I’ve been thinking about the words we use to label our relationship with the animals in our lives. It isn’t politically correct to say we own a horse; instead, we are its caretaker. That dog doesn’t belong to you, you’re its guardian. Swell.
Referring to an animal as a family member is the norm; it’s common to hear someone in the barn refer to themselves as Big Red’s Mom, or say that Bandit is their fur-child. No shortage of Fur-Daddies either. I understand the intention and if the words fit, go with it. It won’t be the last time your real kids roll their eyes at you, even if they love their little brother, Rowdy. If you don’t have actual kids, it will make people think that you dress the fur-babies up in little sweaters and ties and sit them at the dinner table with you.
For me, the mom/child terminology doesn’t fit. I’m not Clara’s Mom. I knew her Mom and she was pretty special. I wouldn’t pretend to sit in that throne. Edgar Rice Burro, being bigger in legend than life, is no one’s fur-baby. And my Grandfather Horse, 26 years old today, is certainly deserving of all the dignity shown an elder statesman. After all he has taught me, maybe I should be his Skin-Baby. But that’s just gross.
I think it is an amazing thing to be a horse or dog, there is much to envy about them. Are we sure that being their species isn’t preferable to being human? Don’t we aspire to the position of Lead Mare?
Plato said, “Man is a wingless animal with two feet and flat nails.” It doesn’t sound so great when you put it like that.
How do I describe this relationship? Significant other? That always sounds like an oxymoron to me, and BFF is a little too pink. Let me check the list of options on Facebook…
In an open relationship? Humans might frown on a communal lifestyle, but herds like it. Besides, being a singleton and standing alone in the light of my love is blinding. They are only too happy to share me. “Look, she got another horse. Thank God.”
Married? As in ‘Till death do us part’? Of course, but does that make me a polygamist as well? Divorced? From animals? I can’t imagine it. Widowed? Three times so far this year.
A civil union has the sound of workman-like training, but seems to lack both rudeness and brilliance. If you spend more time in the barn than the house, does a horse count as a domestic partnership?
Finally, there is the It’s complicated status. Does this one fit? My animals inform every decision I make, whether financial, real estate, or work related, to dovetail with their care and well being- just like a good parent. I invest my passion in hopes and dreams that include them- just like a lover. I remember stories of those animals that are long passed- like ancestors kept alive through memory. It’s complicated is a status with an open-ended feel, blurring traditional titles and perplexing in its scope.
Maybe the It’s complicated status will have to do because there is no All of the Above status.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.