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Practicing with Pets

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Does bringing pets into the family teach us anything about raising children?

Tracy McArdle: Many couples declare they are "practicing for children" when they take the leap and get a puppy or kitten. Aside from the totally naive assumption that a little Lab mix could remotely prepare you for the onslaught of a newborn human, there's also the possibility that things won't go well with the arrangement. Family politics. Personality clashes. Battles of will over toilet practices. The complete uselessness of the word "no." And the "accidents" ... On second thought, maybe it is good practice -- for toddlers.

couple with their pets

But when your husband resorts to biting your cat, what do you do?

My husband is not a cat person. I love all animals, especially those with certain neuroses stemming from strange and unfortunate upbringings. A dog I adopted had been found huddled and starving on Hollywood Blvd. After destroying my home and a couple of relationships, I gave him up. My cat had been abandoned a few weeks after birth -- before any normal socialization or animal pecking order skills could develop. And when I moved into my future husband's (and his dog's) two-bedroom apartment with my cat, I figured we'd all take some time to adjust, but that we'd be one big happy family.

Instead, it was like a step-foster-adopted family, or a bunch of creatures thrown together for the sake of entertainment, like "The Real World" or "Big Brother." The cat knew no boundaries or authority (other than its own, of course) and randomly bit or growled. My husband bit her back, and on occasion, after a particularly insulting scratch as she passed by him in the hallway, chased her down and hurled her across the room. His dog, thirteen and with three legs, had little tolerance for her, either. After the first week of following her around the apartment, the dog completely lost interest, except when the cat tried to steal her food, which was often. After all, she was thirteen and had three legs -- and the cat was clearly an opportunist.

I'm happy to report, however, that with two human boys aged one and two, said husband has not bitten or hurled either of them yet. In fact, he's a complete softie. I, on the other hand, just the other day, found myself screaming, "Stop screaming! Both of you, WE DO NOT SCREAM IN THIS HOUSE -- STOP SCREAMING NOW!!!!"

Which just goes to show ... nothing. Don't judge a person's potential parenting skills based on the way they treat animals. We still have the dog and the cat, and they have both mellowed considerably since we had children.

I just can't remember the last time they were fed.

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1 comments so far | Post a comment now
mockingjay March 15, 2011, 5:30 PM

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