Friday, November 26, 2010

Loved Ones

You don't have to hang out with San Gabriel Valley bloggers much to figure out that we're a crowd who loves our animals. We've read all about Pasadena Adjacent's miraculous cat Tova. We've followed Petrea's sweet Boz on walks everywhere from Hahamonga to Cal Tech. I think everyone who keeps up with Karin, our beloved Altadena Hiker, has fallen in love with her dogs Albert and Phoebe. Recently, Karin introduced her readers at Altadena Patch to a certain little pooch with an irresistible underbite who was waiting (and waiting... and waiting) to be adopted at the Pasadena Humane Society. Pepe's story struck a nerve with people around the world who kept checking in to see if he had found a family of his own yet. A few weeks went by, and we all started to worry. Everyone knows that despite any shelter's best efforts, at some point there comes an end of the line.

When Karin finally let us know that Pepe had found a home, I could almost hear the collective cheering. I certainly let out a few whoops of my own, before grabbing my own furry little monsters, snuggling their velvety ears, and thinking for the million-zillionth time how much better life is with little four-legged creatures about. Ones that always love you. Ones that you always love even when they dig up your flower beds or throw up a hairball on your favorite quilt.

According to the ASPCA, "approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats). Shelter intakes are about evenly divided between those animals relinquished by owners and those picked up by animal control. These are national estimates; the percentage of euthanasia may vary from state to state." Statistics like this make animal lovers like me feel an indescribable despair. The ASPCA also informs us that "five out of ten dogs in shelters and seven out of ten cats in shelters are destroyed simply because there is no one to adopt them."

Misty and Molly, the photogenic pooches in today's picture, came from an unwanted litter of puppies. Mirabelle, the extremely elegant cat you might remember, was from an unwanted litter of kittens. I suppose you can say that Jon and I rescued them. But, in reality, they are the ones who rescue us. Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote about her cocker spaniel that "his ears were often the first thing to catch my tears." She summed it up well. There is no amount of bad news, bad health or bad moods that can't be improved by a wagging tail or a loud purr.

After my father passed away, I remember sitting on the back porch with Misty and Molly on either side of me. There is a moment after losing someone so dear to you that you just think you might implode from the vacuum it creates inside. I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't even want to think about it. I remember sitting there for a long time, just feeling the warmth of those big, wonderful dog bodies beside me. Misty had her head in my lap. Molly just kept staring at my face before getting up, wandering into the yard and coming back to me with her favorite bone. Usually, I had to engage in a bit of tug-o-war to get that thing out of her mouth, but on this day, she dropped it right at my feet. I don't think I had a better offer of condolence.

Several years later, when I was on bed rest for 7 weeks with preterm labor, it was Mirabelle who sat on the bed with me, day after day, night after night, only leaving to eat and visit her cat box. When I'd feel contractions and start to panic about delivering a premie, Mirabelle would snuggle up closer and calm me down. When the baby would kick, Mirabelle would often lift up her head, move closer, and gently put her paw on my belly.

We may have given these critters a house to live in, but they have helped make it a home. The joy that these fuzzy rascals have brought to my family is not something that can be adequately expressed in words. Words are too human. Animals know better than words. But animals -- especially all those waiting in shelters -- also need us to speak for them. Karin's column today at Altadena Patch is a great place to start.

19 comments:

Mister Earl said...

Very moving today, Laurie, which is another way of saying I have tears in my eyes. I was thinking in the last couple days about or dog Wally, a Lhasa Apso with a little dachshund in him. He was my best friend during some rough times.

Mister Earl said...

.. our dog, Wally...

Judy Williams said...

What a fab pic of Misty and Molly. Only people who have beloved pets know the joy and satisfaction (corny, I know, but it's true) of having them. You never own them, but they certainly own a piece of our hearts!

I couldn't get to Alta Dena's blog fast enough to upload pics of our beloved three. I'm so happy Pepe was saved. He looks like he could be part Staffordshire Terrier.

Susan Campisi said...

What a beautiful piece. Like Mr Earl, it made me teary. You perfectly captured the wonderment of having animals in our lives. It's a gift, and I can't imagine it any other way.

TheChieftess said...

Wonderfully said Laurie! I've had cats and dogs all my life...all from some kind of shelter or rescue....I can't imagine life without my furry family...

Margaret said...

Great piece, and what a great photo of your pups.

Anonymous said...

I found this from the Altadena Patch article. You are such an incredible writer and photographer. This also brought tears to my eyes.

Laurie said...

Thank you so much, everyone. I encourage all of you to read Karin's column, and click on the links where bloggers have continued their own stories. It's beautiful, beautiful stuff. I just love Karin for putting this together. And Judy, so glad you put your story in comments on Karin's article and uploaded pics of your fur babies! I hope lots more readers join in.

Mister E, you'll know when it's right. It's kind of like Fate leads you to the right one -- and the next thing you know, you can't imagine life without your new companion.

BANJO52 said...

The devil's in the details, and your details of experiences with pets are plenty compelling. Nice post.

Mister Earl said...

One time a little kitten was hanging around my house. I gave her some food, and thought, "We'll I guess this is it." But then I realized where she was from. The guy across the street was painting houses in Alhambra and she'd hitched a ride over with him.

Trish said...

I'm in Mr Earl's camp today...tears.

almost 5 years ago today I sat with Bandit, a rescue from the local shelter. Bandit's daddy had died and I was crying, big rivers of tears, trying to explain it to him, trying to understand it myself. I think Bandit understood, he had watched the EMTs take Daddy out of his house, I think he knew then what it took the doctors a few days to decide. Bandit just sat and licked my face, no matter how many tears I cried, no matter how many times I cried, he was right there to lick up the tears. It wasn't until I arrived that night and the EMTs and police let me hug Bandit, did he finally calm down that day that John died. To this day, when I visit, he's right there, ready to play or lick up tears, or just hang out, making sure I'm ok first, then on to the agenda for the day. For as annoying a little punk as he was when his Daddy picked him up from the shelter (I admit, I seriously wanted to sell him to a goat farm when he was a tot & donate the money to the shelter, darn, he is chipped tho;-)---I love this pup like he's my own. He is an incredible ambassador for shelter pups and for all the pure breeds I've known, the mutts truly seem to be the best companions.

Anonymous said...

Between this and the story over at Altadena Patch, I'm a mess. I miss my old dog Scout. Gone 3 years now. Maybe it is time for a visit to the Pasadena Humane Society.

altadenahiker said...

Just...just...well, you know how I feel about your beautiful essay.

Jean Spitzer said...

Wonderful story.

Shell Sherree said...

Just when I thought I was done crying for the day... While words may not ever be able to fully express all of the feelings animals bring out in me, yours have come exceptionally close, Laurie. Thanks.

Bellis said...

That's beautiful, Laurie. I hope everyone can find a mutt to adopt rather than buy from pet shops or breeders. The puppy-mill dogs that people buy and have posted, sight unseen, from addresses in Arizona or New Mexico, can have all sorts of genetic inbreeding problems. Mutts are much healthier. And after they've been in a shelter, they're so grateful - we always had dogs that seemed to find my mother by osmosis, and they were the very, very best. I love the bumper sticker that says "Don't breed or buy while shelter dogs die."

Petrea said...

Everyone here says it well: Laurie, this is wonderful. And your little darlings are just that, darling.

Petrea said...

By the way, it was real sweet of you to link.

Laurie said...

Thank you, thank you, a thousand times thank you! This is (obviously) a subject dear to my heart, and I'm happy to have been part of a collaborative effort. Karin deserves all the credit for coordinating things and putting together such a wonderful article at Altadena Patch.

You are all such lovely, lovely people. Thank you for sharing your stories and feelings and for sharing mine.