I have never owned a pet. Everyone else in my immediate family has, but never me. Let me see: My wife has had three dogs, at least Five cats (two at the present time); my son had one dog and one cat (when he lived at home); my daughter had one dog and one cat (also when she lived at home); and, oh, we had two feral cats that owned us. Now, this might not be an exact count, but you get the idea.
This does not mean that I had no relationship with these animals. I did feed them, walk them, contribute to the costs of maintaining their health and stand with them and cry when the time came for them to leave us...but I never owned one.
Which leads me to the point of all of this: who (or what) owned who?
The cats, it seems to me, took out leases on all of us...to varying degrees, depending on their perception of how much we were in control. They didn't seem to own us so much as expect us to take direction well. A small deviation from this point of view were the two feral cats.
Smokey came first. She had a dirty gray coat when she appeared one day, appearing very bedraggled and thin. It took a long time of putting out milk and food for her before she allowed as it would be OK if we continued to do this and leave the garage door slightly raised during the winter to allow her access, but she had no interest in a litter box in the garage...she could take care of that herself.
BUT she wasn't above claiming certain "poshness" for her and hers. One late spring morning I got into my car (which had a T-top, removed during this extended spring period) and started out to work. About a mile down the road I became aware of a faint "mewing" sound. I pulled of the road and searched for the sound...and found it on the floor behind my driver's seat. Smokey had had kittens and chosen the carpeting in my car as their due while she went out about her morning chores.
Well, I drove back to my house and Smokey was waiting by the garage door with what was clearly an attitude of disappointment and disapproval. As soon as I stopped and opened the door, she went right in, licked each kitten to re-assure it and then removed each of them to a corner of the garage (exactly where was never shared with me). Shortly after that we made sure she didn't have any more kittens...it was hard enough finding good homes for seven kittens once, did not want to make it a career. At least by this time she allowed us to pick her up.
Dusty showed up about two years later. Dusty had a dirty yellowish coat that tried but never made it to calico, and she was very dirty. Additionally, she had one frosted-over eye and was missing a major portion of one ear. I would have hated to see the other guy.
Dusty allowed us to feed her and provide a modicum of warmth by leaving the garage accessible during the winter, but that was all. She would never allow herself to be picked up (more on this later), and when it came time to have her "fixed" it took two weeks of putting her food in a cage to just get her into it. And it took a certain speed to close the door to keep her. She was displeased and angry.
I put her on the front passenger seat and set out for the vets. Half way there, she forced up a side of the metal cage and got her head and front feet out, and prepared to get the rest of herself out. Fortunately, I had a large bath towel prepared and got her controlled. At the vet, I brought her in totally wrapped in this gigantic towel with just her angry head visible, and strongly advised the attendant that she should probably sedate Dusty before removing the towel. She advised me that she knew how to handle animals and I shouldn't concern myself.
When I picked up Dusty at the end of the day, everyone at the vet's seemed to have a new respect for Dusty. The attendant had a series of bandages that I did not recall from the morning and even the vet himself came out to talk with me and explain that he would prefer if I could find another medical professional to take care of Dusty's needs in the future.
I guess I could understand his position...but I did warn them, so I couldn't feel too sorry for them.
Well, this is enough for now. Next time I'll finish the story of Smokey and Dusty. They allowed us to serve them for a time and when it was time to leave, they did it on their own terms and with more grace and dignity that most humans ever show.