05 June 2015

Do you play with your friend's pets?

       Yesterday I spent some time at Jan's house. She's a barber and cuts hair out of her home, in between the times she's at work.

      Her prices are more than reasonable, but I confess, I'd pay her whatever she asked, because she's the only one who can cut this wild unruly thatch atop my head. She can make it so that, for a little while, it looks presentable.

    I have hair from hell. I have (at last count) SIX hair whorls on my head. (in the US we call them 'cowlicks'). Each cowlick grows in a different direction. This means that, no matter how it's cut, no matter what I do to it (which is nothing), my hair resembles, to quote my mother, 'a busted out mattress'. It sneers at combs. Brushes merely encourage it into even wilder behavior. One time I succumbed to my sister's exasperated (and overly sensitive to peer pressure) gift of a 'permanent'. I came out of it looking like Grace Slick. Oh my god, my hair looked like the Bride of Frankenstein, but without the white streak. When I was,oh, about ten, my mother angrily demanded I 'do something with your hair'. 

"Can I shave it off?" I asked.  It would have at least been neat and presentable.

    But I'm already off topic. I entered Jan's home at her "come on in, the door's unlocked". I said, "Hi, Jan!". I was answered by rolling thunderpaws. Jordie, her Bengal/Manx cat cross galloped up to me. He flopped over onto the rug and demanded scritches. Which I gladly gave-Jordie is a nice cat. He's big without being fat, and highly intelligent. I found a plastic straw on the floor. This was obviously a cat toy and we began playing with it. He knew 'fetch' and did so, then 'kill the straw". 

    Jan came in after several minutes and Jordie allowed me to sit in the barber chair.  "Does he greet every customer like that?" I asked, as she tucked the apron around my neck. "Actually, no. He only does that to people he likes."

    That  set me to thinking (after the haircut, of course. I don't know anyone who doesn't chat with the barber.)
    I don't have that many human friends. I have many human acquaintances, but can count the number of true friends on one hand. They are so close to my heart that, honestly, they're family without being blood.
    Yet, upon thinking of all the people I know, who comes to mind?  Their pets. When I've visited them, or they've brought their dog, or parrot, or horse, or cat or whatever critter, I've found myself interacting more with the animal than the human. Especially in the case of the pet being a dog, I inevitably end up playing with the animal. 

    I wonder. What do these people think of ME? I enter their house, usually on an invitation, and within the hour, I'm playing with the dog. Am I insulting them? Maybe that's why I seldom get a return invitation?
    Truthfully, sometimes the animal is far more entertaining and friendly than the human. 

    One time my husband and I visited a co-worker of his at the man's home. The moment I walked into the house I could feel the chilling atmosphere of Someone With Depression.

  (once you've lived with someone with depression, you never forget it. Their depression fills the space like a black, ominous cloud, one that suppresses all joy, happiness and cheer.)

   I KNEW it. The depression was pervasive and tangible. The man had it. You could almost see that dark demon on the man's back, its claws firmly set in his soul.  
    His family walked around him as if on eggs. The man reluctantly turned the stereo down just low enough to allow conversation. Which wasn't much, consisting solely of my husband and the man catching up on mutual work acquaintances. Such conversations are boring at best, but it gave me the opportunity to try and interact with his wife and kids. 

    THAT did not happen,not because they were unfriendly. No, they were being so very careful to not set Dad off. The kids kept quiet, quiet, not daring to disturb what must have been Dad's Best Behavior. He soon released them to their own pursuits and they retired to their rooms. His poor wife kept to herself, too cowed to interact with us. He would not allow her to leave the room. Only when I went into the kitchen (later) to help her fix dinner did she open up. I felt so badly for her. She was living in a darkened dungeon, chained there by the man she loved, and who apparently refused to admit he had a problem.

    Only the dog seemed untouched by the man's depression.  A Shiba Inu, and the first dog I've ever met of that breed, we immediately found that we liked each other. The man didn't like the dog, the "damned thing chews things." But I think he disliked the dog because the Shiba, your typical 'husky' type dog, didn't give a rip what he thought. He was alpha, through and through. Soon, I was playing hide and seek with the dog. 

   It takes a smart dog to figure out hide and seek, especially if no one has ever taught it to him. I've tried with some dogs that just didn't get it. This dog picked it up right away and was soon inventing new ways to catch me. I felt self conscious...here I am again, playing with someones pet. But in this case, I may as well not even have existed. The man totally ignored me. His conversations, such as it was, was about him. I was nothing but a ghost to him, like everyone else.  

    But most folks seem to appreciate that someone other than them likes their animals, it gives them an opportunity to boast about them. 

   Here's a pair of cartoon panels that I found somewhere on the net that illustrates it perfectly:

    Animal people will appreciate the truth in this!

    I was so very glad to leave the house, after dinner. After we left their house, I asked my husband to stop near the beach. I needed to exhale. I needed to fill my lungs with fresh sea air, and watch the pelicans skimming the surf in the setting sunlight.  I don't care what the experts say, depression (like divorce, it seems) is contagious, and I wanted to cleanse my soul of any lingering, black shrouds that might try to invade and enslave it.   

   I've thought of that Shiba many times since. I really liked that dog. We had a great time.

    So Jan's comment set me to thinking. I've never thought of my friends pets as being friends in their own right. 
     Most of them like me, welcome me into their pack/pride/herd/flock, almost immediately.  I've been in stranger's homes where the cockatoo immediately begins talking to me. I've had people's dog press a sopping wet tennis ball in my hand and demand "throwtheballthrowtheballthrowtheballthrowtheball". Even cats will come out from under the bed to at least peruse me, allow me to give them a pet or two, and then leave. 

   I can't count how often I've heard the owner say, "Wow, he never acts like that with strangers."

    In some cases, I meet people like me. I remember several years ago, going to a friend's house. She and I have been friends for over 20 years. She had a baby several years ago and I'd never met the child. But the girl had heard about me, I'm certain. When we went to visit my friend, we walked up to the front door, knocked and the girl let us in. She was talking about her hamster, which, within less than three minutes, had been thrust into my hand. I was regaled with a nonstop description of all the wondrous things this particular hamster could do.
    While I don't care for rodents in general, I laughed. This girl was one after my own heart, so I petted her (admittedly well behaved) hamster until she took it back.I had to help put the hamster to bed later that night. (hamsters, by the way, are normally nocturnal).

    For years, until the hard drive in my head filled up to capacity, I would remember a woman's horse's name long after I'd forgotten hers.

   I don't know what this means about me. I don't know if I should feel embarrassed when I'm a guest at someones home and end up playing with their dogs. (If the dog is a nuisance: jumps up on me, or is constantly scratching at fleas, or barks at me, or will NOT obey something as simple as "sit", I won't interact with it.) 
    But I'm incapable of saying no to a well behaved, friendly animal, the one that comes running to me with a  "HELLO! I remember you, let's play!".

From then on, I'm stuck. I'm helpless to resist, just as helpless as I've seen normal women become when offered the chance to interact with a new baby. Which, by the way,  I won't handle. Ick. Babies. "Do you want to hold the baby?" Oh HELL no.  Babies smell. They make irritating noises. They're sticky and leak from every orifice. I might drop it and then I'm in trouble.  In this way I know that I am not normal. I don't get the way normal women are around babies. I just don't get it. Human babies are not on my list of animals I like to play with.

   So I'm not quite sure if I'm being rude, or I should be embarrassed when I play with someone else's pets. But I do know, now, that I have many friends, and most of them are animals. 


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