Most of us have pets. Whether it is a sweet lab, a terrifying tarantula or a weird iguana, we have chosen them for a reason, welcomed them in our home and are (hopefully) stuck with them for a lifetime (our own or theirs, depending on their life expectancy). We are obliged to keep them safe and healthy, feed them, give them affection.
Then, for some of us, they become more than pets. They are actual family members. It may sound like quite a stretch, but if we come to think of it, they are not unlike children: Unable to take care of themselves, and dependent on us for doing so. With one big difference: Our children gradually grow up and, day after day, become more independent. Our pets do not. They will always need us. Once they are domesticated and their way of life is changed, they become less capable of making it "out there". So, if you do the math, they are actually more needy than children.
There are those who think that pet lovers are kind of obsessed and lonely people. Our very own picture of sheer loneliness is that of an old lady with 87 cats or more, running around in the house and taking over the furniture. I respectfully disagree with this stereotype. Of course, having no or little contact with human beings shows that one is lonely. But it does not prove that he/she is crazy or obsessed. Maybe he/she is just disappointed and got hurt in the past from certain people, and is now afraid to start new relationships. Maybe he/she simply got unlucky in life, and lost some loved ones along the way. Either way, that person is trying to find in animals, what he/she couldn't find in people: Innocence, sincerity and affection. Personally, whenever I come across such a person in life, I put my stereotypes in a locked closet, where they belong. And I try to reach out, rather than shut out.
But you don't have to live alone with a small zoo to be judged as weird and obsessed. Even people with big families and lots of children are kind of looked down on, when they refer to their pets as their "furry kids". Something HAS to be wrong with them, right? Somehow, they are unable to make the distinction between humans and animals, to recognise the first as important, and the latter as expendable, as "they ought to". I myself have experienced this many times, with Phoebs, our dog.
"Don't worry, mom, let them say whatever they want"
Well, let me tell you something: I personally admire and feel humbled by the miracle of life in all forms possible. When I will have children, I imagine that, as every parent, I will do my absolute best to keep them safe and happy. This is not so much of a choice, as it is a given fact. It is the unmistakable primal instict all animals on this planet share, in order to protect the weaker, younger members of their community. Nonetheless, I will by no means consider my pets "expendable".
So, no matter how many times I will be frowned on, I will continue to regard Phoebs as part of our family. Because, after all, when I think of family, two words come into mind: "Unconditional love". And I see that every day with Phoebs. I see that in the way she jumps on us when we come home, her little tail shaking with joy and enthusiasm. In the way she falls asleep in my lap, having total confidence in me to keep her safe. In the way she HAS to come and greet us every morning, or follows us whenever we leave the room. Every single day, no matter what, she loves us. Unconditionally.
"I love you a lot... But I love my bone, too!"