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Animals and Society Class - Discussion 2, Pets

Q: Pets and/or service animals: If you grew up with pets and/or service animals, how many and what kinds did you have?


A: I think we had almost every animal when I was growing up. We had a black lab named “Ed” when I was a baby, which I only know from photos of the two of us sitting on a sofa and sharing some ‘Nilla Wafers. Within my own memory we have had dogs, dogs, and more dogs; a giant fish tank; a rabbit named Peter, a parakeet I named Tweety that flew into the backyard with a numbered leg band and wasn’t afraid of people so we kept him; a guinea pig called Nellie I got as a 4H project; cats; more fish; more dogs, and feeding lots of feral cats – one of which will now let me pet it (while it eats).


Q: What was the role of pets in your household?


A: They were ubiquitous, but mostly separate. My grandparent’s generation felt that most pets, but especially dogs and cats, were ‘outside animals’. Actually, it was more my grandfathers, than grandmothers. One of my grandmothers who had a colony of un-spayed cats in her front yard (sadly, most of the family pets growing up were not neutered) used to bring some of them inside at times. My grandfather would grumble a bit, but that would be it – unless/until the cat pooped or puked on his part of the bed (always on his part, funnily enough). Then the ranting about cats belonging outside would come back, the cat would be put out, and the whole cycle would start over. I think I was 8 or 9 before my parents allowed a purely indoor cat, and probably 12 before we had an indoor dog. Now my dogs take up the bulk of my bed every night – not sure my grandfathers would approve.


Q: How were/are they treated?


A: The dogs lived in the backyard, only coming in on occasion (same for the cats, except it was the front yard for them), one had to go outside to play with them. I believe my grandmother on my dad’s side always brought her dog(s) in to spend the night on the enclosed patio, but they were outside all day. They were all well-fed and loved, but not heavily anthropomorphized, and rarely taken to the vet. On my mother’s side of the family I think the dogs got their vaccines at home via feed store purchases mostly, and the cats didn’t get any as far as I know. On my dad’s side I’m pretty sure the dogs went to the vet once a year for shots.


I grew up in suburban southern California, but both sides of the family participated in 4H and FFA. All the kids on my father’s side, and my two uncles on my mother’s side all raised animals to be sold for slaughter in their youth. I distinctly remember one of my uncles who wanted to become a rancher going to the freezer, opening the door and calling out to Beaumont the steer he’d raised for one of his ag classes in High School. When he did become a rancher, he became the kind that tried to make a living off artificial insemination services rather than beef. He hated every time he had to sell any one of his herd for beef.


My current dogs are treated like my surrogate kids. They sleep in my bed with me, I cook them chicken thighs to top their Iams kibble (one of my dogs needs a special diet of chicken, rice, oatmeal, and vitamin/mineral powder), two of my dogs are on lifelong medication (one for thyroid, one for Addison’s disease) and they go to the doctor more than I do! The house is strewn with dog toys and beds (though they’re usually on the furniture, or me), and I even knitted a baby-soft yarn collar for my Boston Terrier because her old “soft” collar wasn’t soft enough and rubbed some of her neck hair off.


Q: How did you choose the names of your pets and what are they?


A: My current pets are:

Gracie - a Boston Terrier rescue who is deaf, has a fleck of blue in one eye, and only one side of her head has the black patch around her eye that is supposed to be there (all results of inbreeding in her AKC registered line). I call her Gracie because she is named after Grace O’Malley an Irish “pirate queen” – the dark patch on only one side of her head made me think of an eye patch worn by a pirate.


Chica & Chava – sister Chihuahua mixes given to us as puppies by a neighbor who had an unwanted litter. Chica means girl in Spanish, and Chava means female kid (like a baby goat) in Spanish.


Max – Chihuahua mix a neighbor found loose, tried to keep, and then offered to us before taking him to the pound. He came with the name; I joke that it stands for Maximum Trouble because he’s completely insane. He’s noisy, possessive, and not the brightest bulb, but we bonded when I nursed him through parvo as a puppy.


Harry – a Min Schnauzer/Chihuahua mix that meandered into our front yard one day and screamed bloody murder because he met, and was terrified, by a cat we were feeding. He looks like a blonde Austrailian/Cairn Terrier. He is named Harry as a play on the fact that he very hairy. He has an absolutely unmanageable coat and a natural Mohawk. He still hates cats.


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