I should start by saying that I’m a vegan. I don’t usually tell people this, because I’m incredibly self-conscious about it. I know the cliche is that you’ll always know who a vegan is because they’re wearing a sign, etc, but I really loathe having to defend my food choices. I live in the far north and the hunting, farming and red meat culture is hella strong here. I only know one other vegan and she lives 70 miles from me. True story.
I also have no desire to be a difficult plant-based human, so I mostly keep it to myself. I’m a vegan for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I have a ridiculous amount of feelings and it’s honestly easier for me to not eat animal products than it is to handle the (perhaps irrational) emotional weight that hurting unseen animals brings me.
I’m a Hufflepuff, okay? It’s a thing.
I love animals. I love dolphins and penguins and pandas and all kinds of animals that most people love. I also love bats, snakes, sharks, and even spiders. I have two pet snakes. They’re my only pets right now because they’re ridiculously easy to care for, and honestly, they’re painfully cute. My ball python is one of the most precious creatures on the planet.
Suffice to say, I am often tempted to bring more animals into my home. Because, may the force be with me, I cannot resist a kitten. Or a gecko. Or a hamster. Or a budgie. Going into the pet store is often a tumultuous affair, in which I stand in front of glass tanks and cages cooing at reptiles for so long that the pet store folks often ask me if I’m okay. I reassure them that I’m fine, just hanging out with the bearded dragons.
I have never been asked to leave a pet store, and I think that is an achievement.
So I was was even more proud of myself, when I saw a posting on craigslist, and resisted the urge to write to the woman and immediately bring those precious rodents home.
“I have amazing willpower,” I said to my Sweetheart that night in bed.
“Oh?” he said back, and looked at me with slight concern over his phone.
“Today,” I said regally, “I did not adopt three rats off of craigslist! Aren’t you proud?”
My Sweetheart really is an amazing human being, so he validated my achievement. “I’m very proud of you.”
Incredibly self-satisfied, I said, “Thank you,” and snuggled close into him.
Then there was a long pause, and I was pretty sure the conversation was over. Then:
“Why were you looking at rats on craigslist? How did you get to that moment?”
There was another long pause.
I should say that though Sweetheart and I are crazy about one another, we have not been dating for a terribly long time. It’s possible I hadn’t, as of that point, told him about my somewhat sketchy habit of trolling craigslist for animals that need rescuing. I’m almost never able to do anything for these animals, but somehow I’m drawn to the page over and over, watching folks put their pets up for “rehoming.” It’s a weirdly masochistic habit.
I tried to explain this practice in a non-insane way to Sweetheart, who, to his credit, just looked at me with the sort of confused fondness that my over-zealous love of animals usually evokes from him. Then, not to be outdone by my own crazy, I explained how I couldn’t actually adopt the rats, even though they make great pets and are really quite sweet, because they wouldn’t want to live in the same room as the snakes. Because, duh, predator-prey relationships, guys.
Somehow, I did not get dumped that day.
The next week he talked me down from adopting a hamster that had been brought back to the pet store. She was orange, and looked like a creamsicle, and she snuggled right up into my hand!
But Sweetheart reminded me of the predator-prey relationship, and certainly Poppy (what I had already named the creamsicle hamster) would not feel safe in the snake room. She would have to wait for someone else to adopt her and name her after a flower.
This guy has my number, he really does.
Then there was the dachsund/poodle mix. He was an elderly dog, so old that he needed to wear dog sweaters to stay warm. I mean. HOW was I supposed to resist that?!
But there was Sweetheart, reminding me that I live on the third floor of an apartment building that’s conveniently located just north of Siberia.
“Dogs need to go outside,” he said wisely, “a lot. And do you really want dog fur all over your house?”
“No,” I said mulishly. I am a notorious neat-nick. “But LOOK at him! Look at his tiny precious little old man dog sweater!”
He did look.
“I think you should consider volunteering at the animal shelter,” he told me.
I’m not sure how he thinks that’s going to cure my “I need to bring this animal home,” problem. I guess it’s one step closer to my apparent life goal of both torturing myself and attempting to save all the animals, so I’ll take it.