fail they let you know that there is something that loves you in this harsh world. I've gone from being spoiled by my animal friends to having to suffer through being alone. I no longer have a captive audience who will listen to my rants of the day. I don't have a furry companion who can remind me to take enjoyment in the trivial things of life.

I'm living life without a pet of my own. It's been a difficult adjustment to make. It's hard enough to have the self-control to not break down and go buy at least a pet rat. The funny thing is that I thought I knew how hard it was going to be for me to live without a furry companion. Honestly, it's so much worse than I could've imagined. But, eventually, I guess I'll have to get used to it. Otherwise, I might drive myself into insanity. Just remember that pets really do make life livable. So, if you have a pet, give it a treat. Pay some extra attention to it today. Play fetch or grab a cat toy. You never really know when you are going to have to live life without one.  

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