Living in Lane Cove, not a day goes by without me experiencing the special joy that pets bring into their owners’ lives. My girls’ grandmother is the proud mother of Shiraz and Chardonnay, a black cat and a tabby, both rescued from the RSPCA. My two-and-a-half-year-old starts asking for “nanna’s kittens” as soon as we walk through the door. Despite being shy and reserved – it’s only on rare occasions I ever catch a glimpse of Shiraz and I haven’t seen Chardonnay in months – my daughter picks up the colourful feathers and entices them in play which they all enjoy.

And this is why actors are warned never to take roles opposite children and animals. They’re just so naturally captivating that any studied talent or calculated acting goes unnoticed. In fact, they’re so good at being noticed and their motives pondered, that when I urged a friend of mine to submit a story to The Village Observer’s Hundred Words story competition, she wrote about Prince, her cat (not the late pop star).

“…The Prince’s regal bearing allows intimact only on his own terms. We are careful not to exceed his wishes. Sharing his charms with mere humanity…”

And with those words, she shows how aloof and with an air of superior detachment (do I daresay narcissistic?) cats appear to those of us who’d rather be spared their airs (and the hairs they shed). Yes, I’m a dog person.

Luckily, I also get my fair share of ogling cute puppies and handsome dogs. There’s no shortage of them in Lane Cove.

Every morning, walking alongside the Pottery Green open field, I see a congregation of dog owners gleefully throwing balls or frisbees, having a laugh amongst each other while their dogs of all sizes, shapes and colours (I’ve seen Greyhounds, Labradors, Labradoodles, Cavoodles, Dachsunds, Poodles, Boxers to name but a few) pull off acrobatic stunts.

For an extrovert like me, the social interaction I witness between the proud dog owners is reason enough to get a dog.  It looks like a fun way to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Our neighbourhood is surrounded by parks and open spaces that beg for dogs and owners to come and play.

Beyond Snoopy and Garfield

Some writers had intense success immortalising their pets.

Who can forget famous dogs like Lassie, Marley & Me, Old Yeller or the cats in Cats, the longest-running Broadway show inspired by T.S. Elliot’s poems about feline behaviour?

As a writer, I’m tempted to tap into animal behaviour to see what I get inspired to write but there are other reasons other than my selfish social and professional motives for wanting a family pet.

I’m almost one hundred (or is it one hundred and one, like some Dalmations we heard of?) per cent sure that the success Charles Shulz, the creator of Peanuts (and Snoopy) and Jim Davis (the creator of Garfield) enjoyed will evade me as I’m not a believable illustrator and not having grown up with pets or animals (or small kids for that matter until having had some myself just a few years ago) will probably be lousy at breaking down their desires, motives and behaviour patterns for an audience.

But as they say, “never say never”.

What Can We Learn From Animals?

Watching the various birds come and feed on our balcony, I feel grateful for their presence. They bring colour in the form of Rainbow Lorikeets, laughter, the sounds of the Kookaburras, a sense of mischief and play that the Cockatoos embody. They are reminders that there’s so much variety in life that must be celebrated.

Though wild animals are great, I also plan on having a pet or perhaps even pets in our household because I’d like to socialise in the doggy park.

I also can’t think of better tutors for our daughters as they grow up and begin to experience their own lives.

Firstly, an animal presence in the house teaches us that love is unconditional. At least, that’s what I hear from dog owners. When they come home – it doesn’t matter if they had the worst day of their lives, are angry, tired, frustrated, down in the dumps, the minute their dog sees them he springs to life, jumping up and down, tongue and tail wagging ready to plant doggy kisses and voila! their day is immediately brightened. I’m sure those of you who are cat-people would say that your cats also show love, but perhaps in more subtle ways.

Secondly, caring for pets teaches responsibility. What better way for my girls to learn interdependence? They will need to ensure our family pet has a clean place to sleep, nutritious food and plenty of exercise to keep him healthy and love and attention for his happiness. The better they care for him the happier and healthier he will be, bringing more joy to all of us.

I know, I know, easy to say from the view of someone who’s never looked after a pet. I’m sure there will be many occasions when no one in the household will feel like taking Fido for a walk or cleaning up his poop when he has to go to the bathroom on the living room floor. I’m sure these poop experiences will teach us something too.

And my third reason for wanting a pet in our lives is the reason why many people don’t want pets. They teach us to deal with heartache and loss. No matter how well we look after our pets, unless it’s a turtle or a parrot, their lives aren’t going to be as long as the average human lifespan. It will be likely that we will have to say good-bye to our long-beloved family pet and mourn his loss. But this is a part of life and it is best dealt with than avoided.

We all need to understand that it’s natural to acknowledge grief and loss and learn to move forward from it. This builds resilience.

Over to you…

What about you? What type of pets have you had, currently have or would like to have one day? E-mail me, and let me know. Trust me, this simple exercise will get the ball rolling on your memoir writing journey.