The psychiatrist says: “You do get them sometimes, of course. The crazies. People who live for their pets. Obsess over them. Buy them gourmet meals, furnish their beds with designer fabrics. End up living their whole lives through their animals. Sad really, that sort of thing.”
But he doesn’t understand – he’s no better with animals than he is with people. No real connection with any living thing whatsoever. Now that’s sad.
And of course he can’t help me either, but I really need some help.
After three months I knew the cat hated me, which was not a surprise. That vindictive little prick. Even if I tried to get rid of him he’d just come back out of spite. But the dog, it came as a complete shock to find out that he felt the same way as the cat.
They had hated each other from the very beginning. It was only natural that the dog would take my side. We both hated that cat with a passion. Or so I thought.
“After all,” the Doc tells me, “it’s not like animals really feel things like love and hate. They really don’t. Their emotion is of a different sort, simpler, based on bodily functions. Hungry, tired, cold, these are the emotional range of the common house pet. Trust me, I know.”
I make a move to interject and refute this last remark, but he cuts me off. “No really, it happens more than you might think. People are always saying to me ‘yes, but I’m different! I love my hamster (or whatever) and he loves me back.’ Silly really.”
He doesn’t get it. I am different. And it’s not a question of love; it’s pure hatred. They hate me, both of them. What am I supposed to do?
“After all there is nothing really difficult about controlling an animal’s behaviour. You feed them and you give them a home. They respect that. And if they don’t than you have a serious problem. A serious problem.”
They don’t even include me anymore. Don’t acknowledge my presence. The cat just fends for himself. I never fed him or housed him anyway. He was like a messy flat mate who didn’t pay rent. And now the dog is worse than that. Turns up his nose at the food I buy him. Won’t go near Pedigree Chum, no matter what I say. And it’s not like him to go hungry – he never skipped a meal before all this. I never imagined him to be capable of such bitterness.
“My own mother was somebody who was far too fond of her pets. We had plenty come and go over the years, but even that wasn’t enough for her. She started bringing home stray cats, dogs, filthy mongrels all of them. One time she brought home a badger who bit all the other animals and simply could not be persuaded to stay in the house.
“Giving them all names was one thing, giving them all separate rooms was quite another. ‘We have plenty of room’ she would keep saying, but of course that wasn’t the reason I was complaining.
“In fact letting them eat at the table had been my joke, provoked at the climax of yet another fierce argument, but I most certainly did not laugh when she started doing it. After that it just got to be too much. I just knew I had to do something.”
The Doc smiles as he continues: “in a way that is why we are having this conversation right now. My childhood stirred a great need in me to help people, and it is the reason I want to help you now.”
He is lying. He only smiles like that when he lies. It is not his natural expression, but one he must strive to maintain. The cat smiles like that too, and that is when I know he is up to something.
“I hope this session has helped you,” he says, the last remnants of his filthy liars grin fading from his face as he stands to shake my hand. “I think we really got a lot done today. Really made some progress.”
He shakes my hand. Forces a smile again. More lies then.
I get home to an empty house that night. Cat and dog have run away together. Didn’t so much as leave a note. I wait by the phone most nights till I fall asleep, but they never call.