It was just your typical blistering hot Sunday afternoon in July. I had just completed mowing half of my lawn and cultivating the care packages my dogs had deposited on it. Now I needed to take a break lest I die of heat exhaustion
As I sought refuge from the heat of the summer sun and with nothing else to do, I found myself in my office looking at old books and magazines I had accumulated.
After going through quite a bit of the outdated stuff I never look at and pledging to eventually get around to throwing a bunch of it out, I noticed an odd volume I hadn’t seen in quite a while. Much to my surprise, amidst the guitar song books and fitness magazines was an old photo album.
As far as I’m concerned, family photo albums are useless most of the time. They just sort of lie around and take up space. Oh sure, there’s plenty of memories in every Kodak moment. But the unfortunate thing is, the only time most people look at photo albums is right after a loved one goes off to college, gets married or passes away.
Even then, the manual of memories is only useful for short-term therapy. Once the grief of the separation has been accepted the book, much like the family bible, goes back to collecting dust. But on this afternoon for no apparent reason, marriage or death included, I decided to have a look-see.
I began by taking a trip down memory lane through my old baby pictures. Ones I’ve looked at hundreds of times. Nothing really “new” to see there. I quickly passed through photos of long ago Christmases and summer days at the pool but all that did was remind me I still needed to finish mowing the other half of my lawn. I was beginning to understand just why this book is only useful for therapy.
As I turned the page again I came to section of pictures from my youth that made me forget about the lawn. For there in front of me were photographs of the pets I had growing up. And one photo in particular caught my eye immediately: Me and Susie.
Susie was the name of my first cat. A white cat with one green eye and one blue eye. A color combination that’s not at all uncommon in white cats but back then it was the coolest thing to tell your friends that your cat had two different colored eyes.
I recalled how, thirty some odd years ago, if I would hold my hand out above her with my palm facing down, she would jump up and rub her head across it. I bet not many cats could do what Susie could do. To a seven-year old boy, she was something special.
As I remembered all the good times with Susie, I soon came across another picture. This one taken a few years later of me and another cat, Fuzzy. Ironically enough, Fuzzy was the offspring of Susie and pretty much adopted me as his own. Where ever I went, Fuzzy went. He was my home boy and we were tight for years.
Of course, seeing those two cats now opened the floodgates of the pets I’ve owned over the years. I began seeking out pictures in the album of all of the critters that have gone through life with me.
There was Sheba: the Siberian Husky, Scruffy: the mutt, Mitzi: the black kitten I found under a car and wound up keeping. And the list goes on.
More recently, there’s been Timmy: the Shih-Tzu, Baci: the Pekingese and Stanley:the fat, orange tabby cat. I even had another white cat a few years ago named, wait for it, Snowy. She didn’t have Susie’s eye combination though. Her’s were both green. All of these pets have long since gone off to the Rainbow Bridge but hold a special place in my heart.
The funny thing is, looking at all these pictures didn’t make me sad to realize that they were all gone. It was different kind of therapy. Looking at their faces and remembering all the good times we shared together was encouraging. It only helped reinforce what I already knew: I’m a huge pet lover.
Today, my pets include two Boston Terriers (Sparky and Bruno) and two cats (Samantha and Marigold) in addition to Pokey my 25-year-old cockatiel, which I discussed in a previous blog.
I enjoyed getting to spend some time with the pets I’ve had over the years. It’s hard to imagine what life would have been like for me without them growing up. Sometimes you need that little reminder that you’re human and have compassion. I suddenly couldn’t wait to get outside later and play fetch with my dogs.
As I closed the photo album and started to head back outside to the lawn it occurred to me that maybe what they say about animal companions is true:
Pets aren’t our whole life, they just make our lives whole.
Feel free to share your pet stories in the comments section.