When I was a child, I thought cats and dogs lived just a very short time. That's because a certain relative never kept her pets long-term. She'd fall in love with a fuzzy new plaything, and then get rid of it when it stopped being cute or tried digging its way to China.
Many Americans do the same. According to the Humane Society, a throwaway mentality contributes greatly to the fact that 8 to 10 million pets end up in shelters annually.
Animals can be very demanding. Years ago I adopted a stray cat that lived behind my apartment complex. The long-haired black and white was a mess when I began feeding him. He was emaciated and infested with fleas, and walked with a noticeable limp. He was also terrified of people. If he saw me watching from the window, he would run.
It took six weeks before he'd let me get near him. Another two before he decided to room with me.
But weeks later, even after he was healthy, he still had some problems. He was afraid of strangers, especially men, and he didn't like getting too close to my feet. He'd often cuff me for no apparent reason. I named him Angel as a joke.
But animals know when they've been rescued, and slowly this feline did grow into his name.
Angel always met me at the door at night, and he let me sleep late on weekends. When he did ask for breakfast, he would politely sit by my pillow and utter one meow. If that didn't work, he'd gently tap my cheek. Finally, he'd bite my nose.
Angel was a great lap-warmer and a good "conversationalist," even if he always wanted the last meow. I've often thought of the 10 sweet years I would have missed if I'd decided early on that he was too much trouble.