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A Writey Ranty Pet Post.

I read somewhere once that one way to give your readers help in identifying with your characters - either protags or antags -  is to make them pet owners. *Entering writey mode* I thought about that, then realized I would be remiss in doing so. Why? Because none of them have time or wherewithall to nurture another living thing. It's part of their underlying problems that need to be worked out in the story. Well....ok, so that's not entirely true. One character does have a pet: Callos Polir. He's a Po Krotan involved in all manner of underworld activities including slave trading, weapons running and gem smuggling. Real nice guy. Well, at least he is to Dobibor, his pet dart-tailed grapple. I don't think this helps make him endearing to the reader though. And it's not supposed to.

Still, Callos is a better guardian of Dobibor than a great many Montreal inhabitants are of their critters. *Entering ranty mode* As the annual 'moving day' tradition begins anew here this July 2nd, thousands of people will abandon supposedly loved cats and dogs to their empty apartments as well as the streets, because they cannot find a new abode that allows pets. Ok, so a lot of this problem is due to overly-restrictive landlords concerned about noise and cleanliness, but the majority of the problem, as I see it, is a pathetically callous attitude toward animals. An attitude that is rampant here, combined with a disgusting throw-away lifestyle. While 40 to 50% of Montrealers have pets, the average time those pets are kept is - are you ready for this? - 19 months. That's one year and seven months of an average pets' average life span of 10 years. So the next time you see someone in Montreal with a pet that appears to be more than three years old, good grief stop and congratulate that person for being so gracious. Seriously. Maybe rewards and positive reinforcement work as well for the humans as it does for the pets.

Rascalbear in goof mode.These statistics infuriate me all the more this year because I'm currently facing the mortality of my own beloved pet, my cat Rascalbear. *Entering pet mode* He was rescued from beneath a dumpster; a feral, six-week-old kitten from who-knows-where. Unwanted, cast off, and forgotten even by his own mother and litter-mates, I have to admit even I did not want him when my then-husband called to tell me about the cute Siamese kitten he'd found at work. Well, I was being honest. We already had two cats in a small one-bedroom apartment, and a hoarder I'm not. In exasperation I said that if Q-Bert didn't eat him for lunch, he could stay.

That was 16 years ago.

I found out last month that Rascalbear is showing early signs of chronic renal failure. This means that, while I can do some things to keep his health in good standing, he is on a downhill slope towards what will eventually mean making a decision I'm not looking forward to. I'm not surprised - he is, after all, old enough to drive - and I'm thankful that he's been around this long. It's the longest life span ever for one of my cats. But that doesn't mean I'm not sad and angry that this amazing animal, who comes when called, plays games with me, meows in concert when I whistle, and runs down the stairs to greet me like a happy little puppy when I come home, is likely to be gone in a relatively short time despite my insistence that he live forever. Because that's what pets are supposed to do, right?

But they don't. And I'm glad I'm a person for whom that truth hurts. Because apparently, not all are so lucky.

Rascalbear sitting pretty on his kitty pillow.To the people who will move in a few days and leave their animals on the street like an old stained couch or broken TV: I feel bad for you. Bad that you never had the chance to feel an emotion toward your pet that will ultimately culminate in a grief so overwhelming that you will miss a day of work and regret all the times you were too busy for that play-time, that walk, that begged-for tummy rub. People like you were never too busy for your pets, because you never really had one to begin with. You couldn't have, if you were able to leave the animal behind just because you needed new living quarters. For whatever reason you needed to move, it's not bigger or more important than the creature inhaling the exhaust fumes as you pull away from the curb. If there is a hell, I really hope there's a special place in it for you.

Myself, I'm going to go spend some time with my goofy little Rascalbear. Yes, I have my things: my writing, my guitar, my art, my piano, my husband, my family, my internet friends and social media peeps. But he only has me. And I'm going to make sure he gets as much of me as possible while he's still here. And as I continue my second-and-a-half draft, I'm not giving pets to any other characters except Callos. Like so many Montrealers, they just don't deserve them.