Alfie visiting Joan
Last week one of my students wrote an essay about her pet cat that became ill and how she went to great lengths to save it after it helped her survive the tumult of her divorce. “I don’t usually share this for fear of being labeled pathetic, another crazy cat lady,” she said.
I have joked on this blog about my own fears of being a crazy pug lady. My cat-loving student, who comes from a dysfunctional background, noted that abused people are often drawn to animals and some experts on the human-animal bond suggest people turn to pets when we can’t find emotional fulfillment elsewhere. I know that when I entered Joan’s house years ago in search of my first-real dog, my “independence pug,” I was in search of community and I found it.
I wonder, however, where the “crazy” label comes from. Do we as a society think the search for connection is an insane pursuit, that somehow a person is not quite right because they turn to cats and dogs instead of people even when people fail them?
It seems a hypocritical notion. Everyone turns to something – food, alcohol, God, sex. We are born to connect. Even the Bible says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” So, we seek out what we can. Perhaps that is something we share with dogs – the need to be part of a pack, perhaps that is what drew them out of the wild and into our caves and led us to embrace them.
Does the idea of crazy enter when one is deemed to go too far, when the bond with animals replaces that with people all together or when the sheer number of animals becomes too many? Is it crazy to go to pug socials and hold kissing contests? Is it crazy to own 18 dogs? What is the line and who determines it? Do we know it when we see it or are we scared we won’t, so we label the whole kit-and-caboodle insane?
I’m not sure I have an answer, but I have an opinion. I think we are lucky to have a cat to help us through a divorce or a dog to keep us from being lonely. I think, given the alternative, we would be crazy not to love such creatures.