I’ve just returned from a delightful second house-hunting trip in Medford, Oregon. After several years of periodic exploratory trips around the country, I’ve decided the Rogue River Valley is my destination of choice. Although I didn’t find THE home on this trip, I’ll continue to look. The reason I’ve made two trips to the Medford area and not found what I need is my pets. My “family” consists of dogs, cats, and parakeets.
All my pets are rescues. With the exception of two cats that simply showed up on my doorstep (literally–do I have a sign only visible to animals that says, “Free Food! Come one, come all!”?), everyone began as a foster from the shelter where I currently volunteer. At that shelter the number one reason pets are relinquished is the owner moving. It would no sooner occur to me to move and give up my pets than it would to leave my son or daughter behind.
Consequently, my search for a new home consists of some complicated issues. Is there room enough for us to live together inside the house and not suffer “overcrowding stress?” A great book regarding the psychological and physical results of overcrowding is anthropologist Desmond Morris’s “The Human Zoo.” A new home must have space for the dogs and cats to have their own spaces to be alone, be quiet, or to play with toys and each other. Individual rooms can lend a sense of security to a displaced cat, a large living area can provide play space for dogs on a dreary day outside, and plenty of bright windows will provide interesting views for chirping birds in cages and snoozing cats on climbing posts. If I continue to foster, will there be places to confine unruly dogs as they learn to adjust to living with manners? Will there be rooms I can designate as dedicated cat rooms? Will there be space enough for my own pets to be away from the stresses of new arrivals?
Outside, my dogs need enough land to chase, play, poop, pee, and explore. We need great places to walk on and off leash (my dogs are under my control with leash or hand and/or verbal cues), and because we can cover a couple of miles a day, some variety in our walking areas is important. If I’m ill or incapacitated, will there be enough yard that my dogs can exercise without me? My cats are allowed outside only when I’m 100% sure they can’t escape the yard or be in danger from predators, either from the ground (predatory animals, other dogs, cars, environmental hazards) or the air (birds of prey).
I, on the other hand, am claustrophobic and so need enough open space inside and outside of my home to move about, exercise, garden, write, and wander on an inclement day or sleepless night. I dislike living in forests, crave sunshine, and want to find a home large enough to house my 19th century antique French Baroque furniture, in addition to my casual dog and cat furniture. I don’t want the prying eyes of neighbors able to see my comings and goings, nor do I want to be able to stick my arm out a window and be able the shake hands with the person next door reaching out of their window. I want to hear meadowlarks and crickets, not automobile traffic.
All animals, pet and human, need visual, olfactory, and visual stimulation so finding just the right house will not be easy. Surrounding my pet family I hope to establish a Certified Backyard Habitat according to National Wildlife Federation guidelines (as I have here) so local fauna can find food, water, protection and nesting sites. We love to quietly observe our wild neighbors from windows and patios on lovely days and moon-lit nights.
Then, of course, there is the question of budget. Selling our current home in a high market and buying somewhere else in a low market is the goal. But I can’t control the timing of markets. I seek to balance my search with market advantages but unless the near perfect home presents itself I won’t uproot us to an inferior situation in which we’re bound to be unsatisfied, cramped, or unsafe. Our current home is perfect but its location is beginning to deteriorate. I don’t wish to wait until my property declines in value. So the search will continue.
I also need to have meaning to my life. Are there animal sanctuaries, shelters, rescues or other ways I can contribute what I know after 25 years of animal welfare work? Can I design an esthetically pleasing writing nook? Can I grow flowers out of the peeing range of my dogs? Is there Internet availability and the ability to connect to the outside world, even if I choose to stay physically out of it?
My first concern is the requirements of my family. I will not allow us to be separated, even if a home that adequately meets my own needs materializes. It must be a good move for everyone–dogs, cats, birds, and myself. So until that wonderful home appears, we’ll stay where we’re together.