Life as an Animal Savior

September 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm , by Alyce Wilson

Here’s another excerpt from my book, The Art of Life. This column originally appeared in The Standard-Journal, June 19, 1998.

For a week, I was the Animal Savior. In my care were the lives of no fewer than eight animals, which I pet-sat for members of my family.

Whenever I entered their residences, they bowed and scraped before me in their feline and canine ways, mewing and rubbing against my leg, staring at me with awe in their eyes.

For they knew and respected my power. I was the one who wielded the Sacred Can Opener. I was the one who opened and closed doors on a whim, allowing them out or in again.

In short, I was the one with hands.

Imagine what life would be like if dogs and cats could manipulate objects with their furry paws. You would come home from a hard day at work and find your animals sprawled on the floor, patting their full bellies, meat and cheese wrappers littering the floor.

The back door would be open, and frightened moles and sparrows would scurry and flutter about the house. (“Ha! Make us leave them in the yard now!”)

Your closets would be open, and the choicest shoes (like those leather moccasins from the 1960s) would now be chew toys.

Perhaps the only thing scarier than pets with opposable thumbs would be pets who could talk. Oh, I know, you’ve thought about it. You’ve wondered what was behind that feline smirk, that doggie grin. But would you really be prepared to talk to your furry friends?

They wouldn’t suddenly take up political discussions, you understand, or enjoy reruns of Seinfeld. They’d talk about the same things they already talk about, in their pet ways.

You’d converse for hours about such topics as: “food” and “pet me.” No doubt they’d scintillate with wit as they discussed the subjects “not this food” and “pet me more.” And on long evenings, who would pass up the chance to deliberate over subjects like “Why’d you stop petting me,” and “Let me out”?

My temporary position as Animal Savior clearly gave me a lot of free time…

When I say free time, I mean, “alone time.” My daily rounds as Animal Savior meant I had little personal time. At one house, in the morning I fed four cats and let the dog into the yard to, um, water the daisies. That afternoon, I went to another house and fed one very angry cat which insisted that it should be going OUT right now! (Kind of like when I used to tell the babysitter that we were allowed to have chocolate and soda before bed and stay up tillmidnight.)

At another place, I fed two indoor cats who are so plump their little bellies fly back and forth when they run toward you to pay their respects. After scratching both their heads for awhile (otherwise, one gets jealous), I returned to the first place, walked the dog, and let cats either in or out of the yard.

I then gave the elderly queen cat, Ginger, one of her two daily pills, and fed her as a reward. In the evening, I gave her another pill and let the dog out into the yard to, um, inspect the trees.

Then, the next day, it started all over again.

The duties of Animal Savior never end.

But I learned something this past week. I learned that with power comes responsibility. I also learned that giving a cat a pill is a task only slightly more complicated than constructing a computer fromLincolnlogs and cellophane.

But I love my subjects, although their loyalties have returned to their former rulers. Somehow, running myself ragged never felt so good.

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