Are There Hidden Joys of Pet Non-Ownership?
Let’s face it, not having to watch where you step is somewhat relaxing
By Ed Goldman
For those of you who regularly follow this column (will you both please stand up?), you know I lost my beloved tabby, roommate, buddy and comic foil, Osborn the Magnificent, a few months after he turned 19 last year.
I still miss him every day, often mistaking a pile of clothes in the corner for him—or, sadder still, hearing squealing car brakes outside my window in my sleep and thinking it’s Osborn crying (which he did perhaps twice in his lifetime and not nearly as loudly).
When Heaven can’t wait
Lately, though, in a possibly deluded attempt to make lemon-drop martinis out of that eponymous citrus, I’ve begun to appreciate some of the benefits of pet non-ownership—which I’m pretty sure will be brief since eventually, Mourning Becomes Pedantic (take that, fans of Eugene O’Neill play titles!).
Here’s a pawful of pluses I’ve discovered:
- When I stagger into my bathroom in the middle of the night, I no longer fear stepping on Osborne nor in an outcome of his (how shall I put this?) process of elimination.
- Before leaving my condo for a few hours or even to pop out for some groceries, I don’t have to tell anyone to be a good boy, robustly delivered in the wimpish hope I won’t return home to find a sofa victimized during an episode of the Furniture Chainsaw Massacre.
- I no longer keep separate litterboxes in my downstairs office and in the upstairs bathrooms. This—combined with my not having to navigate past food and water bowls in my kitchen on the way to the backyard—has provided me a new sense of free access to, respectively, nature’s call and nature itself.
- When I went on extended trips, I never minded paying for a cat-sitter. In fact, I had a wonderful one, musician and scientist Laura Sterner, who used to text me video of Osborn to show that despite my absence, he was not only still alive but also not being used for research purposes.
- When doing the last-moment scramble most of us do before leaving home for days or weeks, I now have one fewer box on my to-do list to check off. Securing my cat’s accommodations—plenty of food, clean bowls, outcome bags—always figured high on my pre-vacation list. It was far more important than stopping my newspaper delivery, watering my allegedly xerographic plants and removing my car’s catalytic converter to save the thieves time, for example. It’s made leaving home the same pleasure it was each time I ran away from it when I was a kid (or, later, when it involved divorce papers).
- Osborn used to wake me at night whenever he developed an apparently irremediable itch. I’d start dreaming I was back in Southern California during the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake, which also occurred early in the morning and had also involved my bed convulsing like a blender set at “pulse.”
These days, if I ever experience the same situation, I’ll know it’s in fact a deadly earthquake—and yet that will seem comparatively okay. I hated it when my cat experienced discomfort. I’m sure he felt the same about me, though simply lacked the words to express his empathy which, as you know, cats are famous for. (For younger readers: That was genuine, adult sarcasm. When your generations roll their eyes and say, “As if,” you’re just being rude little creeps.)
- I don’t miss my cat when I amble through the parklike setting of my condo community and see people dutifully walking their dogs—because one of the great benefits of having been a cat owner was that I never had to take him for a walk. I’d just let him out in my little backyard, where he could enchant himself for hours eating the skin off my tomatoes, chasing after mostly evasive songbirds and getting in some of his daily 21 hours of slumber (but this time, instead of on a claustrophobic indoor set, on location).
- In the two years before he passed away, I spent about $8,500 on emergency veterinary hospital visits because I’d never had the foresight to buy pet insurance. I didn’t really mind. His rebounds so elated me that when the credit card bills arrived, I was more than happy to pay them from checking accounts with insufficient funds. God, those were fun times.
- Then there’s the rubber-band matter. When you receive three hard-copy newspapers every morning, each separately folded and secured to prevent all that breaking news from breaking out, one or two of them may end up on the floor in the course of a week. To judge from the anecdotal evidence —a cat owner who knew a cat owner who had something bad happen to a neighbor’s cousin’s cat— a rubber band poses an existential threat to house cats. I imagine it’s because a cat can choke on it while trying to eat it. In the years I had a cat, I never once saw him eat something that wasn’t even marginally food. Osborn would tear up unused paper napkins, toilet tissue and paychecks but never attempt to eat them. In fact, I once salvaged the tatters of a check from a magazine for which I write a quarterly column and was able to tape it back together on the back; it not only was accepted by my bank but by its ordinarily fussy ATM.
Still, if there’d been a chance of his gagging because I refused to read newspapers in digital formats, I’d never have forgiven myself. Or the publishers and deliverers of the newspapers as well as the manufacturer of the rubber bands. If you’re going to sue, sue everyone in sight, as former Congressman Devin Nunes used to say.
- Finally, I don’t miss Osborn’s howling for attention when I was trying to interview someone by phone. But he enjoyed watching western movies with me as long as there was a horseback chase involved. Once that was over and the story resumed, he grew bored very quickly. It was like I had a twin.
A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela
President, Golden Pacific Bank, a Division of SoFi Bank, Inc.
photo by Phoebe Verkouw
THE COURAGE OF QUITTING
There is a certain special courage in quitting your job for ethical or moral reasons.
I appreciate those brave enough to make a statement, however dramatic, to draw an important point. I note two folks in the banking world— in high-level federal banking positions—who did just that. While most of you may have never heard of them, they rocked the worlds of bankers and banking regulators in 2022 by citing their truths as the reasons they quit their jobs.
Mr. Sultan Meghji was hired by the Federal Deposition Insurance Corporation in a newly created Chief Innovation Officer position with the touted goal of pursuing technology advances toward financial modernization in the USA. It included exploration of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, crypto currency, ransomware, and foreign hacking and cybersecurity issues.
Within a year, Mr. Meghji called it quits, publicly stating that the government was so “tech hesitant and hostile” that he could not do his job in a responsible manner. He outlined his rationale for leaving in a blistering op-ed published by the Bloomberg News.
Likewise, last February Ms. Jelena McWilliams, who was appointed to head the Federal Deposition Insurance Corporation in 2018, called it quits more than a year ahead of schedule. She was fed up with what she saw as politicians setting the agenda for the regulatory agency that was traditionally apolitical. Ms. McWilliams accused her Democratic colleagues of staging a “hostile takeover” after they attempted to control the agency’s agenda in order to better oversee rules governing bank mergers.
I truly believe that companies, including government agencies, can use these public departures as a time for reflection on what their mission is and how they may serve the public’s best interests in the highest manner, whether it means pursuing difficult operational changes, or pushing back on political pressuring.
I applaud Mr. Meghji and Ms. McWilliams for the courage to do what they thought was right at the time, and I wish them both all the best in their future endeavors.