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Pets in the Wild

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I have moved into nature. After growing up in the suburbs and living my entire adult life in the city, this is a change. The land is beautiful and nourishing and calming. But it is also filled with creepy-crawlies that want to eat my face for dinner and save my toes for dessert. We are in coyote country. Snake country. Occasionally a rogue alligator country. And for every doe and butterfly we see, there is a killer wasp wearing brass rings on all six feet, with the words “Live Free or Die” tattooed on his wings. I think I saw a few teardrop tattoos, but his face was too tiny for me to be sure.

When I talk to locals about how my calm in the wild is coupled with my concerns in the wild, I hear the same response over and over. Get an outside dog or cat. There are three reasons that are always provided. 1) The scaries would smell the presence of the pet, be it cat or dog, and peace out. 2) The pet dog or cat might see a snake, rabid raccoon, tattooed wasp, lion, tiger or bear and kill the beast for us. (Apparently, when we purchase our sweet pet, we must have foreknowledge that he will have Wolverine- or Hulk-type superpowers.) And 3) If the superpowered pet were to fail his mission to annihilate the local creepy-crawlies, at least it is the pet that would die and not the children. It is why, when going off trail, the locals let their dogs run ahead. Sacrifice the pup while you turn and run. Forever tell the tale of that one time you lost your pet to the dragon/sasquatch/rabid zombie unicorn of the forest.

Though I see the logic behind this “buy a pet” solution, I have three main issues with it. 1) I already have a pet, and it sounds as if Pig, our 18-pound rabbit, though large, would be the first kill of such a superpowered pet. I’ve kinda grown attached to the lagomorph, you see, and would prefer not to have him turned into a chew toy. 2) Where would one find such a pet? The local shelter? A special breeder? If one knows where to find such a superdog, please let me know. The only superhero dog I know of is Underdog, and Nickelodeon stopped showing the reruns of his show in the ’90s. There is no need to share with me the location of the superpowered cats. Cats are terrifying enough as is. I’d prefer to live in a world where I don’t have to imagine any feline being more powerful than Heathcliff. And 3) I’m fairly certain this makes me an accessory to murder, and I’d prefer not to go to prison for animal abuse.

I’m not even an animal person. Really, if you have a beloved dog or turtle or flying squirrel or wombat or, yes, even a cat (shudder), I think it’s great that you have something you love. Seriously, wonderful. Just keep in mind, I’m not going to particularly like your dog or turtle or flying squirrel. (I’m gonna love the heck out of that wombat, though, because that’s just amazing — and possibly illegal.) That said, though I don’t tend to like other people’s animals, I love my animals. Pig is the bee’s knees. (The bees here only have “I heart Mom” tattoos, so I say this with the utmost adoration.) How does one have an animal and resist attachment? How do you stay so cavalier as to not care whether your dog or, yes, even your cat gets taken out by the swamp creatures from the deep? Do you resist naming the pet and just give him a number? Buy six cats or dogs and then go through hypnosis to believe you only bought two so you don’t notice when four go missing?

The reality is, there are very few things that actually can do harm where I live. Though everyone is aware of the scaries, most folks here have never actually seen a coyote or venomous snake — and certainly never a rogue alligator. These threats aren’t real, and the pet idea is just a mental trick to calm concerns that creep up while living in the wild.

Perhaps I can teach Pig to be an attack dog.

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