The Way We Live 17 October 2010 – The one about pets
A single thirty something friend of mine went on a blind date recently. All was going swimmingly The guy was in his early 40s, funny, employed and at no point attempted to sign my friend up to Amway during the date – ring a ding ding! And then the subject of pets came up. He hates animals. My girlfriend adores them. Game over.
The do you or don’t you want pets question is right up there as a deal-breaker in many relationships. Up there with religion and politics and what-do-you-mean-you-keep-your-Vegemite-in-the fridge?/iron your towels?/ hate Master Chef? type revelations.
But the fact is, we love our pets here in Australia with more than 60% of Aussies owning a Spot or a Fluffy. (Actually a worldwide online survey by Veterinary Pet Insurance revealed the most popular names for dogs and cats included Max, Chloe, Bella, Oliver, Maggie and Lucy).
And our love affair with our animal children is only growing stronger. And frankly, weirder. I read the other day about a new “dog pram “ designed so that Bella The Beagle doesn’t actually have to walk anywhere. Like say to her Doggy Day Care Centre or to her Pet Psychologist. And when our pets aren’t out and about having therapy they’re most likely at home, sleeping on our beds or mysteriously updating their own Facebook pages. This is where I embarrassingly reveal to you that our cockatiel has a Facebook page. Brad denies all knowledge of setting it up. But what’s more surprising is that she has 67 Facebook friends, which is amazing considering how cantankerous she is. We’re talking about a cockatiel who has the looks of Tweety Bird and the personality of Hugh Grant.
Anyway what all this means of course is that the role pets play in our lives has changed. Our animals are no longer bought to serve a purpose (to guard our homes or catch mice). Instead we’re buying them for companionship and in some cases, as an alternative to having children.
Which makes dealing with their deaths all that much harder. Particularly if you have small kids. Small kids who adore their pets the way only kids can. A friend recently told her three year old niece about the death of her cat, Boney. The three-year-old nodded wisely and walked away and then two hours later asked if she could “play with Boney now”. It can be hard explaining this stuff to littlies.
Which is where local Brisbane mum Philippa Morton comes in. Philippa has helped create a lovely children’s book called, Memory Flowers about a young family who have to deal with the death of their pet dog, Charlie. The book was specifically written to help kids deal with the trauma and sadness surrounding the death of a family pet. With the tick of approval from vets and an educational psychologist, it could be just the tool you need to talk through the process with your kids. You can buy Memory Flowers online at www.memoryflowers.com.au
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Over the past 25 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living as a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a radio producer, a newspaper columnist and as an author.