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.