Hannah, a Jack Russell Terrier, was not only a ‘man’s best friend,’ she was a family member. “Hannah” was my son’s first word, his cuddly buddy and a protector from all that goes bump in the night.
My son, at age 8, had to say, “Godspeed’ to his dear buddy when a cancer ended her life. We scattered Hannah’s ashes in a butterfly garden and have kept her mint green collar and silver tags. In fact, I have a box full of all our pet’s belongings that were placed lovingly within as each crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.
Our small family has had many darlings over the years; six dogs, four cats, three hamsters, two snakes, and a ton of fish. Except for the fish (sorry fish-folks!) each held a place in our hearts and was nurtured accordingly.
I spent several years as a dog trainer… ending that interesting career when I sustained a back injury. Tristan, a large mixed breed suffered from separation anxiety and literally ate a living room while his owners were out. I taught those distraught people about the benefits of a ‘homey crate,’ and the absolute need for daily, rigorous exercise. Generally, a tired canine is a content canine. Mabel was a Standard Poodle who would finish a long walk and then poop on her owner’s bed. Eventually, Mabel learned that furniture was off limits to her and was enrolled in an agility course where she became a Top Dog.
(There were other cases, of course. Most of my clients were, “anthropomorphic,” which is when one treats an animal as if human. Our animal companions are not human and they have unique needs that we are making strides to understand.)
Cats are certainly an enigma. If you command, “Come Fluffy,” they will most likely look at you as if you have a third eye and are telling them to wash the laundry. Yet, what is more comforting that a purring, warm, feline curled on your lap as they listen to your woes?
Cody was a feral kitten, found by a neighbor. Emaciated, wild eyed and full of piss and vinegar, our veterinarian wrote, ‘Demon Kitten’ in red ink on his chart. Truly! As he acclimated to a life indoors and to our attention and care, Cody became a wonderful sibling to our other cat and an endearing member of our clan. Known to sit leaning with his back against a wall, Cody looked like he was lounging with a tropical drink in a cabana!
After spending a zillion dollars on a hamster set up, Fred and Ted were my son’s first, “you-are- responsible-for-them” pets. While “I” cleaned their cage one morning, Ted made a beeline for freedom. One month later, Ted was spotted in the escape proof hamster enclosure. Where he had been, how he had survived and HOW he had gotten back into the cage will be a family story for years on end.
Yes, we are animal people. We never lasted for long when we found ourselves critter-less. We firmly are committed to rescuing as there are millions of animals in need of forever homes. We never shop at stores that sell live animals as those poor innocents most often come from the horrors of puppy mills and catteries. Every purchase keeps those abusive places thriving.
And yes, I refer to myself as “mom’ when I speak to them. “Mommy loves you punkin’ pie,” I can be heard cooing. My son, now grown, and his ‘animal-person-wife’ recently took in a dog that even a diehard activist would have passed over. They work with him several times each day to learn commands. They jog several miles every day, regardless of the weather. Bran has become my beloved Grand dog!
Pets can certainly be family members. I well up as I think of the critters that God has loaned to us. How amazing that we can love a different species as one of our own and experience the joy that a furry, fuzzy buddy brings to our lives. Thank you, Lord, for all the creatures one and all.
Our beloved Hannah the dog and our mischievous Cody the cat each have an artist’s rendering on my living room wall. My little ménage could not have been as complete, as content, without our mammalian friends. Currently, Phoebe, a tuxedo cat, rules my condo kingdom. She sleeps where she pleases, eats at her leisure and doesn’t do a thing that she is told. Cat fur seems to appear spontaneously after I compulsively vacuum, yet she is my little lady and is without care. I hope that she realizes, on some cat psyche level, that she will always have a FOREVER home.
Pets are people too!
“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“Our task must be to free ourselves…widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”- Dwight D. Eisenhower