Pet Chronicles

Beau recuperating from surgery.

Beau recuperating from surgery.

How we love our pets. I don’t know if it was the expression on my face or the tears welling up in my eyes that tipped off the total stranger sitting in the waiting room with her dog. I just know that as I was leaving the vet’s office after dropping off my cat Beau for surgery, she leaped up to give me a hug, and soon I was crying on her shoulder sobbing, “It’s just so hard to leave him here.”

Beau had a gross looking sore on one of his hind feet. The vet wisely decided the best plan of action was to amputate his toe and send the whole mess to the lab for evaluation. The test came back positive for a low grade cancer, so taking the toe was the right decision and gives him a good chance at survival. Still, as I dropped him off that morning you would have thought I was the one having an amputation.

My concern for Beau started me thinking about all the pets I have loved in my lifetime. I remember each one so clearly because each one still occupies a place in my heart. You, too?

The first dog I can remember was a brown and white spotted, mid-sized mutt named Sally. She had the brightest brown eyes, the pinkest tongue, and the curliest tail you’ll ever see—and I loved her so much. Sally was just one more of the playmates my sisters and I had when we played hopscotch or jumped rope. She was always with us and always up for a romp. Over the years we also had a collie named Prince, a cocker named Prissy, and a cat named Cocomo. How I remember each one.

As a newlywed in the sixties my first “baby” was a miniature dachshund named Sebastian. This is the dog I dressed up in baby clothes while awaiting the birth of my first son because he weighed seven pounds and I thought I could practice on him! He’s also the dog that was so jealous once the baby came that he lifted his leg all around the bottom of the changing-table skirt I had painstakingly made. In so many ways Sebastian was just too smart to be a dog, but he was funny and affectionate and my heart still leaps whenever I see a mini-dachshund.

Beautiful, patient Lady.

Beautiful, patient Lady.

Two more dogs followed. Gorgeous light golden retrievers named Lady and Lad. Lad was Lady’s puppy. She gave birth to 11 puppies, but I was on the phone with the vet after 10 had been born and he told me to bring her in for a check-up. I called her and she obeyed, dropping puppy number eleven out on his head.
Lady's son, Lad.

Lady’s son, Lad.

I have a feeling that was Lad, because as one vet said, “He’s about as bright as a billiard ball!” Lady was brighter, however, and both dogs were loyal and lovable. They were my jogging partners during a difficult time in my life. After Lady and Lad, I haven’t had the heart to get another dog. The holes they left just seem too large to fill.

Betsy and Al cuddling.

Betsy and Al cuddling.

Naively, I thought cats might be less of an emotional investment. Wrong. My son Tim convinced me to adopt a calico cat we named Callie. Next we adopted two kittens I named Kate and Allie after my favorite TV sitcom at the time. After a trip to the vet, we had to change Allie’s name to Al because she was a he! When Kate escaped one night and didn’t make it home, she was replaced by Betsy—a calico barn cat whose meow was stuck in her throat. We had Al and Betsy for 14 years and losing them was heartbreaking.

Sweet Molly.

Sweet Molly.

So it took almost a year before we adopted Molly, a sweet grayish cat we’ve had for 12 years now. I read an article that said a single cat might become depressed, so a few months later we adopted Beau. That’s when Molly really became depressed! Unlike Al and Betsy who curled up together daily, these two cats barely tolerate one another, but both are wonderful companions.

I think we grieve the loss of our pets so deeply when they go because they are so much a part of our daily lives. They need us, and we need them. In fact, I can’t imagine my life without a clever, comforting, entertaining cat in it. One adage reads, “Every life has nine cats.” Husband beware. It looks like I’m only up to seven. Two more to go to secure my crazy cat lady status!

I give myself permission to love my pets as I do because they, too, are God’s creatures given to us to care for and enjoy. Psalm 36:6 says, O Lord, you preserve both man and beast. Psalm 150:6 reads, Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Our pets have breath. Dare we believe they also have souls and will greet us in heaven? Theologians may disagree, but I’ll just wait and see. Meanwhile, I’ll just love on the two I have. Or do they have me?

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  1. I enjoyed this, Nancy…
    I am sorry that I was not more sympathetic when Bo had to have surgery. I never had a pet to cuddle much, just out door varieties that never were very tame. I am glad my kids have their pets even though “indoor animals” are still hard for me.
    I will try to be more understanding!

    • That’s OK, Jimmie! I have friends who grew up on farms and think of cats as “expendable.” Their loss, I say! But I do understand.

  2. Sheryl Johnson says:

    I loved reading about your pets. I’m a “cat person” and have had three. “Broken” was the first and we had her 19 years. Then came Emmi, who I lost a year after losing my husband. If a cat can be your ‘soul mate’, she WAS. I was completely devastated and it was almost two years before I could even consider getting another. Now I have Molly – a rescue from a hoarder. She is an independent little character and so different from the first two, but I love her personality. And when I had to drop her off to have her teeth cleaned and two pulled, I was also tearing up, so I understand exactly how you felt. Molly is completely spoiled rotten and I do it because, as you say, God gave us these creatures to care for and she will have the best life I can give her.

  3. Deborah Bliss Turner says:

    I loved this article, Nancy. Although I’ve never had a pet of my own and am allergic to cats, I’ve grown to love some dogs who belonged to my many family members. I especially grieved the loss of Mabel, who was my son’s Walker Coon Hound that had been rescued after being abandoned in the woods. How I loved that sweet dog. She was so ladylike and gentle — just the kind of pet for a person like me with a fear of most animals. Cancer took her life, and I remember how little John (my grandson) sobbed every time her name came up after that for a long time. I agree that love of animals is a good thing for us all. I have Mabel’s picture out in my home and think I always will. She made my life better just by knowing her. I hope your Beau will be all right and give you many more years of love and joy.

    • Grand dogs are the best! I’ve gotten to enjoy a miniature dachshund and a golden retriever as a “grandma” to them so I’m glad you bonded with Mabel. Pets leave pawprints on our hearts!

  4. My two favorite dogs were Shelly and Shiloh. This is a bittersweet blog, Nancy, and I love the ending!

  5. Trish Ingels says:

    Nancy, once again, I loved your blog. I read it with a tear in my eye and Remi pressed up against me. I have always felt God gave us these loving creatures to teach us unconditional love. Maybe how to receive unconditional love…a friend of mine told me God gave us teenagers so that we learn how to love unconditionally!! That makes sense!!!
    Thanks again

  6. In the last 31 years, Jim and I have had three cats–Abbra, Solomon, Calla Lily–and five dogs–Paige, Chelsea, Carson, Maggie, and now Scout. All were members of our family, much loved and appreciated, and they all left a hole in our hearts when they died. Scout is living up to all the wonderful, funny, frustrating qualities of the others.
    I’m so glad they caught the cancer early, and Beau is doing better. Scout sends a boisterous barky greeting, and I send you a hug.

  7. Judy Pressley says:

    In the last 60 years I have been Momma to six Boston Terriors. Pug, Jennie, Jennie (again), Bernice, Julie and Izzie B. who Is snoring as only a Boston can, Izzie is 6 years old and my baby girl, they all have been little ladies. All Boston have many characteristic alike, and also their on personality. A joy to have and tons of love to share.

    • I remember the Boston you had when we were growing up! Too sweet. Thanks for sharing the memories, Judy. You are smart to stick to one breed.

  8. Elizabeth Van Liere says:

    Dogs. They’ve been a part of my life since I was born. W hen I was five I wandered a good mile from home to Black Lake. My mother panicked and called my dad and several workers from the farm nursery to help hunt for me. It wasn’t until our dog came home and then led everyone to the lake where I was happily playing in the water..
    At the moment I have two Aussies, Uber and Bear. Uber, the Alpha, is black and gray and big. Bear is a miniature brown dog with a horrible squeaky bark.
    I can’t imagine life without a dog. I’m sure heaven is ready for these two. Either I’ll be waiting for them, or they’ll be waiting for me.
    As usual, you manage to bring up memories with your great stories, Nancy.

  9. alice ferguson says:

    Oh, Nancy!
    Such a great read. I was drawn to you at the very beginning by the love and devotion for your cat, who had just died.You had a column in the Pueblo Chieftain, I believe. And as for me, well you know my love for all the dogs I have ever known…and one cat! Sometimes I feel I will always have the ability to shed tears at the loss…Thanks for a super blog.

  10. Kathy Fitz says:

    How is Bo doing? Poor, Baby! Nice thoughts always come to mind with your blogs. Who knew we’d have this adorable, paranoid, yipping, scared of funny noises, mini schnauzer to love, but she does love us back with all of our flaws and peculiarities. Unconditionally, isn’t that a good way that God uses our pets to demonstrate His love for us?
    My best to Bo, give him a pat on the head for me.

    • Thank you, Kathy! Beau got the stitches out and seems to be doing well. Just praying it doesn’t pop up someplace else. I’ve loved on and laughed at Maddy and Bella along with you! Thanks for sharing them with me!

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