Even though we live with three cats and a dog, my wife and I don’t refer not to ourselves as “pet owners,” opting rather for the moniker, “pet guardians.”
You are now thinking either:
- “Meh, so what?” yet, continuing to read
- “Oh, you’re one of those type of people,” possibly even falsely labeling me as “wacko animal rights activist.”
- “Right on! I so agree with you. I wish more people felt that way.”
- “This is nonsense,” deciding you have something better to do with your time and returning to your quarantined life.
I judge not your response.
What’s the difference between “pet owner” and “pet guardian”?
Well, um, honestly, probably not much beyond semantics. Countless millions of people share living quarters with animals while considering themselves good “pet owners.” Assuming they love, nurture, and take care of their furry, feathered, or reptilian family members; they’re correct.
Speaking on behalf of those of us who opt for the term “guardian,” the difference is that I don’t believe I “own” the animals. I mean, sure, legally, I’m responsible and all; but believe each soul exists to pursue its own path. As guardian to Tiger, Oreo, Hobbs, and Willie, my responsibility is to help clear their paths to allow them the fullest, happiest, healthiest four-legged existence possible. (Go ahead, cue the “woo-woo,” artsy-fartsy, new age, hippie music; I’m used to it.)
The manner in which this choice of terms manifests itself with us is that there are cat and dog toys strewn everywhere. A giant dog bed occupies our living room floor with countless lesser versions scattered elsewhere. For the feline contingent, there are perches, walkways, all manner of hanging things, and even a “catio” attached to our back door (so they can go outside but not run the risk of being hit by cars).
As stated, we are animal guardians.
Starting late last year, Tiger, our eldest, has been suffering from all manner of severe health conditions with symptoms pin-balling from lethargy to vomiting to constipation; dropping from a robust 12 pounds down to seven. In February, we were discussing end-of-life options, actually assuming a date. Whether “owner” or “guardian,” or neither, I’m sure you empathize with this gut-wrenching, emotional, devastating period.
Yet, in what I can only describe as a miracle, our 15-year-old Tiger rebounded.
As if treated by magic wand, he woke up and started eating, and eating, and eating, and eating. His fur regained its smooth texture; his eyes cleared; he even reverted to kitten-like behaviors. He filled out so much, we referred to him as “Buddha belly.” Give praise! Sing hallelujah! Life is good.
Last weekend, noticing some fur was missing, we returned to the vet.
Shocked and stunned were we to find out that his large belly was not the result of all that he was eating, but rather due to advanced cancer, causing severe fluid retention in his abdomen.
Although still the same soul, we saw Tiger now differently with new eyes. He was the same as he was the day previous, yet, somehow, somewhere, something altered in our perception of him. I reminded us that the sole shift between yesterday and today was that we had information we didn’t previously have. Aside from that, he was the same cat we knew 24 hours previously. Nonetheless, he appeared weaker, more cautious, less comfortable, than before we knew what we now know. Due to our perception shift, Tiger changed.
We contacted the vet again a few days later to discuss potential courses of action. We discovered that there are treatments to make him more comfortable, provide a better quality of life during this end-stage, and even possibly extend his time, without keeping him alive by “heroic measures.”
Substitute “hopeful” for “distressed” and Tiger again transformed.
We saw his passion for survival, engaged, vital, brimming with energy. Yet reality is, nothing had changed in him.
In physics, the “observer effect” is the theory that the mere observation of a phenomenon inevitably changes that phenomenon. To me that is not theory but fact. Tiger, before our eyes, transformed due to our observations; nothing more, nothing less.
I beg your pardon if I took us around the block a few times before bringing this home but, for me, the takeaway is proof that we see what we expect to see, based on what we believe is true. Observing the state of the world, boiled down to a binary choice, I can believe that we are doomed or that we will thrive. That stance directs my view which leads my life, which in turn, affects others. It is a ripple effect extending beyond the furthest horizon, well into the future.
There are always options so choose carefully what you see. The implications are immense.
And yes, take the time to purr when you can.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a professional speaker and founder of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com, where he can be contacted for coaching, consulting, and presentations. During this social distancing period, he is conducting monthly on-line workshops on setting goals and getting past what holds you back. You can find out more at www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com/intentions