Someone gave me a puppy when I was about 6 years old. He was a beagle mix, solid black except for the white tip of his tail. Naturally, I named him Tippy.
Tippy followed me around everywhere. It was great. We lived in the country, and Tippy and I would roam about the neighborhood exploring. We would race across yards and fields. I can still see that little white tail wagging happily as we played together.
I had him for about six months, as I recall. Until the day a speeding man in a beat-up white Chevrolet ran over Tippy as he was trying to cross the road to catch up with me after a run in the field across from our house.
Tippy died in my arms. As I recall, I cried for three days solid.
In the ensuing years, I had no desire to own another dog. Oh, we had the occasional stray who would take up with us for a spell, then move on. But I never had a strong wish to own one.
I’ve had a couple of traumatic experiences as an adult involving vicious dogs on the loose. Once I was very nearly bitten by a big Rottweiler.
I tell you all of this to give you some context for what follows.
I’m not a dog person.
If I see a friendly dog with its owner, I will pet it. I like friendly dogs who belong to someone else. But I have no desire to ever own one again. Especially now that I live in town.
Here in Winchester — at least in my neighborhood — most dog owners are considerate about their dogs. They keep them in the house or fenced in the backyard. When walking their dogs, most clean up after them. I appreciate that. But I can’t think of many things less appealing to me than picking up dog excrement and carrying it home in a plastic bag.
But here’s the thing — I honestly don’t project my preferences in this area to others. Deciding to own dogs is a personal choice that tells me nothing about a person’s moral or ethical makeup. I would never judge a person based solely on this decision.
So it makes me quite uncomfortable hearing folks compare the current president to the former president because president Biden owns dogs while former president Trump does not. One meme on Facebook said something like, “Trump is the first president since McKinley who didn’t own a dog. That tells you all you need to know about him.”
Excuse me, but no, as a single data point, that doesn’t tell me much of anything.
I have lots of useful information upon which to judge the former president, including his job performance, things he said, and his personal behavior. But his choices in pet ownership carry exactly zero weight with me. Why should it?
By the way, I like cats as pets.
Cats are cleaner and require very little care. They usually don’t need to be trained to use a litter pan. They groom themselves and mostly shed a great deal less than dogs. You can — and should — keep a cat in the house full-time, and they never require walking.
Best of all, you can leave a cat alone in the house for several days, and as long as there is food available, they don’t care if you ever return. You never have to worry about coming home to see all your furniture chewed up. You walk in the door and greet them after being away, and they look at you like, “What, have you been gone? I hadn’t noticed.”
But whether one prefers cats, dogs, parakeets, goldfish — or no pets at all — that alone tells you nothing about the person’s treatment of animals or people. It’s no reason to judge them.
One more thing — if I ever change my mind about owning a dog or another cat, I will not be paying big bucks to a pet mill for a certified breed. I’ll adopt from the Clark County Animal Shelter. Mutts are better anyway.
Now excuse me. I suddenly feel an urge to go pet Milo, my grandson’s cat.
This article appeared in the online version of The Winchester Sun on Friday, February 5, 2021.