Ironically, my parents were tremendous animal lovers. And it was a mutual love affair. It was logical since my mother grew up on a farm where she learned to care for all kinds of animals. My father also grew up in South Dakota and worked on farms for many years.
Still . . . when we were growing up, my parents would not allow us to have pets. The reasons offered were varied and included their philosophy that animals belonged on farms or ranches, not in town. They expressed a belief that a dog, in particular, would not have enough room to run freely in our modest-sized backyard. Cats belonged in barns chasing mice.
My mother had been traumatized when, shortly after my parents were married, their little dog, Pal, was struck by a car and killed. She spoke of him whenever the subject of adopting a pet came up and cited her heartbreak — and desire to shield her children from experiencing the same feelings — as an excuse not to allow us to take on the responsibility of a pet.
She also knew that if the animal lived to old age, her children would have to say good-bye. She refused the opportunity to use the experience to teach us about the cycle of life even as she described the German Shepherd, Shep, that lived on the farm with her family while she was growing up. She wistfully recalled the day he died peacefully in his sleep on the front porch of my grandparents’ farmhouse.
Most importantly, however, my mother voiced her unequivocal refusal to shoulder the responsibility of caring for a pet. She was convinced that after the novelty wore off, neither my sister nor I would care for the animal and she would be left doing all the work.