Confined as we are within the walls of our homes, the other creatures sharing that space become even more important. And that, says Richard Friedlander, is where our pets come in.
No two people are alike. Not all those who have pets are the same. I am scared silly by the virus. I am almost as fraught from thinking about what would become of our pets should we be, euphemistically, incapacitated. None of the scenarios I can imagine are remotely satisfying. A shelter is almost unthinkable. Finding anyone who would care for them even close to the way we do is unimaginable.
We have two lovely pets: the felines, Anastasia and Zu: the monikers they brought from the shelter. While both are irresistible, their personalities are as far apart as their names. At the shelter, Anastasia, who is wiry and athletic, was a kitten who dislodged other cats from my lap in order to receive her accustomed due. They seemed to acknowledge her preeminence and never objected. Zu, almost meditative and a few years older, had been isolated for months in a cage. He didn’t exactly resist human contact, but he certainly didn’t seek it. Hard to imagine, since he’s been sleeping curled up against me every night for the past five years. He had been adopted once before, but was returned two days later with the complaint that he didn’t “do anything." As if pets exist to entertain us.
Animals are their own creatures. If they do things that amuse us, that’s a bonus. What they give, just by their being, is a sense of family and comfort not often found with humans. At a time when physical contact within our own species is discouraged and dangerous, this is even more precious.
No, we don’t have conversations with them — at least not the kind possible with humans. On the other hand, we don’t quarrel with them, either; we instinctively know that of all stupid conflicts, getting angry at a pet is among the most ridiculous. Their effect on stress is almost magical. Simply looking at them produces a warm chuckle or at least a smile. No, they’re not “doing” anything. They don’t have to.