ALBERTA—Canmore resident Shirley Best is marching to the beat of her own drum.  After years of struggling with who to name as an emergency contact, she finally settled on her cat.

“It got to the point where every time an emergency contact request came up, I was either changing the information or wondering whether I could ask the guy at the corner store to call my parents if I died tragically.” Best paused to stroke her orange tabby, Oscar.  “Seemed easier to give the name of my cat.  Plus, he’s way more reliable than my last boyfriend.”

Best has no family in the area and was hesitant to ask friends.  “It’s just one of those weird things when you stop and think about it.  It’s easy to put a sibling or a parent or a spouse as your emergency contact.  That’s a direct line, and it’s ideal if you can do it.  When you’re single and your nearest family member is over 3000 miles away…you have to consider who’s going to make the call to say you were stabbed to death at the subway station.”

To avoid raised eyebrows and follow-up questions, Best bought a disposable cell phone for her cat.  “I started putting Oscar on forms, which was fine since we have the same last name.  That made sense to the bureaucrats.  But when I’d list the same phone number, people would balk.  Now that Oscar has a phone, we’re all set.”

Asked whether using her cat this way was really prudent, Best shrugged.  “Maybe it’s a bit passive aggressive, but it’ll get the job done.  If I can’t speak for myself, eventually someone will figure out who I am and pick up the phone.  Doesn’t it make sense to have a medical professional tell my parents I’ve been maimed in a car accident rather than saddling a friend with that responsibility?  My parents would end up talking to the doctor anyway, so why not cut out the middle-man?”

After years of hemming and hawing over contact information on everything from medical forms to gym memberships, Best says she feels liberated.  “Never again will I have to endure pitying looks when I hesitate over my emergency contact.  No more explanations about what happened to the person who was listed last.  I am my own woman with my own cat and I can take care of myself.  Or at least rely on a stranger to spread the word when I’m lying in a coma.”

By Molly Donovan

I grew up in the USA, but don't hold that against me because I'm also Canadian. Just think of me as the mole.

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