Why I Don’t Own Pets (or have children)

(Sally: This one has some things you may take issue with. I wouldn’t recommend it. Not today anyway.)

Not too long ago a buddy of mine was visiting me in sunny south Florida. Right before he left to make the atrocious 11-hour drive back to Nashville he decided to impart some unsolicited words of wisdom on me. He informed me that the one thing that would “complete” me “as a man” would be a little puppy. To this ridiculous statement (as if I need anything to complete me as a man, I’m pretty darn perfect) I laughed, and told him that would never happen. He attempted to convince of me of his idea for what seemed like way too long to be discussing whether or not I should own a puppy, and when his attempts ended fruitless he started his venture back to Nashville (leaving the better portion of his clothes in my dryer. I hope he doesn’t need those anytime soon). 

A friend of mine who understands my feelings on pet ownership and responsibility got me this as a compromise. She gets me.
A friend of mine who understands my feelings on pet ownership and responsibility got me this as a compromise. She gets me.

He is not the first person to suggest this inane notion to me. Therehas been a long line of women I have, well, let’s just call it “dated”, who at one point said I needed to have a cute little puppy, or kitten running around my house. To all of them I have had the same response, “I can barely take care of myself. How am I supposed to take care of a pet too?” The fact of the matter is I could probably take care of a dog, or a cat (I hope I could a cat, I don’t think you really need to do anything for them except make sure they have food and clean their indoor toilets regularly), I just don’t want to. It’s sort of the same logic I have with children, they are really fun to play with, as long as you can give them back when you’re done.

Maybe it’s due to my sociopathic nature that I never really connected with animals. I have a hard enough time connecting with people who have the ability to engage in conversation, so developing a bond with an animal who lacks the ability to speak even broken English seems like an almost unbearable task to me.

Perhaps it’s my apathetic nature that makes me not want to train an animal (or a little sized person) to not go to the bathroom wherever you are standing and teach them there are proper places for these actions. It is hard to say what it is that makes me completely devoid of wanting a pet, or child, but whatever the reason is, I just lack the particular gene that makes people desire to take care of other things (maybe that’s why I don’t do well in relationships as well). 

Throughout my life though, there have been many pets that have come and gone. I grew up in a typical suburban American family. We had the 2.5 kids (deducting .5 from me, because I don’t have a soul). The house is now equipped with a white (albeit not picket) fence. Public school educated. Church on Sundays. Family dinners around a table, not in front of a television. It only made sense that we had a family pet as well, and throughout my youth we did.

The earliest one I can remember was Dingus. Apparently he was aptly named because at night he would sneak out of our suburban L.A. home and prowl the local streets, using his dingus to knock up bitch after bitch. I have vague memories of Dingus, mainly the time he killed a cat and drug it’s corpse under the house for my dad to find who knows how many months later. The stories I remember about him all consisted of him being a good dog, even though he was a ladies man, which was his ultimate demise. One of his nightly trysts turned fatal when on his way back home (or at least I like to think it was after he had completed his business) he was hit by a car, and his Don Juan ways came to an end.

Next in line was Bowser. What I recall about Bowser was he was the first dog we had when we moved to the DC suburb I grew up in, I liked him, and a part of me blames my younger sister’s friend for his demise. He was a wiry dog. White, with black and brown spots. Full of energy and according to my father, just a “bad dog”. I remember this being the last pet I’ve ever considered a pet I would want (my parents may have a different story, who knows?). I remember Bowser had begun to get sick in the last years of his life. His kidneys had begun to break down. The evidence was apparent whenever he would go outside to pee (or when he could make it outside anyway), because it would come out tinted with blood. Understandably, this made him slightly more aggressive (as I imagine I would be if I was pissing blood). He was never aggressive toward me, but he was toward others, and when he bit my sister’s friend in the face (it was just her chin), there was discussion of what to do with him. 

Personally I thought he had done the right thing, because my sister’s friend was a terrible child, and she was always trying to get me in trouble (She is a wonderful person now, and I know it wasn’t her fault. She had a beautiful wedding, and I still consider every member of her family as close friends). At the time, if my options were to keep the dog, or get rid of my sister’s friend, Bowser would win every single time. This was one of the many times in my life I did not win an argument with my family. Shortly after that incident, Bowser tried to bite Sally, and well…nobody can hurt Sally. That was the final nail in the coffin on that decision. It was time for us to say goodbye.

It was after that when my dad said we weren’t going to buy anymore dogs. I was okay with that. We can get rid of my dog, but my sister’s friend can still come around? It was pretty unjust in my eyes.

Unfortunately, my dad lied. Actually, he didn’t lie, we didn’t buy another dog. A better way to put it is, he was duped. Next up on the list of dogs was O’Malley. 

O’Malley was an Irish Setter we were going to dog sit for a week while the owners were out on vacation. When they came back from vacation, they never came to pick him up, and we were stuck with the dumbest dog in the history of dogs. This dog was trouble. Basically from the time we got him, to the time he passed away, he was trouble and a burden on the family in almost every way possible. I remember one occasion where we had ordered pizza for dinner, and as we were setting the table and getting everything ready, O’Malley walked over to the kitchen counter pulled himself up with his front two paws and started eating the pizza, right out of the box as he pulled it to the floor. He was punished, and he didn’t care, because he did it again a few weeks later. 

O’Malley had come along during a tumultuous time for my family, and while I have no problem airing all of my dirty laundry online, I cannot divulge the information on what has happening with us as a whole. He was the dog that killed it for me though. I never wanted another pet after that dumb, auburn-colored setter. I wish his original owners had cared more for him, or, at the very least, trained him properly. By the time he got to us, it was pointless. He was so undertrained, and just daft, that we couldn’t have fixed the damage that had already been done. The day he passed I didn’t feel anything. 

It was official. We were done with pets in the Wright household. It was like a Utopia, except my sisters were still around. My parents too. At least there wasn’t a dog around the house, and for that I was grateful. Until my older sister started dating an army boy named Scott. 

I liked Scott. He was a pretty cool guy to me. Some of his friends were major douches, but they bought me alcohol. I guess maybe he thought if he got in good with the little brother he would make more headway with the older sister. I don’t know if that tactic worked for him (nor do I want to), but I know at one point in their short relationship Scott gave my sister a little black pug, named (oh, this is punny) Pugsly.

pugsly
Just so freaking cute…right?

Yeah, Pugsly was cute and adorable, and had the puppy breath women swoon over and whatnot, but I hated that dog. He would yip and bark and run all over the place. Everyone thought it was so adorable. Everyone but me. 

Like I said earlier, the reason I don’t have a dog is because I don’t want to take care of a dog. Much like how I don’t have children. I don’t want the responsibility of caring for one. I don’t buy into the whole “it takes a village” line of bullshit when it comes to either pets, or children. And while I never had to do anything to really take care of Pugsly, his favorite place in the entire house to go to the bathroom was in my room, and instead of his owner cleaning up the mess, it was my fault that my door was open, so that meant it was my job.

That, in my mind, is the same logic as if I leave $5 on my dresser and your kid takes it, it’s my fault for leaving it out, and not that you just have a shitty kid.  

Every morning (afternoon) I would leave my house and go to work, making sure I shut my door behind me. As much as I enjoyed the smell of the glade aerosol air freshener I used in feeble attempts to lessen the odor of dog shit in my closet, I preferred for there not to be any unnatural scents in my room. This practice would constantly prove to be futile because, whilst I was away, someone in my family (which nobody would ever fess up to) would go into my room. Possibly they went in to borrow one of my CDs from my vast collection, or possibly borrow a VHS tape (Kids: VHS is how we watched movies before DVDs and long before you could just stream everything from the internet), or to possibly go through my computer, or even just be attempting to find any sort of contraband I may have been hiding somewhere away from prying eyes. For whatever reason, my theory is that when they were leaving my room they wouldn’t shut the door to the point where it latched and only had the appearance of being closed. 

Pugsly would then trot down the hallway and push on the door with his tiny little black paw and enter his favorite bathroom, scurry over to the closet and leave a pile of his best work in there, waiting for me to get back home in the wee hours of the morning. I would find the present the next day and hate that dog just a little bit more. 

I would tell people to stay out of my room (just like any teenager) and they would lie and say they didn’t go in there, and I would leave the house, beforehand making sure I would shut my door so there was no way a 10 pound puppy could open the door. Then I would get back home, door slightly ajar, and me hating everyone and everything in my house who wasn’t named Matt. 

At this point in my life I, like any teenager, was going through some stuff. I had recently moved back to Virginia after I left a girl, Michelle, who I was convinced at 19 I was going to end up with (I would like to thank Cameron Crowe movies, along with the slew of high school flicks that came out at this point in my life to convince me that you do find your true love in your teens) in Arizona, where she and I stayed together for a very short stint of my life. 

I spent all of my time at a pool hall pouring every ounce of ink I could into notebooks. I was hurt, heartbroken, if you will, and I wasn’t dealing with it well (Some would say I still don’t. To those people I say, “I can’t get heartbroken if I don’t have a heart”). This was when I remember making the conscious decision to become a habitual drug user. 

I had done drugs before, but they weren’t really my thing. I liked them and all, but I could find better ways to spend my time, and use my brain. I found that whenever I was high I would kind of shut down mentally, and emotionally, and at the time that concept sounded perfect. I was ready to escape into the world I had previously visited. It was time for me to dive headfirst into the worst decision I am glad I ever made. 

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They would have made such great muffins….

I went to see a friend of mine named, “Jim” (that should be funny to anyone who knows who the real guy is) and bought $75 worth of some kind of weed called “blueberry.” Now, again, I had dabbled in drugs for a bit not too long before this, but we were buying the cheapest drugs we could find. We did whippets for fun because they were cheap and accessible (Kids, if you don’t know, go ask your parents, and when they don’t tell you, go pick up whipped cream and just go nuts with it). Spending $75 on what looked like mold-riddled, flakey, chicken nuggets was not something I was used to. 

That night a guy I worked with and I sat out in the parking lot of the mall and smoked the blueberry. I couldn’t even finish the bowl I had packed before there was a true concern I may vomit everywhere. After suppressing the urge to throw up, I had to decide what to do next, since my parents may still be awake, and I knew I couldn’t hold a conversation with anyone, much less the people who brought me into the world. 

I drove to the pool hall and sat there, writing complete nonsense into a notebook. It was my safe place, nobody would bother me as long as my head was face down, staring at the paper, scribbling frantically, as I attempted to prove I was the next Kerouac, or Ginsberg (I am not). When I finally came down enough to drive home, and I was sure my parents weren’t still going to be up, I quietly left and went home to rest.

Before I went to bed I knew I had to hide the weed. I wanted to make sure my parents, or sisters, wouldn’t find the amazing life altering plants I had procured that day, so picking my hiding spot was a true measure of my cunning nature. Since I had worked at a video store for a few years prior to getting into the service industry my room was littered with movie posters I had yet to hang up, or just weren’t good enough to make the cut. One of these posters, which I was planning on displaying around Christmas, was a six-foot banner “Grinch Who Stole Christmas” poster (the cartoon, not that terrible Ron Howard movie). 

“Perfect,” I thought.

I shoved the plastic bag halfway into the rolled poster and threw it in with the pile of posters. I went to bed that night not thinking about Michelle (or anything, actually), and knowing I was about to have a great night of sleep. 

The next morning I woke up, got ready for work, shut my door, and left the house to go wait on people looking for reasonably priced salad bar and soup lunch combinations. I felt better than I had in weeks. It was one of those days that was going really well, which meant something bad was about to happen.

After I got off of work I went back home in order to get high really quickly and leave so I wouldn’t have to deal with my parents, or anyone else in my family. When I walked up the stairs I shook my head upon seeing my door was open. Then as I got further up the stairs I noticed a strange trail of what appeared to be potpourri littered about the hallway. My heart sank as I realized exactly what it was.

I followed the proverbial bread crumbs to find Pugsly lying there, snuggled up with a plastic bag which had earlier housed all of the weed I had just bought the day before. I was furious at that stupid dog, and whomever had opened my door that day. All of that had to be put on hold at the moment though because I heard my dad’s car pull up in the driveway. Now my only mission was to clean up the mess that would surely get me kicked out of the house. 

I quickly ran and grabbed a broom and dustpan and feverishly began cleaning up what I could. I was in the race of a lifetime (this coming from a guy who heard his roommate pull up outside of their apartment and decided to see if he could jerk off before said roommate put the key in the lock). I swept like I had never swept before. I thought I was in the clear by the time my dad walked in, and now all I could think about was whether or not I would be the guy who would still use this weed to get high or not (the answer to both your questions is, “yes”).

Talking to my dad as we walked down the newly cleaned hallway, he told me about his day, and why he randomly decided to stop by in the afternoon, and whatever else was on his mind at the moment. We walked into his room, and there in the middle of the floor was a small pile of my marijuana displayed as though it was a gift from the dog, right at the foot of my dad’s side of the bed. 

My heart sank as I saw my dad’s eyes wander down to what would certainly be my undoing.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I lied.

“Looks like potpourri,” he said (giving me the greatest pass of all time). 

“Yeah, probably,” I said, exhaling a sigh of relief and grabbing the broom and going to clean it up quickly.

He grabbed whatever it was he needed and left to go to his next appointment. I was in the clear. I decided it was best, that as long as Pugsly was in the house, I kept my weed in the car (and that leads to the second time I got arrested). I left that day feeling I had beaten the system. I had won, and I was a person who, at the time, felt like he was destined to lose (now I believe you make your own destiny, and fate is a bunch of crap). I had beaten the universe for once in my life (no, I hadn’t).

I was so excited about what had happened, I made a crucial mistake. I entrusted this information with my younger sister. I told her about how I bought a bag of weed from a friend of mine and had it for less than 24 hours before Pugsly ripped into it and ate almost all of it. She, and her boyfriend at the time, were worried about the pup and I told them he was just sleeping it off when I had gotten home. Everything was going to be ok. 

The following night I was at work. It was a busy Friday. We were rushing around attempting to keep that crazy Friday night mall crowd in check as I brought them cheap burgers, sodas, beers, and kids meals in a family dining establishment where every family was despised by their server. One of the lovely hostesses came up to me and told me I had a phone call (this was before the days of cell phones, and most of us didn’t have pagers at the time). This came as quite the shock to me, since all of my friends were at the restaurant I was currently standing in. 

I walked over and picked up the wall phone (just to let the kids know what life used to be like).

“Hello?” I said into the receiver.

“ALL I NEED TO KNOW IS IF IT WAS LACED OR ANYTHING!!!!” belted through the handset, making me pull it away from my ear.

“Uh,” I was already wondering what my next apartment was going to look like. “What are you talking about?”

“PUGSLY IS IN THE HOSPITAL WITH SEIZURES AND YOUR SISTER TOLD ME HE ATE ALL OF YOUR WEED AND WE NEED TO KNOW WHAT WAS IN IT!” Sally screamed at me.

“I…I…I don’t think there was anything in it,” I said, but really? Who can ever be sure? I bought it from a friend, who bought it from a friend, who got it from a low-level dealer, who got it from a mid-level dealer, who…you get the point (can we just end the drug war already so I can get it at 7-11 and know who grew it? Or better yet, go pick some out of my backyard?).

“WHY WAS IT EVEN IN THE HOUSE?!?!?!?!”

Honesty was not going to end well for me here, so I figured I would lie, and I told the lie that everyone goes with in this situation, “I was holding it for a friend.”

Sally hung up on me at that point. I’m pretty sure she knew I was lying. 

Pugsly didn’t make it. It was not the fault of my $75 he ate. It was some genetic problem that affects certain pugs. It was unfortunately his time to go, and someone had knowledge of him eating a quarter ounce of marijuana the day before he went into his seizures. I used to say if there was no such thing as bad luck…but it’s too cliched for me to say today. 

Yay, we’re in…Delaware…

That night, knowing I wasn’t going to be able to go home without getting yelled at a lot, I found out about a friend staying at a place in Delaware. I drove to my neighborhood, snuck through backyards, jumping fences, and crawling through bushes to get to my house unseen. Then I broke in through my bedroom window to grab a change of clothes, and my contact solution. My buddy Christopher and I then drove up to Delaware to stay there for a night. I think I didn’t go back home for a week after that incident, although I was getting high a lot at the time.

My parents now have another dog. They got another pug. His name is Willie. He’s a good dog. They’ve had him for quite a long time at this point. When I was still living in the same city as them I would housesit for them whenever they went out of town. I found this to be the biggest pain in my ass, especially since they went out of town a lot. It helped solidify my belief that I don’t want a pet. I don’t want the responsibility of having to deal with one. 

Parents say it’s different when you have a child of your own, and I believe that. I don’t think that changes with pets. I think some people are meant to be pet owners, and other people aren’t. I don’t want to worry about whether or not my dog is going to dookie in my closet or not. Even though I stopped smoking pot a long time ago, I wouldn’t want to worry whether or not my pet will find my stash and eat the entire thing. 

Nor do I ever want to turn into some of the pet owners I have met throughout my life. At no point do I want to find myself having a conversation with someone telling them about how, “My dog Topher was watching the news with me the other day and a report about the Israeli/Hamas issue came on, and he was upset. He was really concerned for both sides of that battle.”  If ever I have that conversation (a paraphrasing of one I actually had, where I was not the pet owner…obviously) with someone, I want the other person to shoot me in the head. 

So whenever people tell me I need a pet in my life, I think back to the pets throughout my life and I wonder, “does this person actually know anything about me?” People tend to project their own personal wants and needs onto others. It’s sort of like when my friends tell me I need to get laid. I don’t think they are actually referring to me, they are just channelling their issues onto me because I am having a bad day, or whatever is going on. Just because I spend a lot of time at my house, alone, does not mean I need a dog. It probably means you want a dog, and see that I have the ability to have one, so you project those feelings onto me. At least know the history of pet ownership in my world before you go and project these feelings onto me. And I promise the only feelings I will ever project onto you will be when I say, “You look like you need a drink.” 

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