What is it about our furry family members? We post pics of them on social media, we talk to them (and about them to anyone who will listen), and we worry about them while we’re away. In return our pets bring us joy and unconditional love.
Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ~ Anatole France
Growing up, we always had an animal in the house, usually a cat. We considered ourselves “cat people” and couldn’t imagine our little world without one. As children, we dressed them up, performed “surgery” on them (no sharp instruments were used, only our imagination of one day being a veterinarian); we cuddled with them at night and told them our deepest secrets. Then one day, my step-dad thought it would be fun to get a dog. We were currently living in an apartment and both parents worked all day while us kids went to school. Poor Brandy! She was confined to our small abode with no yard. Poor Me! As the oldest, I had the unfortunate job of “walking” her before school and cleaning up the poop, upturned garbage and dug up houseplants after school each day. I say unfortunate because I was a “cat person”. This high-strung puppy was one hot mess! She didn’t do any of the things my cats had. I’m not sure if we had a leash for her or maybe I was naïve enough to let her loose in the park across from our complex. She would run like the wind and then I would have to cajole her back, hoping I wouldn’t be late for school. After school it would be the same thing along with a major cleanup of poop on the stairs (why on the stairs I’ll never understand), trash everywhere all while a whining puppy wanted to lick my face! After a few months of Brandy sadly howling all day while we were gone, our next-door neighbor kindly let us know that they had a friend with a big yard that would love to have Brandy live with them. Problem solved. Or so I thought.
Fast-forward several years: We still considered ourselves “cat people” and had enjoyed the company of a couple of them during our marriage. Then our second child came along who was, unbeknownst to me, a lover of everything dog. From the time she could speak she would ask for a dog. Everyday. She was patient but persistent. She would pretend she was a dog. She’d have her big brother “walk” her on a leash. She’d lick your face if you let her. And she’d continue to ask, “Can we get a dog?” Finally, the family wore me down. We had a decent sized house with a fenced-in back yard. We’d had our third child a couple of years ago and I was home with her during the day. How hard could it be?
At the PetSmart rescue day we decided on a 4 month old, female, Basenji-Mix named, Pepper. The All About Basenjis book said they don’t bark (they yodel), don’t shed and love kids. She was calm and sweet in the cage. So I thought, what could it hurt?
I don’t believe in reincarnation but I seriously thought Pepper was Brandy born-again! She chewed up everything (including the wall in the laundry room, carpeting and pad, numerous shoes, beloved beanie babies and even the grill leg), peed on the floor whenever someone came over, and ran around like a wild woman. Then my dog-loving husband sat us down and taught us how to properly train a dog. While it took some time to get the hang of it, it was like magic! It transformed our crazy puppy into a respectable member of the family.
Fast-forward several more years: Our cherished Pepper had become my dog (probably because I fed her, but I’d like to think she loved me because I loved her). Then as our pets are apt to do, she lived a long and wonderful life, got old and sick and needed to be put down. We cried as we said our goodbyes in the vet’s office. We all missed Pepper tremendously; even our kitty, Smokey. Through all of this or maybe because of my willingness to take a chance on a dog, all of our children have grown up to become animal lovers with a small menagerie of their own.
Then a crazy, unexpectedly delightful thing happened. During the springtime we decided to go to see the bluebonnets in the Texas hill country. On our way home we stopped for BBQ and saw a little puppy chasing cars on the access road near the freeway. As we pulled up to check her out she jumped right into our car! She was covered in fleas, had no collar and was so thirsty. After giving her water, we walked her around the nearby subdivision but no one claimed her or knew whom she belonged to. So my dog-loving husband packed her up and we brought her home. She was one hot mess and ball of undeniable energy! But this time, we knew the ropes and she got the hang of it pretty quickly.
My goal in life is to be as good a person my dog already thinks I am. ~ Unknown
Akina is my dog. She motivates and encourages me to walk everyday, she never cares what I look like, and she listens intently as I talk to her and brings me joy. But the best part is she loves me unconditionally. And I can truly say that I love her. I am now a “dog person” but I still have a soft side for cats.