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What Is the Point of Owning a Pet?

Posted: 17/08/2013 00:00

Pug

A long-time friend named Matt and his girlfriend Miranda got a pug. Too small to be a real dog, barks at its shadow, only eats fresh meat, still isn't toilet trained and looks like a rat whose face has been hit with a sledgehammer.

Last year, they didn't take a holiday.

"We'd never put him in a kennel, and tried leaving him with my Mum but didn't even make it out the door before little Petey shat on the carpet and bit her."

That's right, Petey the pug. Last Xmas they sent out cards featuring a picture of Petey in a Santa hat.

Matt and Miranda used to consider anyone who put a coat on a dog not fit to be part of society. They've now got three coats for their pug, and matching coats for themselves.

They don't come out anymore either.

"Sorry mate, someone's got to walk little Petey."

"Why not come out after you've walked the thing? Or just one of you stay home?" I asked.

"But he just gets so jealous if we're not both home. He even has to sleep on our bed."

Apparently their physical relationship hasn't changed. I wonder if the dog watches or sleeps through it.

It was as if this dog had somehow infected my friend's minds. Or this thing came with a curse, that transformed them into the people they despised the most. Like some modern day and extraordinarily twisted fairy tale.

The next step of such a story would involve them moving to the outer burbs, filling a house with catalogue furniture and getting a four-wheel drive. Which they did.

"Finding a place to rent with Petey was just too hard, and he needs a big backyard. We can't take him to the park because he doesn't mix well with other dogs, and we don't want him to get sick. He hasn't been vaccinated."

Apparently they had less faith in dog vaccinations than people vaccinations, despite overwhelming evidence that supports the effectiveness of both.

"We can't come out, but you're more than welcome to come over here," Matt told me.

So I tried visiting. Every attempted conversation was stopped by Petey's piercing yelps, and them screaming "Shut up Petey!" Except when it was sleeping and expelling toxic fart plumes.

They'd tried dog school and barking training, but with no success. Obviously.

The conversations they did manage were all about Petey. I'd rather hear stories about someone's children, and I can't stand those stories either. I haven't seen Matt or Miranda since.

Some pets I don't mind. I grew up with German Shepherds, and they were even-tempered and low maintenance. A couple of walks a day, much more effective and never bit anyone. Basically the anti-pug.

Still, I could never commit to a pet. There's just so much stuff I'd rather be doing which I struggle to fit in at the moment, and I don't have a dog, child, girlfriend or a real job.

Pets are supposed to be great for our mental health, but I don't get it. I'm stressed out by the weekly body washing, monthly clothes cleaning and daily can opening that's involved in keeping myself alive. Let alone caring for another living thing, and I'm hesitant to have children for similar reasons.

Perhaps pets are useful for extroverts who just need someone to talk at, and not with, after their friends have all deserted them.

Then last week I was whingeing to my friend John about how much Matt and Miranda had changed.

"You know that's not even their dog?" he told me. "It belongs to their next door neighbours. They just borrow it, whenever they need it."

Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.
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