Favorite Pet Memories Remix

 

Now that we have talked about the Rainbow Bridge and how to prepare for a pet’s death, I felt starting a mini-series of favorite pet memories would be fun. This will help to lighten the conversation, but also help focus on good times we have with our pets. I am not going to be the only contributor on these stories (cuz that would be boring!), I am also going to have some of my favorite people sharing their insights and stories for the blog.

Harley and Aprilia

For those who have just started reading my blog, Harley and Aprilia were my two cats named after motorcycles. Harley was a big Maine Coon and Aprilia was a tiny buff colored DMH. My husband and I brought Aprilia home because we felt Harley needed a playmate…and in all honesty, I just wanted a kitten! I remember carrying teeny tiny, four weeks old Aprilia on my lap in the car and then carrying her into our third story apartment.

The introduction was done well before I learned how to properly introduce cats to the household. In hindsight, the introduction was more of a baptism for both cats, which is generally a really bad idea!

Side note: when introducing any animal into the household, you will want to take it slow. Keep your new pet in their own room for a little bit until they get comfortable in that area. You can add items your other pet uses into the room, so they can get use to the scent. Next, you can have the pets swap rooms and then eventually bring them together. The amount of time it takes is dependent on the personality of your pet.

Okay, back to the story. Harley met us in the hallway, and I placed Aprilia in front of him and said “Look, I brought you a friend!” I remember seeing Aprilia standing in front of Harley with her little kitten tail standing straight up. Harley sniffed her, and then immediately began grooming her. We got lucky! The two became inseparable.

Harley was a good teacher for Aprilia. He taught her to climb the tapestry we had hanging behind the couch. He taught her to sprawl out on the back of the couch, and to zip around the apartment. I remember waking up in the middle of the night one time to realize both cats were sitting on my chest staring at me, so Harley taught Aprilia how to be kinda creepy too!

These are some favorite memories I have of the two of them together. It was short-lived as Harley passed away a few months later, but I will always cherish them.

Abel

Ahh, Abel…My 17 pound male DSH with small paws and an even smaller meow. He was a rescue whom I introduced to Aprilia (again, a little too fast), but who fit in pretty well. He was a true scaredy cat, but I loved him to bits! My favorite pet memories with Abel were his love of sleeping on my legs at night, and his ability to make Aprilia mad, and how he taught our foster kittens how to behave.

Abel was a very large cat, and he loved to sleep on my legs. He was so big, that his body would fit down about three quarters of my legs. God forbid I move! He would get mad and then situate himself again to make sure he was sleeping on my legs. I got to the point I only slept on my back, so he could sleep too.

He was also very good at annoying Aprilia. Anytime Aprilia would move, Abel would be lurking close by. He would treat her like human siblings treat each other…”Mom, he’s touching me!” “No, I’m not”…you look at the fight and one sibling has a finger close to the other sibling’s face. This was Abel in a nutshell, always pushing boundaries.

When we took on three foster kittens, Abel was the one to roughhouse with them and to teach the kittens how to behave in the home. He would run around the house with them (poltergeist kitty run), put them in headlocks to remind them that he is the boss, but he would also groom them and snuggle. The kittens brought out more of his personality, and I was able to see how goofy he could be, but also how caring he was.

Roc

Roc was an amazing Alaskan Malamute. I have so many favorite memories of him, it is hard to choose which ones to talk about. I remember the day he came into the shelter as an owner surrender, how he became one of the dogs used in the cattery to dog-test cast, and how he became my favorite dog in the shelter.

Fast forward to approximately two years later. Roc is part of our family (failed foster 101), and we are now expecting a new human baby. We adopted Roc when he was six years old. He was already set in his ways, so we were not sure if he had been exposed/introduced to kids or how he would do with babies. I researched on how to prepare Roc for a new baby, so I would play baby sounds to see his reaction, let him sniff the blankets, show him baby clothes, etc. He seemed to be interested in the items in a positive way; however, the ultimate test would be when I brought my firstborn home from the hospital.

The day arrived when I was able to bring my 10 pound bundle of joy home to meet Roc. I was so nervous, but excited to see how my fur baby would react to my human baby. My husband and I walked through the door and saw how Roc was so excited to see us…He could sense we had a new baby, and was interested in finding out what this new squeaky, smelly thing was.

We lowered the baby down far enough where Roc could inspect him, and from that moment on, our firstborn became Roc’s baby. Roc would always watch out for my son. He would protect him from anybody he saw as a threat by basically putting himself in between the person and the baby. He would let my son climb on him when he got older, and make sure bath times went OK.

The relationship between a boy and his dog was so sweet. We were so fortunate that Roc was a gentle soul who loved his family unconditionally. He took care of all three boys and was so gentle with them. I don’t think he had a mean bone in his body. He was the perfect dog for our family!

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Conclusion

I am glad I am able to share some of my favorite pet memories with you. In looking back, our pets have greatly enriched our lives, and I would not change history at all. As much as it hurts to lose these fur babies, there are so many good memories my family was able to experience, and I know we will see each other again.

 

What’s In a Name?

So…after my last postPet Memories, I felt it necessary to lighten up the mood slightly, and talk about the term “fur babies”. (I heard that groan!) In recent years, there has been an uproar on how people treat their pets, and whether they should be a major member of the family. This has led to the debate on the type of nicknames given. So…What’s In a Name?

Humans started domesticating animals thousands, if not tens of thousands of years ago; however, their purpose was to work with humans, or to provide meat or fur. For example, cats were used to keep mice out of silos, and dogs were used to assist in hunting. Pets then moved into becoming status symbols (think King Charles Spaniel), and in most recent years, they became a part of our families; i.e. kept inside the house, cared for more than we care for ourselves…(who’s with me?!)

What's In a Name

What Does Fur Baby Mean?

According to the Urban Dictionary, “fur baby” means a pet for someone who doesn’t have kids or a usually over-spoiled/pampered pet. I find this quite interesting because I never thought of this nickname in that sense. Now, don’t get me wrong… before I had kids, I definitely spoiled my pets, but I didn’t consider them overly-spoiled or as a replacement for my own child. I just felt that they were a part of the family and they were greatly loved. Once my kids came into the picture, my pets became more important because they cared deeply for my kids.

The Debate

Now, I can see both sides of the debate. Those who feel their pets are solidly a part of the family may be more willing to consider the term “fur baby”, but those who feel like the term baby takes away from the human aspect feel it can be disrespectful. Let’s break it down.

There are many reasons a family may consider their pets as babies. Examples could be that a couple is unable to bear children or don’t want children, and their pet is considered their baby, or maybe empty nesters decided to adopt a fur baby now that their house is missing…something. It could be a family who really, really loves their pets, and considers the pets to have a similar connection with them that human babies gives.

On the other hand, I understand that we have domesticated pets to benefit our lives in terms of necessities. Calling them a silly nickname causes us to see our pets as paedomorphic beings (think teddy bears) or we humanize them. We can see examples of this in cartoons and stuffed animals – how their eyes are much bigger than in real life and their features have been softened. They are not humans, and most pets were bred for specific jobs. In class settings, dogs treated like over-pampered pets in training will be more difficult to handle, or will not believe their parents/owners are the leaders.

There is so much debate over whether pets should be treated more like humans or should be kept isolated to working animals. I am of two minds on this. I agree with the pro-fur baby crowd as pets provide far more to a family than they used to. They provide comfort, solace, happiness, and better health. There are animals out there that can sniff out cancer, or alert to seizures, but there are also some who can understand over 200 words, and pick out certain named toys. They can read our body language and tell when we are happy or sad. That’s pretty amazing!

From a personal perspective, my Alaskan Malamute, Roc, had a huge impact on my own healing from a complicated miscarriage and the following surgeries. He was the one there when I found out I was pregnant with my first child, but also there when I was going through the miscarriage, and after the D&C. He was my comfort, solace, and helped me get through an incredibly heartbreaking time.

I have also taught basic obedience training where humans treat their pets as heavenly creatures. This is most difficult when the dog has more clout than their human counterpart, and is able to get away with anything they want to. This is not a case of “fur baby” syndrome, this is called “Our pet rules our lives completely” disease. There is no benefit towards this type of relationship as it only benefits one side.

Let me explain. Animals were domesticated to provide a service (think a Horse, Cow, or even an Australian Shepard). We utilized their strength and abilities to benefit our lifestyles. I believe as times go by, and our hearts grow softer, we consider our pets through a paedomorphic lens, not necessarily what they are capable of or what they were bred for. We are leaning more towards the Urban dictionary definition rather than a broad term of fur baby.

Once we can find a happy medium between these extremes, I believe the term “fur baby” can become more acceptable in society. We won’t have so many arguments on who is right or who babies their pets too much or who doesn’t like pets.

Offended?

How many times have you overheard conversations where people getting offended? Maybe you have been offended by something said regarding your pet… Well, stop. We need to remember getting offended is something that we choose.

Let’s look at this example –

Mary considers her Chihuahua as a fur baby in the Urban Dictionary sense, and John considers his German Shepherd as a partner or a working pet. They start to debate sides and things get a little heated. Now, this can go two ways…the argument can escalate to where both parties are yelling that each is wrong, or they can stop and take a breath.

Being able to open your mind and accept that someone is (most likely) going to have a different view on this subject is the first step. But…we need to expand on this thought. If someone disagrees with you, don’t write them off just yet. Ask questions. The other person may have some insight you have not considered yet and vice versa. The point is not to just agree that everyone has their own reality, but to debate cordially and without malice.

So… Fur Baby or Not?

Pets are a part of our families. As time goes on, our relationships with our pets will become more valued. For example, we are starting to see laws being enacted to protect the abused animals in certain states. The term “fur baby” will continue to evolve, and Urban Dictionary might have to update the definition.

My hope is that we find a meeting point where fur baby just means a part of the family, not necessarily a spoiled-rotten pet or a replacement for a human baby. I hope that our pets can still do the jobs they were bred for, but also hang out with the family on the couch. I want the stigma of “fur baby” to go away and for people to understand that it is ok for a pet to be called a fur baby…but these “fur babies” need to be ambassadors for their breed (and not nippy little brats).

I want people to take a deep breath. The term “fur baby” is not something to get worked up over unless the pet is doing harm. I want people to have a good discussion without negative outcomes. I want people to learn the why behind other’s reasons.

As for me, I have 2 very large fur babies. and 1 small fur baby…(I am not sure if I should consider my husband a fur baby based on the size of his beard…but that’s another conversation for another blog.) My dogs, Beckham and Nuka, and my cat Hunter are part of my family. They are able to hang out with us, go places, eat good food, but they are not allowed to run the house. Like all family members, they have rules to abide by too.