So I’ve been shopping around for new health insurance for myself and I found something I had not expected:
Pet Health Insurance.
Yes, there is such a thing as pet insurance……Yes, to insure your pet.
In addition to the hundreds of dollars you spend on pet food, pet brushes, pet shampoo, pet leashes, pet neutering, pet treats (“that’s a goooooood dog!”), not to mention the thousands of dollars in deodorizing your house by cleaning and changing the carpet frequently, and the hours a week you spend taking your pet on walks in the freezing winter air, taking your pet out to pee and poop on the grass (“sit, no-no, sit!! here, want a treat? sit, siiiiiiit, there, that’s a goooood dog!”), which you then have to pick up with a little doggie baggie (shameful and despicable), you can also pay a premium of $100 a month, in case your dog ever jumps up onto your counter with his wet paws and eats an entire raw steak defrosting on your counter.* It is comforting to know that after cleaning up your dog’s barf and poop, which has exploded all over the kitchen floor and carpet and walls, you can take your sick dog into the vet, pay only a $35 co-payment fee, and then operate on his stomach, paying only a deductible of $2,500, and then only 20% of the remaining $10,000 operation costs. It’s after moments like that, that you think, “Thank goodness I had my pet insurance. I would have lost my pet.” Because I so badly want this pet?
Pet Insurance disgusts me because it implies that pets are worth insuring.
One time, when I was little, we got this cat named Nemo. Nemo was a wildcat, literally. He was the offspring of a romantic love affair between a domestic cat and a wildcat from the wilderness, or so we were told.
Anyway, Nemo was really cool at first. He was black and gray and white, with green eyes that never once showed love or care. But we all liked him, me, my brothers and sisters. Even our cousins liked Nemo. But Nemo never warmed up to us. He never warmed up to the domestic life either. He was, in a sense, the 21st century woman: caged in the house, “away from his hopes and dreams.”
After years of unhappiness, Nemo broke loose and ran away from the household, only occasionally returning for food and to spray himself all over our kitchen counter. It was always the kitchen counter for some reason, but other places as well. We never knew what this spraying was–it wasn’t visible, but it was there. There are some things in life you can’t see, can’t touch, can’t explain really, but exist nonetheless, like faith, love, cat spray.
Sometimes Nemo would walk into the kitchen with thorns and thistles tangled in his fur. We tried brushing and washing him a thousand times, but never ever could we get the oily knots out. So we stopped touching Nemo.
Other times, Nemo would walk into the kitchen with blood dripping down his face and chunks of fur ripped from his skull. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I would wake up in my room all alone to the screeches of Nemo mating/eating other cats outside my bedroom window. At these moments, I would pray, “Oh, God, please please please protect me from Nemo!” I would have nightmares that Nemo, after devouring all the other cats in the neighborhood, would jump through my window and spray all over my face and then eat it.
Finally, we got rid of Nemo. But it took a very long time.
So then we got this wiener dog named Shadow, which we called Shadowfax, sometimes Shadowfaxy. Though he was supposedly “house trained,” he only pooped and peed inside the house. We would take him outside and wait 10, 20 minutes. “Come on, Shadowfaxy, Come on!” But he wouldn’t go. When we were sick with waiting, we took him back inside and he would run and poop in the corner. It was warmer for him, inside.
One time we left out this giant bag of Costco chocolate chips (my mom never bought treats, so we resorted to snacking on bittersweet baking goods). They don’t even make bags that big anymore, it was like 15 pounds. Anyway, one morning I woke up to gagging. You read correctly. It was a Saturday morning and I was in high school and usually slept in till eleven, but after I realized what I was hearing, and what I was hearing was gagging, I shot up from my bed and found Shadowfax gagging and puking on my white blankets.
We all know that language is so freaking limited in representing an entire image or idea with something so pitiful as a word. This is old news. But there are literally no words, no signifiers to direct you to the images of horror that accumulated after catching Shadowfax barfing on my sheets. So I’ll need you to use your imaginations to go beyond these words I will now use:
I admit that I was cruel. I squeezed Shadowfax’s ribs in my hands and charged at the door, only to find a pile of black puke near the door, entwined in the strands of my cream colored shag carpet. “UHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!” I yelled, then threw open the door. I chucked Shadow out, onto the woodfloored hall. I glared at him as he skulked away, only to then realize the watery piles of puke and barf smeared all down the hall.
Horrified, I stood and stared at the black puke and barf trail all down the hall. In the distance, I heard my mom scream from upstairs. Then Dane. Then the other Brock children. Everyone was screaming at our house full of literal dog shi*. I followed the puke and barf through the dining room, up the stairs and all over our upstairs carpet, to where my mom ordered me and my brother to clean up the mess because we were the ones who had wanted the dog. Shadowfax had eaten the entire bag of chocolate chips. Shadowfax weighed less than the bag of chocolate chips. Which means, he ate, then crapped, then went back and ate more, then crapped and puked, then went back and ate more, then puked….etc., etc., freaking etc.
Dane and I bawled and gagged while we scrubbed our house of crap.
A few days later, our aunt walked into our house and said, “It smells like dog, guys.”
Right after that, we gave the dog to our other aunt, who for some reason, took it in.
Here is what I’m trying to say:
Sometimes I think I want an animal, a pet. The kind of pet I would want to pay pet insurance for, although I never would. One time, when I was like three, I really liked my dog, Poco Penny.** I hold onto this memory of my first dog, especially when I think I may want an animal to care for. But then I start thinking not only about spraying Nemo and crapping/puking Shadowfax, but also about Deak, that dog who ate and pooped out rocks, and Mose and Allie, the dogs who ate bunnies and barfed them up, or Phillip Kingston I and II, the fish Ryan bought who sat in their fish tanks and just pooped all over the rocks and then died a few days later. That was it. That was all they did. How could I ever love them?
*For Brock and Kristi
**My family wanted to name our first wiener dog Poco, but I wanted to name him Penny. My mom said Penny was a girls’ name, but it could still be Poco’s middle name, to which I half-heartedly consented. I believe we had him for a few months before we moved. It may have been longer, I’m not sure.