There was a time in my life when I swore that one day, I would have a menagerie. I would rescue dogs, cats, horses, and more, and we would all live on a farm happily ever after. I've had all sorts of pets over the years: ducks, hamsters, a snapping turtle that I rescued from the middle of the road when it was no bigger than a quarter, iguanas, a rabbit, a sugar glider, a couple of cats, and a few dogs. I even went for my wildlife rehabilitation license, and much to my parents' frustration, would bring home a variety of wild critters including birds, squirrels, raccoons, and possums. Fast forward to the present: I have one dog, Jasper, who turns 11 in a few weeks. While he's still healthy and energetic, I know that we unfortunately don't have much time left with him. I also know that when he crosses the Rainbow Bridge, my days of being a pet parent are over.
Having a pet can be hard, but losing a pet is even harder. I learned it as a child, when I came home from school to find my first pet, a Teddy Bear hamster I got for Christmas, had passed away. I was so upset, my parents replaced her with two Chinese Dwarf hamsters . . . who also unfortunately didn't live long. Those early heartaches didn't make subsequent losses any easier. Our entire family was distraught when our childhood dog, Bear, had to be put down, and we still miss Rusty, our yellow lab who succumbed to cancer almost 10 years ago. When Jasper goes, it will undoubtedly be heartbreaking, but I'm also a little relieved that I'll never have to face the pain of losing a pet again.
And while I love my fur babies, they sure are expensive. I've been lucky that I've never had any pets with major medical problems, but my healthy pup still costs me a small fortune every year between his monthly trips to the groomer, his yearly visit to the vet, and the fees we pay for a dog-sitter when we go on vacation. And now that my beloved boy is older, he requires yearly blood work, sometimes to the tune of $1,000. I'm lucky enough to be able to afford the expensive costs of taking care of him, but they do add up.
Another thing that comes along with having a pet, especially a dog, is a restricted schedule. When we go on vacation, I have a whole second set of logistics to figure out. And any errands I have are inevitably interrupted because I have to run home to let the dog out. With three kids, my schedule is pretty tight. Add in the dog, and I have to order my day precisely. It's worth it to make sure everyone is taken care of, but it's wearing me down.
Before my kids came along, I treated my dog like an actual child. After six years of this life of luxury, he was not impressed when we brought our daughter home from the hospital. Five years and two more kids later, he doesn't hide the fact that he still finds them annoying. Though, my kids love the grumpy old man dearly. When they really bug him, he's taken to peeing in the house to let me know he's in a bad mood. He now wears diapers full-time, which is completely absurd, but there was no other way to stop him from trying to ruin the floors.
I'm not a bad person. I just need a break from the expenses, extra responsibility, and stress that comes along with loving a pet. I know they can make people happier, help them live longer, and just generally bring delight. But right now, I can't get past the downsides. Of course, there are times when I doubt myself. When I see people snuggling their pets or a calendar of sinfully adorable puppies, I think, maybe I'm not truly done. But the thought is often short-lived. As of now, I am no longer a "pet person," and I'm OK with that.