Every Pet is a Once-in-a-Lifetime Pet
It's painful to lose a pet, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to love another.
I recently had to say goodbye to my once-in-a-lifetime pet, a cat named Smokey. He was an oddball who showed up at our house one day and simply never left. For over ten years he was my best friend. When I went off to college, he was my roommate. I almost certainly spent more time with him than any human.
Smokey had so many quirks that made him special. He was polydactyl, which made his paws extra large. They were large enough that when he walked around the house you could heat his feet against the hardwood. He would follow me back and forth as I walked through the house, and was always interested in what I was doing. In many ways, he was more a dog than a cat. But overall, he was just Smokey. And it's going to be a long time before I feel normal again.
About two years ago, I got a second cat, Annabelle Lee. I knew Smokey was getting older, and while nobody could replace him, I felt the transition would be easier if I got a new cat before Smokey passed. She's a great cat too. And she has her own unique quirks. She's also learned to follow me around the house, which I guess is just something that becomes a trait with my spoiled children.
She does have her issues. She has a habit of biting randomly. I guess she's just a bit hyper. But overall she's a lovely cat, who just likes to chill. But she's pretty much nothing like Smokey. And that's fine. I wasn't looking for another Smokey, because I knew that there never could be another cat like him.
My Other "Children"
I also have had plenty of other pets in the past. I've had a dog that I grew up with. I've had many rats and a number of mice. They were all unique and all hold a place in my heart. Right now I have two mice, "Big Mom" and Basil. They both have their own personalities and interests, but are both great pets.
The Once-in-a-Lifetime Pet
So which pet is my actual once-in-a-lifetime pet? I think they are all. Every single pet is unique. There will never be another one like them. And that's okay. It's painful when we lose them, but that doesn't mean that we should give up on pets or think that we cannot form as close of a bond to another pet in the future. We should value each and every animal that we bring into our lives, and while it can be hard to cope with the passing of a beloved pet, we can still love other pets just as much.
So how should we go about finding more once-in-a-lifetime pets? I'm a big fan of adopting pets. Getting a pet from a breeder can perpetuate the overpopulation of cats and dogs, while leaving innocent animals in shelters, or worse, on death's door.
With rats and mice it's a bit more difficult. Quality breeders select for health and disposition, and I've dealt with some rather mean rats who came from poor breeders. It's not great. Still, there are rat and mouse rescues. In fact, I've run across plenty of posts where rats have been found wandering around because some asshole released them into the wild. No, pet rats cannot survive in the wild, so they must be rescued.
As for how to find a rescue, plenty of humane societies post to websites like petfinder.com which has a lot of information for anyone looking for a specific pet. Some humane societies also keep a select few of their rescues in pet stores.
Just keep in mind that when you're adopting, you should consider whether you have the resources (time, money, housing) to take on another pet, and that you're willing to give them plenty of love. We owe it to them to make our decision on the matter wisely.