Or should I say, animals to come?
Because, though I didn’t know it then, my books -- and our lives -- would end up with their fair share of four-footed family. And virtually all of them ended up here (and in my books) because they needed a home.
Whiskers (that was the rabbit) came to live with us as a consolation family member when our daughter learned that her long-hoped-for sister was yet another brother. “Well, at least we could have a girl rabbit,” she said hopefully.
My husband, feeling her pain, found her a ‘sister’ at the local farmers’ market. Whiskers was a family member long after said daughter went away to college. And came home with a cat.
The cat loved our daughter. But he loved our house more. And once he came home for Christmas, there was no going back to live in the dorm (not that he was a legal resident anyway). She’d found him at the pound and decided he didn’t belong there. He belonged with her. Only it happened that he belonged with us instead. He took over running the house when Whiskers moved on to greener celestial pastures.
His name was Goliath. It fit. He was a big cat. No. He was a VERY BIG cat. A twenty pound cat. And when he stood on you, which he often did, he managed to put all twenty pounds in the weight of each step. Or more.
He had allergies and diabetes and a vast variety of health issues which taught us a great deal about Maintaining A Cat’s Well-being. For seven and a half years he made sure we were home at seven every morning and seven every evening to give him insulin.
It Taught Us Responsibility, he said. I know he said it because he talked to me in my dreams. Seriously. It got so I didn’t want to go to sleep for fear the cat would start talking again. He was a very sarcastic cat.
And then there were the dogs.
There have been a lot of dogs. “Too Many Dogs,” Goliath said.
We ignored him.
We got a golden retriever who was in need of a boy. At the time we just happened to have an eleven year old (he whose arrival had, eleven years earlier caused the advent of Whiskers) who was in need of a dog. He lobbied long and hard for a dog. He took care of Goliath for a year (and the cat was never sarcastic to him) in order to prove he could take care of a dog.
At the end of the year, we found the dog: AJ. He was three. He was big and lovable and perfect for keeping a boy in line. AJ was a god among dogs. A far far better dog than we ever deserved.
We have had every dog since because we owe him so much we feel as if having all these other dogs is in some way paying it forward for what he gave us. As his boy said a few months after AJ arrived, “See, Mom. He really has improved the quality of life around here.”
He did. And so did all the rest. Two of them arrived as puppies. One arrived when he was already going seriously gray and beyond the age of eight. But in every case, they were second-hand dogs. They were all dogs who needed a home, who needed love, who need a family.
But they didn’t only need – they also gave.And gave and gave and gave.
They gave us love and companionship and joy beyond measure. Certainly they gave us more than we have given them.
We’ve loved and lost five of them now. Not to mention Goliath and Whiskers. We’ve loved and lost grand-dogs, too. Most recently Star who is keeping an eye on her boy in the picture I often use in my "destination life" blog at the Pink Heart.Society.
It’s heart-wrenching and indescribably painful to lose such a wonderful dog, cat or rabbit. But it’s such a small part of the years and years of joy that comes from the love they have brought into our lives, that I can’t reject the pain. It’s part of the process. Part of the fullness of life.
They have all in their own ways enriched the quality of our lives (and, I hope, my books) for years and years.
Have you rescued a dog or cat? Had your life enriched by a four-footed friend or family member?
Tell me about it, and Mitch and Micah, our current beloved dogs, will pick a winner to receive a copy of my book Savas’s Defiant Mistress, which was overloaded with furry friends.
I’ll post the winner on Tuesday. Watch this space!
* * * * * * * * * * *
Mitch and Micah had a terrible time choosing a winner. They think you are ALL winners. Finally we just put names and treats on the kitchen rug (they liked THAT a lot) and Mitch, who said, “Me first!” picked Stefanie’s name with his treat.
Congratulations, Stefanie. If you send me your snail mail address, I’ll mail you a copy of Savas’ Defiant Mistress. Alternatively, if you have a kindle and would prefer an ‘ebook’ version, let me know the email address to send it to. You can reach me at anne.mcallister (at) gmail.com.
And thank you to everyone who told such wonderful stories about your four-footed family and friends. I loved reading them, and I’m so happy to know that they’d brought such joy to your lives.