Sunday, February 10, 2013

Second-Hand Love : : Anne McAllister

In my first published book there was a rabbit.  She was a harbinger of things to come. 
Or should I say, animals to come?
jake1Because, 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.
aj&goliathThe 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. 
prinnyHe 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.
gunnAnd 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.
cookieAt 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.
mitchcloseupBut 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. 
micahcloseThey 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)

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.


Debby said...

We always have rescue animals. We are down to one cat. She was feral who had been trapped by the band director at my school. It took a long time for her to come out when and even longer for her to be around for strangers. She is a wonderful addition to our family and thinks she is in charge. I have more stories of adoptees but would be too long.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Kaelee said...

Well we found a kitten, Tiger, when we were first married and he found a friend called Fluffy. Fluffly's former owner got arrested and went to jail so Fluffly came to live with us. Fluffy got sick and passed away but Tiger searched for him relentlessly so we adopted Sesame from the Calgary Humane Society. Then a stray mommy cat showed up in our yard with three kittens. The three kittens grew and mommy cat had six more kittens. It was beginning to get quite cold outside so we opened our basement window and mommy cat her six kittens and two of the older cats moved in. We managed to corral all nine of them and took them to the Humane Society. That still left one tailless half grown cat in our neighborhood. We began feeding him on our deck. Each day we would move the food closer and closer to the patio doors. Finally he would come inside to eat but he would panic if we got to close and leave quickly. One day my husband hid behind the drapes and managed to close the door on the cat. The cat went straight up and down the drapes and ran for the basement. Tiger and Sesame had a brother who we never saw for six months. Tiger passed away shortly after and Sesame got killed by a car. So we only had Bearcat who we never saw but who ate and went to the bathroom. Finally one summer day I just left the patio door open and Bearcat left but he came back. He became quite affectionate with my husband and I and later with my parents when they came to live with us for a while. He passed away suddenly and we were a catless household for about six months. We finally went and adopted Saxon and Amber from the CHS. Then a small kitten got treed by the dogs at my sister's farm. We ended up with Dash, the Incredible Pest, who weighed 2.2 pounds and was approximately 8 weeks old. Dash now weighs about 20 pounds and what was cute at 2.2 pounds is not so cute at 20 some pounds. He loves to cuddle up under my chin and clean my nose. I sometimes have trouble breathing. Amber has crossed over the rainbow bridge and Saxon requires twice a day medication for a hyper thyroid problem. All in all the five cats who have gone over the rainbow bridge and the two still with us have given us so much joy that it tempers the sorrow that comes with the loss of one of them.

emaginette said...

Love getting to know you through your pets. I love animals myself. Right now we have two cats, Angle and Koko. Koko has been on a diet and now weights in at about 15 pounds. Angle is so light, she might weight 5 pounds. We also have a dog, Max. He is love of my life and best friend.

All these animals make me smile.:-)

Anna @

Laney4 said...

My husband was allergic to pet fur for years - until about 5 years ago when he got a new medicine. Since then, we dogsit for several friends (so as not to overwhelm my husband indefinitely, as we don't want those allergies to return). The picture in my avatar was Austin, who passed away in May/11; I still miss him (and I bet I always will, as he was very intelligent - like most goldens)....

Kate Walker said...

And of course there was Sid. (I have to say 'of course' because, like Goliath - and I think he was very like Goliath - Sid talked to me and while not sarcastic, he did have a tendency to be pompous. Sid, A Cat of Superior Breeding, who even though he was thousands of miles away 'over the pond' still managed to exert his influence - and get himself several walk on (and purr-on) parts in Anne McAllister books. Sid who, like your lovely Goliath, Gunnar, beautiful Jake, still leave great holes in life. But I was honoured to meet Jake and Goliath - and of course to be owned by Sid - and you are so right about the way they enrich life. There is still a hole where Sid - and so many others - should be - but there are also two large spaces totally occupied by Flora the Diva and Charlie (known to you as Chaz)who brighten even such cold wet miserable days as today.

Of course, you know I don't need to be put into the draw - even for Mitch and Micah's interest, having already owned, read and thoroughly enjoyed Savas' Defiant Mistress(and all the asorted livestock).

Kate Walker said...

Oops - I meant that I met Jake and Gunnar. Goliath is obviously still making his presence felt. Gunnar. I met lovely Gunnar - wjo was never sarcastic, at least not to me!

Connie said...

I love all of these pictures of these precious babies. My Golden Retriever, Sarah, lived for 14 years. Her little face was white as she aged but she never lost her smile and happiness and her LOVE. She's been gone for 7 years now, yet I still miss her every day. She was my heart. If God is truly gracious, she will be waiting for me when my time comes.

Thanks for sharing these photos.

erin said...

I grew up with rescue dogs! We used to joke that my mom had 2 sets of kids; 2 legged and four legged :) Now I have my own fur babies and while mine aren't rescue, I've convinced my bf that the next set needs to be. Thanks for sharing such a sweet post about your 4 legged babies and I was agreeing w/ everything you wrote!

Di said...

I love animals - I haven't had one in a while except as a "nephew" dog and a "great-nephew" dog. I keep checking out one of our local shelters looking for the right match, but it hasn't happened yet. I would actually love to get a cat, but due to family allergies I can't. It's such a blow to the heart to loose a beloved animal, that my be one of the reasons I haven't taken that step.

Anne McAllister said...

Ah, what great replies. Love reading about all your four-footed family members.

Kaelee, you've had a LOT of cats!

Debby, blessings on you for keeping the faith with your feral cat until she got comfortable.

Anna, it sounds as if your two cats and Max are having a wonderful life with you.

Laney, how lovely that you dogsit. And what a great idea for having the joy of the occasional canine or feline buddy in your life without making your husband risk allergies again.

Kate, oh yes, Sid. There will never be another Sid. He was truly one of the great Cats of the world. Chaz and Flora have big pawprints to walk in. But they're doing a fine job. And while we are remembering the "good old guys" let's remember Bob and Spiff and Dyl. Good lads all.

Connie, your Sarah sounds wonderful. I have loved all our goldens. They are such great dogs. I'm sure Sarah will be waiting for you and will be happy to spend forever with her best friend in the world.

Erin, I know about the "two sets of kids" phenomenon. We did that, too. Rescue dogs are great. But dogs who come into your life in any way are equally wonderful. Enjoy them all! Glad you enjoyed the post!

Anne McAllister said...

Di, I hope you find the 'right' dog to connect with you. I appreciate the allergy problem with cats. Two of my kids were allergic to Goliath (including the one who brought him home). But some are more allergic than others. We ended up with one of our dogs because his first family couldn't keep him when their son developed severe allergies. A few years later he was resistant enough to come visit and spend the afternoon with Jake without needing his inhaler at all.

Mary Preston said...

Over the years we seem to have collected cats that have just made themselves at home. They were obviously strays that came for the food & stayed for the love.

Cheryl S. said...

5 years ago we decided to finally get a dog. My youngest was 12 and we thought it was time because we finally had a home with a back yard. She, the dog, is a shelter rescue. After we brought her home we found out that this cute little puppy had distemper, which is a neurological disease. The vet said she probably wouldn't survive. Well, 5 years later and she's still with us. She does have a damaged nerve in her right shoulder that twitches and a skin condition with major shedding year round but we wouldn't trade her for the world. We were told she would not have the long life of a dog that never had distemper. We make the most of every day she graces our lives. Her name is Athena. She is a medium sized Shepherd mix and we love her so much!

bjs said...
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Anne McAllister said...

Mary, I love your comment that the cats "came for the food & stayed for the love." What a wonderful house yours must be!

Cheryl, I know the connection between boys and dogs at that age. I'm glad you have rescued a wonderful dog for your son. And she is blessed to have you as her family. The first dog I had was a Dalmatian puppy who, we discovered later, hadn't had his shots, though we'd been told he had. He got distemper and died from it. It was a trauma to lose him at under a year. I will always remember him, and it still brings tears to my eyes to think about it. I wish much joy with your dear girl and I hope, despite what they say, she has a long wonderful life with you.

Jeanne M said...

Hi Anne!

We rescued both dogs and cats over the years but our first was a mix of Shepard and Husky when our older son was just 9 months old and his name was Ralf. At first we thought there was something wrong with him because he never barked - until a stranger knocked on our door! He was a wonderful "friend" to both our sons and even after they began driving to school instead of taking the bus every day he would join the neighborhood children every morning at the bus stop and again at the end of the day and "escort" them to their homes!

Of course other "friends" joined him over the years but it wasn't until a found out that I had cancer that our cat Brophy thought me what true sacrifice was all about. After my surgery every night he would sleep on top of me where the surgeon had taken all the lymph nodes that he had removed. At the time I had only a 50% chance of surviving since they had not been able to assure they had gotten them all and had radiation to hopefully "get" any that remained but didn't give me very good odds.

The doctors were amazed when I finally passed as being "cancer" free. A month later the vet diagnosed Brophy with having cancer and couldn't figure out why since before my surgery he had been perfectly healthy. To this day I believe that Brophy saved my life with his unconditional love.

Stefanie said...

We went to an animal shelter once when I was little. I immediatly fell in love with this cute little dog. My dad didn´t want another dog however. i started begging and crying throughout our vacation and when we returned we went back to the shelter to pick him up... Only to find out he was already gone.
By then my dad wanted a second dog himself, so we went looking for one. We found the perfect dog in December, just in time for Santa to come (my younger brother and sister still believed in Santa).
That was 10 years ago and my dog is still with me. He helped me when my parents divorced, he was there when I met a boy and married him and he moved with us to our new house. He´s getting a bit old now, he sometimes suffers with his back and is becoming blind, but I hope he´ll be with us for a lot longer. He´s part of our family and don´t want to say goodbye to him.

Anne McAllister said...

Jeanne, thank you for sharing your tale of Ralf and of Brophy. You have been blessed with both of them. And yes, it does sound as if Brophy saved your life. Mysterious things happen, don't they?

Stefanie, it sounds as if your dog has definitely made your life better in so many ways. I hope you have him with you a long time yet, and that he knows how much you love him. I'm sure he does.

Anne McAllister said...

Di, I see I missed your comment! I'm sorry. I am glad you've been able to enjoy your "nephew" and "great-nephew" dogs. I'm sure that when the right dog comes along you'll be able to take the step because it will seem like you've just been waiting for this particular dog.