IT'S ENTIRELY POSSIBLE that Portland loves pets more than people. Admit it: When you see a lost-looking and disheveled person walking around downtown, what are you going to do? Most likely you'll studiously avert your eyes, quicken your step, and flush it immediately from your mind, because whatever's going on with them is not worth interrupting your burrito cart run. But a lost-looking and disheveled dog? Jesus! If you're anything like the average citizen, you will stop traffic, lavish it with burritos, plaster posters, check for microchips, and start a blog campaign to find it a forever home within two hours of first contact.

I'm not saying it's right; it just is. We project a more perfect, innocent version of ourselves onto our pets, and we'll do just about anything to protect them. They love us without judgment, need us without shame, and make us healthier, more responsible versions of ourselves. When life gets overwhelming or sad, the good ones will let you bury your face in their fur and just breathe.

But pet ownership has risks along with its rewards. Sometimes your pet will get sick or injured, and you will have to make hard decisions about how you actually value life and money. They might run away, bringing your world to a screeching, horrible halt as you languish without knowing what's become of them. When you catch the neighbor kid fucking with your cat, you may very well go to prison after handcuffing him to a pipe in your basement and slowly dismembering him. But you'll do it anyway, because if your cat had opposable thumbs she would probably do the same thing for you (or, just for fun).

So! To help you navigate the emotional but rewarding world of pets, we present to you Pets: A General Introduction. It includes basic information on which pets you can and cannot legally have (whatever), what to do when Snuggles jumps the fence and disappears, an insider's look at what your dog walker really thinks of you, where to get your pet cremated—should you so desire—and more mentions of dog shit than you can throw a tennis ball at with a Chuckit. Enjoy!