Hail to the pup, and all other amazing animal friends

They say if you love something, set it free. It’s better to see something awesome in the wild as opposed to keeping it in a box all so you can see it all the time, right?

But is it wrong to keep animals as pets, and not set them free? Well, that depends. Some pets are OK. Domesticated animals that have been kept as pets for ages can live long happy lives as your friend. But a?hamster is a better pet than, say, a capybara.

Tigers are a bad idea – Mike Tyson is lucky no one in Southington met the business end of his big cats when he lived there.

Ditto exotic animals. If it lives in a tree, it probably shouldn’t be in your house. Lemurs and sugar gliders and chimpanzees belong in the jungle, not being pushed through Walmart in a baby stroller.

Even the potbellied pig trend was a little more reasonable than this guy I saw online the other day who had a bison curled up in front of his fireplace. Imagine the dude who breaks into THAT house.

As long as pets stay within reasonable limits, it’s a joy to take in an animal friend. Teaching kids to love and care for animals is a valuable gift, one that will help them learn compassion, empathy and responsibility.

There aren’t exactly forests teeming with wild puppies, so no guilt about ripping them from their natural habitat. Dogs have been long kept as human companions, along with cats. As always, make sure they are from a reliable breeder or shelter.

My family took in two puppy friends:?Pogo and Mojo. Pogo was a chihuahua, brought home by my mom in the height of the “Yo quiero Taco Bell”?mania – it’s so weird that that was a mania.

He peeped out of her coat, so small she managed to smuggle him in as a surprise. He was our first dog, and we delighted in learning the puppy ropes. Toys, food, their chew boundaries, their poop patterns.

His floppy ears eventually stood up into little points. His honey-colored fur grew from fuzz into a smooth coat. His yip grew to a full-fledged bark, his teeth sharpened into ankle shredders. But his nibbles were love, not war.

Pogo always knew his place at Thanksgiving dinner was on his hind legs in full begging mode, waiting for the turkey to drop from my dad’s plate. He always hitched a ride in dad’s coat pocket for a winter trip to Giant Eagle.

He loved to sun himself, lying out in the yard cooking like a little tamale, or in front of the fire so long my mom would have to check his belly temperature. He could zip across the yard like a flash well into his late teens.

He almost got killed by M&Ms a few times. He’d run off or hide, a search party ensuing, but always came back. He snugged up in the crook of your knees on the couch. He wouldn’t eat if you were watching like a little diva. My mom made him fresh chicken breast every day – some days I’d rather trade my ramen for Pogo’s dinner.

We loved and cuddled and fed Pogo, and he ran and played and gave kisses. But last week, he left us at almost 18 years old, a wise old chihuahua with a long life of fun and sun.

I’m glad he lived with us. We loved him, and now he’s free to chase bunnies all over the sky.

Do you have any animal friends??Tell me about them at ssepanek@tribtoday.com, or comment on this story at www.tribtoday.com.