And if you have and you’re like me, you know the immense joy pets bring to your life. I hold animals in the highest esteem; and I’m eternally grateful for all the pets I’ve had over the course my lifetime. I cannot imagine a home without these wonderful animals. It’s hard to believe that there are people in our affluent society today who have never owned a pet in their entire lives.
Some don’t even have live house plants! “How could that be?” I ask myself. What kind of people are they? Does it mean that they are self-centered, insensitive and selfish? And then I secretly wonder, “Can I relate to these people?” But low and behold, I do because inevitably we connect on a different level. As I have discovered, it’s not unusual for these people to feel compassion towards other people, while the little creatures remain low on their list of priorities. They just have a different set of priorities and other goals they wish to pursue.
In looking back on my childhood, I can’t remember which came first: the turtles, fish, hamster or guinea pigs but that’s not really the point. What’s most important are the happy memories about my pets that I hold dear to my heart as I move along this journey called “my life.”
I remember that Charlie, Irving and Speedy Gonzales were turtles and we lost them forever in the green grass beside our home. My brothers and I raked the lawn for hours and hours but to no avail until the darkness of night fell and ended our search. We had been racing the turtles on the lawn beside our home which was not very clever of us, to say the least.
Cupcake and Diffles, our beloved guinea pigs, lived longer than 5 years; and often hung out unsupervised, for the better part of the day, in the bushes beside our home. They were interesting pets that chewed everything in sight, 24/7. Ouch! I can still feel the sting of their sharp teeth as they cut deeply into my flesh and drew blood; and I can hear their typically rodent “squeak” that I can still imitate after all these years.
While Cupcake was still among us, I put signs up all over the house, “I want a dog,” until finally my parents succumbed to the pressure. Under considerable duress, they took us to Puppy Palace where my brothers and I picked Tiger, a three month old, grey, miniature schnauzer puppy and brought him home. I was 14 at the time and as we grew up, Tiger and I became partners in crime as we explored the neighborhood and the woods near my home. We got into trouble with the neighbors from time to time and I was seriously allergic to him but giving him away was never an option. Tiger was an official part of our family and we needed him like we needed the air to breathe. As bad luck would have it, two years after I left home to attend college, Tiger was mauled to death by a neighbor’s German Sheppard. On the day he died he was 14 years old, in perfect health and as handsome as he could be.
All throughout my childhood my parents told me, “We don’t like cats.” They explained that cats pounce suddenly; consequently, I remained indifferent to the cats that roamed our neighborhood. Talk about brainwashing! It wasn’t until I was in my twenties and thirties and living on my own in Manhattan that I had a formal introduction to cats. Some of my friends had them as pets. As time went on, my friends told me that I seemed like a “cat person” but I had no idea what that meant. Quite frankly, I still had little interest in cats since they were totally off-limits to me as a child.
Finally with the idea planted firmly in my mind that I was a “cat person,” curiosity got the best of me and I decided to investigate the local shelters to learn more about cats. I decided that getting a cat was an idea worth considering. I told my friends and family about my newest venture; and when my 6 year-old niece came to visit me, she suggested that we look at cats. The next thing I knew, I was taking home a 2 year-old male cat from the local shelter for a trial run. What was I going to do with this cat? I had no idea but little did I know at the time that this cat was the beginning of a new and wonderful chapter of my life.
I named this new addition to my family, Beau. He was an American short-haired, black and white tuxedo cat with symmetrical markings and a strong and demanding “meow.” He ruled the roost. I decided that Beau needed a companion and after a long search, I rescued “Chloe” a mouser from the basement my mother’s beauty parlor on Long Island. The moment I brought her home, they got along famously.
Since then I have rescued numerous stray and abandoned cats and eventually found homes for all of them. After Beau and Chloe passed on four years ago, I adopted Portia, Bentley and Austin Martin from the local shelters. We live happily together and I give them all the love and attention they deserve. It’s a feedback loop: as soon as I give it, I get it right back! How cool is that? Here is a retrospective of my life with some of my incredible pets: