By Jessica Gifford
Jessica grew up in southern rural Missouri. In adulthood she made the big move to central rural Missouri – she has no memories where there weren’t at least two animals in her home and all of her earliest memories involve a pony. Jessica’s mother-in-law tells her that she had to love her husband more than the animals when we got married, to which Jessica and her betrothed Isaac simply rolled their eyes and laughed. Jessica works at Veterans United Home Loans as a pet-adoring Loan Specialist.
Do you feel like a helicopter pet parent? Do you feel a bit judged about how obsessed you are with the fur children? Looking for a place that not only understands but embraces that? Look no further, I have arrived!
When I was a kid I had over 50 pets at the same time. Birds, dogs, cats, horses, bottle pig, goats, rabbits, guinea pigs, fish, you name it, I probably had it. As I grew up I came to appreciate the joy of having a few pets and treating them like the royalty that they are. So now I have a much more conservative number of pets, six. They are Archie (horse), Sherman (dog), Radar (dog), Hawkeye (cat), Klinger (cat) and last but not least, Olive (fish). And believe me, if reincarnation is real, you want to come back as a pet that lives in my house. The fish by far has it the worst off with his live plants, weekly cleaning, and tank heater. And the custom shelf that my husband built for him and all of his fish things.
I call the veterinarian’s office so often that almost the entire staff recognizes my voice. I use Mizzou Veterinarian Health Center as an emergency only option and when I walk in I get, “Oh, you’re back.” All the pets see a regular chiropractor (although, I don’t see the chiropractor myself, who has money for that?). One of the dogs goes to doggie daycare and instead of a water bowl, they have water fountain that filters their water, twice. I also recently invested in GPS trackers for the cats because they are indoor-outdoor pets and I want to be able to know where they are at all times. And, of course, Chewy.Inc delivers to my house at least twice a month.
People have asked why I do it, why am I a crazy pet parent that leaves three pages of instructions every time I leave town? The honest answer is: I am not sure.
I was pretty much born with a very strong love of animals. I got my first pony and the age of two. Our house always had dogs and cats and both my parents grew up on very active farms one of which still is and the other was until a couple of years ago when my grandpa passed away. Maybe it came from him. Mom said that when she was a kid he was always finding some half dead un-cared for animal and dragging it home. She said they were often so think and sickly they looked like mere skeletons, but grandpa always fed them up, tending to them until they were healthy again. So perhaps it’s hereditary or maybe it’s just as simple as animals have always been in and around the spaces and environments I’ve lived in.
Either way, my animals are always happy to see me and that just makes life better. It doesn’t really matter if my day was good or bad- it is better because they are in it. I think I feel an affinity towards animals the way most people feel about babies and small kids. Are they brats sometimes? Very much yes. But they also have this innocent, intuitive quality. It’s really obvious when I am feeling sad because the trail of animals following me grows long and loving. My very hyper-active puppy knows when to be calm and let me cry into his fur. When my husband spends the night out of town, they know that I am nervous, and wind up with a bed full of dogs. Making sure that they have everything they could possibly want seems like the least I could do for the joy and love that they provide. The connection I have with them is nothing like I could ever get from a human, nor would I want to. I can be so unapologetically me and they are always around for it- I am never too anything for them.
I have had and seen a lot of abused animals in my past and I don’t understand it. Now, I am not saying that everyone needs to buy their dogs a water fountain, I get it, I’m extra. But I do think part of me is hoping to somehow make up for what those other animals have been through. All of them have been rescued (except the fish, but I have rescued fish before) and Archie, that’s the horse, he has had the best life of all of them and even that was no picnic. He was a racehorse which in itself is not necessarily a bad life but it is a stressful one and it’s not uncommon for former race horses to be sort of homeless once their racing days are done. They have had an entire career already and that definitely comes with some additional issues that not everyone is prepared to deal with. One of the cats and one dog were dumped and another cat was rescued by a local rescue from a severe hoarding situation, in fact I am pretty sure that he either does not have or has a very weak sense of smell, likely due to living conditions at his previous home. And, finally, the other dog came to us as his fourth home in five months. He is still very distrustful of men and we believe he was in a situation with domestic violence prior to coming to our home. He has severe separation anxiety and used to eat our house when we left. We had to hire a dog trainer and spend months and months making it manageable. We still aren’t where we want to be with him and we are trying new things to help him be more secure all the time.
But the best part of being a helicopter pet parent is: I always feel like there is more. More care to give, more love to share and show.
What about supplements? Should I build smaller stairs for Sherman to make it easier for him to get in and out of the bed with his hip issues? What else could be done to make their lives better? If you are still reading this, you either think I am completely insane or you 100% understand. If you understand, please reach out to me so we can be helicopter pet-parent friends. We can give each other training, pet supply tips, and encourage one another to adopt that next pet . . . or, to hold off, just this once.