Those of us lucky enough to love animals have wealth. How else can I describe the relationships and memories of the special pets we have known, and who have loved us back?
As a child we had a calico cat that managed life just fine with only three legs. She not only raised her kittens, but was a great mouser. She inspired me to get on with life despite perceived setbacks and shortcomings.
My first pony—Blacky—taught me that stubbornness is a valid, usable, characteristic, and not to be discarded lightly. He also taught me that working with him was much better than trying to control him by force. That lesson has served me well over the years in my relationships with both two and four-legged creatures.
My first horse, Flame, was a nervous beauty. Mom gave up on trying to gentle her and did not want me to ride her. With patience and time I discovered Flame had an extremely tender mouth. Once I stopped using a bridle with a bit, and went strictly with a hackamore (a way of guiding horses by pressure on the nose), Flame trusted me implicitly. We had glorious rides throughout my teenage years. She was, and is, the horse by which I measure all others.
Of the dogs in my childhood, Charmin, a female Samoyed, was THE dog for me. She was almost psychic in her ability to know what I was about to do, and where I would be. When I would sleep in my tree house over night, she slept beneath the tree to be as close to me as possible. It’s hard not to feel loved and almost experiencing a spiritual plane when in the presence of that kind of devotion.
In my adulthood our first Husky, Hunter, was a game changer. He was not an easy dog to be with—definitely an Alpha male—but he totally captured my heart over the years. When he died of cancer two years ago, a little piece of me withered too.
My daughter’s cat, Shadow, was the epitome of the word Diva, and one of the most fearless animals I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. The fact that she never topped eight pounds and was tiny escaped her reasoning. One day I found Alpha Hunter cowering in the corner while Shadow sat a few inches away glaring at him. It would have been nothing for him to snap her in two, but her fierce belief in her own power sent him reeling. Another good lesson to consider, by the way.
Spooky, a tiny orphaned kitten, was my angel cat. She seldom let me out of her sight and had the sweetest, purest, soul of any cat in my lifetime. She was my best study buddy when I returned to college in mid-life, and I cried for months when a mystery illness took her away far too soon.
Last week my friend Claudia’s bulldog, Zoey, passed away after a spectacular life. I fell helplessly in love after just one meeting with Miss Zoey, and found that love to be incurable. Zoey very quickly learned I usually had treats in a pocket or purse. She would shower me with affection until the treats were gone, and then would walk away with nose in air. My purpose had been served. Claudia shared wondrous Zoey stories over the years,which never failed to send me in a good mood.
I believe Zoey was one of the special angel-animals that come to earth to make humans better, and she succeeded. I will miss Zoey in countless ways. And yet to be able to say I had the privilege of knowing her and retain treasured memories, is the best part of my day.
Gail, your writing is always beautiful, but today’s stole a piece of my heart. Zoey adored you . . . yes, part of it was the treats, but she was an excellent judge of character. When I was going through chemo, Zoey would meet me at the door, and know something was different. During the 3 days a week that the chemo pump was running, Zoey never left my side. On the nights when I couldn’t sleep, she stayed right beside me no matter where I was. As soon as the chemo was over, she could relax and go back to her usual routine. She was not only a part of our hearts, but a part of my return to health. We will never get over missing her and we will never stop being grateful for all she gave us. It is rare in this life to meet a truly great spirit. We were privileged to know and love one . . .Miss Zoey Redbull. Thank you for the kind remembrances of her. She would have loved it and we do too.
I happen to know when Zoey was having sleepless nights because of her health issues, you were right there for her as well. You placed her comfort above yours even if that meant some groggy days in the aftermath. If I was a betting woman I’d bet the mortgage that lost sleep wasn’t even a consideration on your part. Zoey needed you as much as you needed her. Done.
Isn’t it amazing how we communicate without words if our hearts are open? The tilt of a head, the pitch of the bark, or meow, or ???, the telling eyes–are all part of the human/animal conversation. Perhaps we conveniently place human emotions on animal behaviors, but I think there is far more to it. There is an inner knowing that can’t be explained by science, and that I do believe.
You and I have been lucky. For reasons we may never understand we have shared lives with some of the best animal spirits. I know I’ve learned and been given more than I can ever repay because of those relationships.
While we mourn their short visits, we will always remember their impact on our souls.
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