On pets and limits

A dicussion elsewhere online got me thinking about limits. The specific question was “What happens if you get a prospective coven member who is allergic to pets, and you have pets?” and it got me thinking.

First, some background:

I used to live in my covenstead, post divorce. I’m very grateful for that, because it was a very good option at the time – but I was already having some ongoing allergy issues when they added another dog. (to a household of 5 cats and then 2 dogs: I’m much more allergic to dogs than cats, and my cat lived in my room with the door closed and an air filter running constantly.)

At this point, I have a hard time spending more than 2-3 hours there before the allergies kick in, even if I’m medicated. Once they kick in, it impacts not only that evening, but my sleep (wheezing in bed? Not good for sleep quality) and my ability to function the next day (the thing I resent most about asthma is how it takes my brain away.)

Do I blame them? Nope, though once they made that decision, I did move out pretty promptly. I miss spending time with them, and I dislike the fact I can’t just hang out up there easily. But I also fully understand that it’s their home, and their love for their pets, and that these are good things (and values I also hold.)

So, going at it from the HPS side, now (where I still have one cat), here’s my take on it.

1) I have existing, long-standing commitments to my cat

When I adopted her from the humane society, I made a specific commitment to take care of her for the rest of her life. What kind of witch would I be if I broke those very deliberate commitments for anyone (never mind someone who might or might not work out) just because those commitments were now less than ideal in a particular way?

2) The loss rate for potential students can be quite high:

In the group I trained in, at least half the people who express more than a cursory interest (i.e. enough to get invited to an open ritual) don’t pan out as long-term students. At what point does one get rid of one’s pets to accommodate a student? And what happens if you have years of students not having issues with pets, and then one person who does?

In the group I trained with, out of 30 people (over 7 years) who were prospective students, only one has had major issues with the covenstead pets (besides me, and that developed over time). That’s a pretty low ratio, all things considered. Should people change their lives for one person? For a less than 4% chance, based on past history?

3) My own well-being and happiness.

I’m single. Some days, the only tactile input I get from other living beings is from the cat. (I have a number of friends I hug regularly, but I don’t see them every day.)

I’m fairly certain I had less trouble post-divorce than many people do because I still had regular tactile input (there’s some interesting research out there about this, too – there’s all sorts of internal body systems regulation that works better with regular touch.)

Beyond that: witchcraft does not require martyrdom. There is no requirement for me to give up pleasure that might not be someone else’s choice that is not directly harming people. That kind choice is going to depend on a lot of other factors, many of them very situationally dependent.

So, what are my limits?

As a now-HPS, I set needed limits in my own space: people are not welcome to bring their pets with them (both for my cat’s well-being, and to reduce further allergens), and I’d have a really hard time with a student who was a smoker and who’d need to smoke (even outside) during our time together: I’m sensitive enough to smoke sometimes that I don’t want it brought into my living space on someone’s clothes or hair.

Is that going to mean I turn down some potential students? Probably. Is that the end of the world for me or them? No. Is it easy? Also no. But sometimes the necessary things aren’t.

Are there also times I’d consider alternatives? Quite likely, yes. But I wouldn’t make unalterable changes (like getting rid of a pet): I’d look for solutions (meeting elsewhere, exploring other medication options, doing some work by phone or online rather than meeting in person all the time) that could be easily reversed if a particular student with concerns didn’t work out. And I’d also want to be extra sure (once I start going out of my way for someone) that I was fairly sure they *would* work out – taking more time with conversation to make sure someone was a really solid fit in other ways.

It’s one of the things I’ve kept in mind when looking at how I’d like to handle prospective new members.

  • http://paganleft.wordpress.com/2008/06/06/exploring-the-druid-blogosphere/ Mariah/Caelesti

    I agree with you that it’s pretty unreasonable for a student to expect a teacher to give up a beloved pet for them. The student should think about how much this really matters- how allergic are they?
    Myself, I’m mildly allergic to cats- I find I only really notice it becomes a problem when someone has multiple cats. Many of my friends have cats so it’s just something I deal with. Plus I at least like cats.

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