Friday, November 9, 2012


Once upon a time, his name was "Opie."  He quickly became "Ope a Dope," and then simply "Dope."  He was Dope for years, but the kids recently started calling him "Bushy."  I think it fits him, don't you?
My beloved Scrabble, the best dog in the WORLD!  It's hard to imagine life before he came to live with us.

Owen's birthday present this past year.  He also went through a first name:  Milo and Pickles at first, then Owen settled on Toonces.  We brought him home from a barn near our home in July and he's growing fast. 

If you ask me on a good day, I will tell you we have three animals living in our home.  On a bad day, there might be as many as 7 or even 8 (sorry, Chris!)  Having animals and children at the same time is a lot of work and sometimes aggravation, but I think it's worth it to teach kids about respecting life in all its many forms.

Owen, especially, really loves animals.  He doesn't always handle them as gently as Chris and I would like him to, but in his heart he would never want to hurt them.  He's completely enamored with his kitten and the feeling is mutual.  Every night as I'm settling the boys down for bed, Toonces shimmies up the bunk bed rail and snuggles in with Owen. 

 In addition to our pets, there are lots of other critters the boys play with outside.  They really love catching toads and frogs in our basement windows and there's never a shortage of them when it's warm outside.  Salamanders are also popular.  I don't even mind when they catch the occasional snake, as long as none of these things come in the house and they are sure to release them from their containers before they come inside for the night.

I had a few pets growing up.  My first pet was a guinea pig named Herman.  I was 7 when we got him and I loved him so very much.  He caught a cold and died only about 1 1/2 years after we got him. 

The next pet we got was a cat named Martha, a stray my dad brought home from work.  We only had her for about 2 years. She went insane and started attacking my sister and brothers, so my parents had her put down. 

My parents finally relented and got me a puppy when I was 11.  Her name was Anna and she was a purebred Lhaso Apso.  Oh, how I adored her!  I put little barrettes in her hair and walked her up and down the street and EVERYONE had to stop and tell me how cute she was. She bit my brother so my parents had her put to sleep after we had her for about 4 months.

We had a cat and a dog during my high school years that my parents also put down.  The cat had urinary issues and was having a lot of accidents in the house.  The dog we had for 4 years until my parents moved into a new house that didn't have a fenced in yard.  And my dad refused to get him neutered so he growled and snapped. Goodbye to both of them.  There was another cat they were going to put down, a beautiful black one, but I found her a home with my friend.  Thankfully, she finished out her life happily on a farm.

Only one animal - other than the guinea pig - actually made it to die of natural causes at our house.  It was Muffin, the cat we got when I was 11.  She was beautiful and sweet and, honestly, an angel here on earth.  She was in my senior pictures, that's how important she was to me.  I cried almost every night at college for the first month, I missed her so much. 

I was on my way home from work one day and my brother called to say that she was going into liver failure and my mom was going to have the vet come to put her down.  The whole family met at my parents' house to say goodbye.  I remember crying to my boyfriend at the time and he said "You'll have other cats."  (Super sensitive, I know.)  But I said, "I will never have another cat from the age of 11 till 24." 

Pets in your formative years are so very, very important.  They teach you how to love and take care of someone and put their needs before your own.  They listen quietly and attentively when you tell them all your secrets, all your problems.  I can't tell you the number of times I came home from bad days in high school and buried my face in Muffin's fur, crying as I listened to her purr.  She taught me that just being there for someone is the best comfort in the world.  I counted on her to be there for me and she always was. 

I hope my kids learn lessons like this from our animals.  And I hope Chris and I are able to teach them about the responsiblities and commitment that comes with pet ownership.  The payoff for all of us is well worth it.

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