This post resolves the question: Should I end my petlessness? Two months ago, lots of readers weighed in on my related question: do pets raise our quality of life? The near-consensus, at least among people with pets, was a heartfelt “yes”. That feeling did not change when it came to dealing with the deaths of pets, posted last month. People were clear that the joy of loving their pets was worth the pain of eventually losing them.
What went into my decision? I travel a lot with my work, and I wanted to do right by any pet I would have. Dana in Tucson (who sparked this whole series by urging me to get a pet) pointed out a cat would be best, since they are so independent. But my husband Thor is allergic to cats, so felines are out. I’ve always liked dogs, but we have no fences, plus we have gardens and no grass, which mean a dog couldn’t help but destroy plants. Even if we remedied those things, the dog-walker (me) would be gone too much. The dog wouldn’t get its needs met.
A bird? It makes no sense to me to cage a bird that is meant to fly. And as lovable as they are to many people, reptiles, fish and small rodents aren’t cuddly enough for me (I’m a 10 in this area, just ask my husband).
So, what have I decided about a pet? I’m not getting a pet of my own, at least not at this stage in my life. But, happily, I can still have animals in my life. The other night Belle (pictured above) and my human friend Colleen (pictured here with me atop Mt. St. Helens) came over for dinner and a sleepover. Belle has slept over a number of times, both with and without Colleen, and it’s always festive and affectionate (and punctuated by kisses). Belle has 10 pack-mates (yes, 10 — Colleen and Thad run a sled-dog team) and going camping with this gang each summer satisfies more of my need to be around animals.
While writing this series, I was reminded of my lifelong love for horses. So I took a series of horseback riding lessons this winter, which was fun and surprisingly challenging. I was much less bold and confident on a horse at age 52 than when I was a spindly girl of 11, and would gallop around on any horse you would put under me. I talked with Kat, my horseback riding instructor, about the possibility of leasing a horse. Lots of people do this: you pay a horse owner, say, 200 dollars a month, and then ride or hang out with the horse on a schedule that works for everyone. The owner retains all the responsibilities of owning the horse, but the one leasing it gets to have a horse in his or her life. I can picture myself leasing a horse sometime in the future, when my work schedule is a lot quieter.
Here is my takeaway from dealing with the pet question: personal ownership is not the only way to have a good thing in our lives. When you think about it, personal ownership is not the nature of much of life. Schools, parks and the very roads and sidewalks that let us leave our homes and go from one place to another are all shared, not privately owned.
Libraries, used by tens of millions of people per year, are proof-of-concept that shared ownership can be a hit. Our lives would be much less rich if we had to personally own a good book in order to read it (see books I love for my personal recommendations). The diamond-cut life is about more joy and less stuff. When we share, much less stuff is needed in the world — while still meeting our needs. Sharing enables sustainability.
Over to you. Whether animals, parks, roads or library books or something entirely different, what adds to your happiness and quality of life – that you do not personally own? Comments here.
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