Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I mentioned in yesterdays post that one of the things you should teach your kids is how to care for a pet.

Maybe your living arrangements don't allow for a pet, or you have allergies, or for whatever reason you can't have or don't want a pet. But if you do, don't hesitate to get one. We visit our local animal shelter when we decide we want another pet, and our shelter even has a waiting list if you want a certain breed of dog or color of cat. But there are certainly enough pets out there to go around, and so many that would love to become a part of your family.

There are so many things that a pet can teach - loving unconditionally, being affectionate, greeting people when they come in a door, appreciating a treat, and most importantly knowing the importance of a good nap. There are studies that say that petting a dog or cat can reduce stress, and help with healing.

My first pet came to me. Grace showed up at our door when I was 5. She ended up giving us a litter of five kittens, two that we kept and the rest went to other owners.

Grace got a little mean after her babies started getting all the attention, and she went to the farm soon after that. We named her two kids Muffy and Marvin. Marvin disappeared one day and didn't come back. But Muffy stayed with us for two years.

Until one day, our neighbor knocked on the door. He had found her in the road, and brought her back to us.

That was the first saddest day of my life. I was 7 years old, and I thought I might die. My dad and I took her out to the back yard and buried her in her favorite spot where she liked to stalk the squirrels, tail wagging and eyes wide.

I learned an important lesson about loss that day, and that it is inevitable. Every living thing dies, and it is important for your kids to go through the experience, no matter how much it hurts, and be able to understand what it is, so they aren't scared.

After that, I begged my parents for another cat, with little success. I scoured the newspaper every day for the perfect fit. One Saturday I found it. My mom was off shopping, so I asked my Dad if I could get one of the kitties that was advertised. I think he was probably watching a car race and perhaps not giving me his full attention, because he said, "Yeah, if you call the people yourself." He didn't think I would do it.

Perhaps that was the start of my talents as a receptionist. I picked up the phone, politely asked what color the kitties were and how old, got the directions to the house, and hung up. I brought Dad the piece of paper and said, "Let's go!". He was dumbfounded, but he got on his coat, work boots, and hat and off we went.

When we got to the house I found Jiggers peaking out of an empty beer case. He wasn't the cutest thing, but I wouldn't have cared if he had no hair and one eye, I was gettin' another cat.

When Mom came home she was a bit peeved, Dad wasn't always the best at giving us the right directions without getting into hot water or checking with her first.

Jiggers was with us for almost 14 years. He too was an outside cat, but somehow through being shot twice and getting accidentally locked up in unknown places for months at a time, he always came home. He saw me through grade school, high school, and college. He was at the door when I came home from my first date. He cuddled me when I broke up with my first boyfriend, and my fourth. He met my future husband.

And then one night he just didn't come home.

Taking care of a pet is a huge responsibility. Our son wants a beagle, and we have told him that he has to be able to take care of himself before he can have a dog. That means no laundry on the floor, getting ready for bed without us telling him fifty times, doing his homework. This will take time, but he knows what he needs to do, and when he is ready, we will all know. Having a pet will teach him how to take care of another being; feeding, watering, taking her for walks, giving her attention, and most of all love. He will remember every minute they spend together.

They will be best friends. And everyone can use one of those.

1 comment:

Kristi Pohl said...

oh dang, you made me cry.

you need to start earning some cash with those writing abilities!