What started as a logistical discussion about getting a dog quickly became a heated, vicious fight about values and ethics.
Don’t you love those questions that seem to be about one thing, but betray a totally different, deeper problem? That’s definitely the case with today’s letter.
We could’ve recommended the obvious compromise: select a breed, then find a rescue organization that specializes in that breed! One quarter of all homeless dogs are purebreds, bro! Depending on the popularity and rarity of the breed, there may be a wait list. But if you’re patient, you can find one that fits both criteria.
… But, yeah, we didn’t even bother with that. Because it’s so incredibly obvious that the purebred dog versus shelter mutt question is the flashpoint for a deeper, more troubling issue. And it’s one we think merits a breakup.
This post originally appeared on our Tumblr, where we frequently answer reader questions and sometimes post random unrelated things. This is one of those random posts, but it got quite a lot of positive feedback—so we’re posting it in full again here on the blog.
I just got a cat.
When New Cat is named and fully acclimated, she will def join the dogs, guinea pigs, and chickens as a Tumblr/Instagram regular.
But I have… mixed feelings.
My last cat died six months ago. We didn’t get another cat to replace her—c’est impossible, she was irreplaceable. Rather, we did it because we know two things:
A house that’s had a cat in it will always feel empty without a cat in it.
We have money and space and time and patience and love, and shelters are full of cats who don’t got none of those things.
Still, I’ve been thinking about my last cat Clementine a lot. And I think it would be healing to me to share a few photos of her.
A slow start
This was Clementine. We adopted her when she was 14 years old. That’s old. If she were human, she would’ve been in her early seventies. Her previous owner had moved into a nursing home. She was lucky to land in one of the few no-kill shelters with enough resources to accept a cat of her age. Many don’t.
Clementine was terribly stressed out being in the shelter after so many years in one person’s home. Her fur started to fall out, and she refused to eat. She hid all the time and hissed if approached. No one applied for her.
We saw a lot of great cats at the shelter. For some reason, she was the one my partner and I both couldn’t stop thinking about. We talked about it, and decided we had the patience, emotional maturity, and financial stability needed to address the realities of adopting a shy geriatric cat. So we took her home and released her under the bed.
“We might never see this cat,” I told my partner. “We might just know she’s here by periodic dips in the level of the food bowl.”
I mentioned in my last post that my vacation was wholly suboptimal. The piss-icing on the shit-cake was that my little cat passed away. Yep, that was How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part Two: Digging a Grave in the Rain for the Dopest Cat Who Ever Walked This Unclean Earth.
WAIT! COME BACK!!
Don’t worry, don’t worry! This isn’t going to be a tearjerker. I swear on my honor that you can read this post while wearing non-waterproof mascara. My cat had a great life and a dignified death—that’s something to be happy about. That’s basically all I’ll say about her.
But I did want to take this opportunity, in her honor, to speak out about my experience adopting rescued pets—particularly seniors. This is a blog about money and adult responsibilities, but also about creating happiness and enjoying the human experience to the fullest. Pets have the potential to greatly influence all of those things.
If you want to add a pet to your family, I firmly believe that adopting a senior is a substantially betterchoice for most people than getting a puppy or a kitten. And I’mma tell you why. You’ll be surprised how many of the reasons are financial.
Guys, there’s been a lot of movement on the chicken front. And if you just pictured chickens in tiny military uniforms, good, that was my plan all along.
It’s been just over six months since we got chickens. When I wrote the first post in this series, it was really about expectations. I wanted to lay out the pros and cons of the experience, and why I’d ultimately decided to pull the trigger on obtaining six little day-old chicks from my local agricultural store.
The second part was a major bummer, written after one of the chicks died. It was about how raising living things is hard fucking work, and it’s incredibly sad when they die before their time. But ultimately it didn’t shake my commitment to my choices. It reaffirmed them.
Today’s post is a significantly happier one. No ugly crying this time, I promise! Because as our Twitter followers already know, my chickens finally laid their first egg.
I believe that in life, we meet the people we need to meet. Every person—whether you like them or not, know them intimately or only a little—has something to teach you. Sometimes the lesson is about yourself and sometimes it’s about how the world works. This perspective makes dealing with even difficult, trifling people edifying, productive experiences.
I think that pets are very much the same. They enter our lives not as idle playthings, but mirrors to show us our true selves. Sometimes those mirrors are harsh—like, dressing-room-at-a-foreclosed-T.J.-Maxx harsh. Every animal has something vital to teach us, should we choose to learn it.
As we’ve discussed, Piggy and I are pretty obsessed with our pets. I admire Piggy’s restraint in having but a single dog. My house currently contains four dogs, one cat, six chickens, and two clinically narcissistic garbage disposals guinea pigs. Friends who know me to be an IRL Pokemon Master often ask me what my pet insurance rates are like.
My pet insurance bill is approximately zero dollars. Same goes for Piggy.
Neither of us have pet insurance. And there’s a reason.
The kitchen sink had been backed up for more than a week. I’d disassembled and reassembled it twice and couldn’t fix the problem myself, so I knew it was time to call in the professionals. Clearly the damn thing needed to be snaked, and I had neither the tools nor the know-how to handle that myself. So I called a plumber.
On top of that, my dog was experiencing… butt problems. Of the totally non-life-threatening but definitely requiring-immediate-medical-care variety. (He had an anal gland abscess, ok? It was both gross and fascinating and it completely reaffirmed my conviction that dogs are strange and magical creatures.) I have no medical training, and I would move heaven and earth for this goddamn mutt, so I called the vet.
On the spectrum of compassion for fellow humans, I fall somewhere between Daniel Plainview and Vegeta, Prince of All Saiyans. I’m ruthless and self-interested and generally take a dim view of the collective worth of mankind.
But like many a cold-hearted misanthrope, I’m a secret, tenderhearted lover of animals. In fact, I’m a big gay pussy for animals and I can say that because <flashes QUEER WOMAN CARD>. Pets are the fucking best.
As bikevangelist Mister Money Mustache points out in his infuriating-but-factually-correct Great News! Dog Ownership is Optional!, pet ownership is expensive, lifestyle-altering, and entirely optional. Americans spend over $60 billion every year on their pets. It’s an enormous financial and logistical commitment that should be thoroughly explored before adding a pet to your family.
Which is why I’ve set out to rank the financial efficiency of the most common kinds of household pets.