I love animals. I always have, and I have never hidden my love of animals from anyone I’ve dated. I grew up with dogs, cats, lizards, guinea pigs, turtles, rabbits, parrots, etc. I was dating someone recently and he mentioned animals, so I told him how much I love them. We discussed growing up with pets: how he wished he had one, but his parents wouldn’t let, except for some fish and a short-lived hamster. I told him about the four cats, rabbit, and two turtles I have in my apartment. He joked that I’m on the border of being called a “crazy” cat lady. I’m not a “crazy cat lady.” It hurt my feelings. You can’t say I’m a crazy cat lady because I’m crazy in love with all animals.
He asked if I planned on getting any more pets. I said I wanted my children to grow up with friends of all species, and if there was room to have dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, snakes, guinea pigs (I love guinea pigs), and other animals, then I’d love that. It all depends on space in a house or apartment we’d live in. Owning pets teaches children responsibility. Animals love unconditionally, unlike people who can turn on you at any time. The rest of the date went well. But that date and conversation was last week, and I didn’t really hear from him, except for a short text, only in response to a question or text I’d send him. It wasn’t like it had been for the past few weeks. I called the shadchan yesterday; I was told that the guy called him a couple of days earlier and said he didn’t want to own a zoo, so he didn’t want to date me again.
I’m hurt. Animals are wonderful. The Hebrew word for dog is kelev. If you break up the word, it’s “k’lev” (“like a heart”). A dog is man’s best friend. I don’t think he fully thought about this. I don’t want to own a zoo either, just to be surrounded by pets that I love and who love me. I didn’t think me owning my pets would be such an issue. I will not trade my pets for this or any man. I’m annoyed that the shadchan didn’t call me, after the guy told him his decision. Why leave me hanging and wondering? Don’t shadchanim know that it’s torture waiting for the call? I texted the shadchan twice and he wasn’t responding. The word “zoo” in this context hurt. It makes me sound like the “crazy animal lady” that he called me on the date.
Thank you for your email, Chavah.
Loving animals is a wonderful quality/characteristic about someone. Cruelty to animals is actually one of the signs that someone may be a serial killer. (There’s much more to that pathology, but I’m not getting into that here.) I imagine it was wonderful to grow up surrounded by animals. You’re right that when children grow up with pets learning responsibility and about opening your heart to love with owning pets. But just like with everything in life, having too much of one thing may not be a good thing or may not be understood by someone else.
The fellow you are dating, whom I will refer to as Noach (yes, pun intended), can’t relate to how you grew up surrounded by animals. Yes, he wanted a pet, but owning fish and a hamster is nothing like owning a dog or guinea pig. In his mind, this conversation just went to the total other extreme of what he was expecting or what he is used to. Owning a dog and a cat can be understood. Even owning one of each or two of the same species is understandable: two dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, etc. But what you described having in your apartment sounds like a lot. (Where do you keep them all in a small New York apartment? Do your neighbors complain about the noise?)
Society has painted the picture for us of the “crazy cat lady” every neighborhood has: the woman who lives by herself with 20 or more cats that roam all over her house and yard. She comes out to feed them with her hair in a crazy type of bird’s nest hairstyle. And, unfortunately, the picture of cats crawling over her after she has passed on is part of the picture. Do I think Noach was serious about it? No. Do I think it was a natural thought that came into his head? Yes. Instead of calling you the caretaker of a zoo (which I am not using as an insult, but a fact, since you own many animals) the “crazy cat lady” title came out.
Did you dive deeper into this conversation with Noach? What did he imagine in terms of pets when he married and has his own family? You already know that he likes animals, or at least common house pets, but did you discuss the menagerie of animals that you currently have and adding to it? Did you ever mention that you are aware that whoever you marry would have to understand your need to own and be surrounded by animals? Is a house with property in your future so you and your spouse won’t feel cramped in an apartment with several animals? There are several ways this conversation could have continued.
I can understand your love for animals, but I was a little concerned when I read, “...unlike people who can turn on you at any time.” Yes, some animals do offer unconditional love, but the way you phrased your words has me thinking that you may have been hurt in the past by a friend or loved one. But since you didn’t elaborate on that, I can’t discuss that point further.
Chavah, you have to understand that it may not be easy to find someone who will readily agree to owning so many animals, even if they are a man’s best friend. Some people think one or two is enough. Others have religious reasons for not wanting to own a pet. What I do think is that you should include your love of animals and the fact that you own several of them in your shidduch resume, or inform shadchanim about it so that you don’t have your feelings unintentionally hurt again by someone who may not fully understand your connection to animals. And so, when redting you a shidduch, they can have some idea of who is and isn’t shayach: If after the shadchan tells the young man that you own several pets, and he is allergic to cat hair or is afraid of dogs, the shadchan will know not to set you up with that person. I know plenty of people with several pets of different species. Some owned them before they married and others acquired them after they were married and had children, so it ended up being a topic that was thoroughly discussed. Your bashert, you will find, will love the fact that you share his love of pets. It will be a positive and not a negative.
Why Noach didn’t break up with you on his own, why was he evading you with sporadic and short texts, I don’t know. Why didn’t the shadchan call you straight away after she had spoken to Noach, I don’t know. I can imagine how anxious you were about what was going on and if the two of you would continue dating. The fact that he was responding to your texts would also give me hope. But then to be let down by a shadchan who didn’t mark down “Call Chavah and tell her what Noach said” on his top five list of Things to Do. Shadchanim: Yes, we all have lives and responsibilities, but you also have a responsibility to the singles you set up. They anxiously await calls from you. The “It’s not going to work” call is a hard one, but it is a very necessary one. Don’t keep the other single waiting. Can you imagine waiting for something for days only to be let down afterward. Put yourself in their position.
Chavah, your heart is a big one and very open to give and receive love. You will find someone who will have as much love to give and be willing to receive from you and all of your animals. He’s out there. Just make it very clear to everyone that you definitely want pets of all types in your home.
Hatzlachah to you all!