Namaskar Y'all - 2017

The Joys of Not Being a Pet Owner

By Shyma Parui

What do you long for when you return home from a trip, a long day at work or from a boring routine of running errands? If I close my eyes and picture it, I see myself walking in the door and hugging my kids, relishing a hot, steaming plate of “khichri" and no laundry to do.

My friend on the other hand looks forward to seeing her dogs come running to her. She is not alone, as a lot of people adore their pets and consider them to be just as precious as their close family members or best friends. For some, the unconditional love and attention that a pet offers makes them even more valuable than their significant others.

I've often wondered about the reasons behind this close bond between pets and their owners. Was it forged way back in time when humans lived in closer proximity to wildlife? Does it have something to do with the benefits of having a pet?

According to an article on WebMD, having a pet can help reduce high blood pressure, anxiety, and can even increase your chances of getting a date. I am, however, not sold on it and I have so far not been persuaded to adopt a pet.

Believe me it hasn't been easy as my children have tried every argument and emotional tactic in the book to convince me to get a dog. They even have a list of names for future pets. Honestly, it is not in the dog's best interest to have me as their guardian because I don't know the first thing about caring for dogs or any other furry friend that my kids want to bring home.

My friends are usually amused when they see how uneasy I am around any non-human creature. As a city girl, I jump at the sight of the tiniest bugs.

The flat in which I grew up in was just enough for all the family members and having a pet there was neither practical nor fair to the poor animal. In smaller towns or more rural areas, pets are more common mainly because they can roam a little more freely and do not have to be restricted to smaller living spaces or put on a tight leash.

My husband often recalls how as a kid, he was a pet owner for only three days. The poor dog had to be returned because it unknowingly made its way in to my mother-in-law's “mandir" ruining her place of worship.

So, it's not surprising that we as adults we have kept our distance from both domestic and wild animals. You won't find us trying to capture close up photographs of bears in the woods or alligators in the water. Common sense and not fear drives that decision because numerous incidents have shown that getting too close to wildlife risks the safety of both humans and animals. Our way of showing respect to nature is by avoiding interference.

Don't get me wrong, I don't detest animals, as a matter of fact, fascination, amazement and awe are the words that come to mind when I think of them. For these reasons, I wonder if it is even fair to limit a pet from reaching its potential by domesticating it or making it our favorite playmate. How far would the fish swim if it was out of the tank? How high would the parakeet fly? How exciting would the hamster's life be out of its cage and endless wheel? Did your sweet puppy really ask to be separated from its family? Is the trade of exotic animals worthwhile just so we can be a little entertained? Is all the love and affection they shower on their human caretakers even genuine? Perhaps we humans are simply projecting our feelings on them. I don't really know but I think it is worth raising these questions.

It is easy to be infatuated by a beautiful dog staring at you and wanting your attention, but puppy love vanishes at the thought of midnight barks and emergency walks in the early hours of a winter morning to say nothing of all the pooper-scooper duties.

Even if the kids vow to care for the pets, I know I will be the one who gets saddled with all the work. With my ever-expanding to-do list, the duties of owning a pet are not a top priority. Selfishly, I want to do things that feed my soul, enrich my mind and allow me to be more frivolous from time to time.

Nevertheless, I am in the minority. Most people prefer to own pets ranging from tiny fish in a bowl to sleepy snakes in a tank. Tremendous amount of interest is placed in news about pets owned by celebrities, especially the eccentric ones with unusual pets such as tigers, monkeys, and tarantulas.

The numbers of pet stores, animal hospitals, doggy daycares and other related businesses have sprouted everywhere. It is not surprising that market researchers predict a rise in the pet industry and one expert projects that by 2019 the pet industry will hit $91.72 billion in sales. So, it seems like we not only want to bring home pets but we also want to pamper them. This is great news for pets except in cases where an excess of food leads to obesity.

The growing market for pets has also given rise to breeding animals in poor conditions, such as puppy mills. It's almost as if our obsession is destroying the very object of our affection. I have great admiration for individuals who rescue animals from cruel situations and adopt them.

Biologists, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation experts, and volunteers work tirelessly to study living creatures around us in the hope of supporting their survival, which is ultimately tied to ours.

In the words of Benjamin Hoff, “Lots of people talk to animals.... Not very many listen, though.... That's the problem."

If you consider yourself to be a true animal lover, I hope you will.