When I was growing up, we had pets. Often, not for long, but there were many of them. It took me a long time to apreciate animals. but eventually, I fell in love with them. We had cats and dogs. My Father would bring home a pet, always with a name because the animals were fully grown. There were 2 cats. Hannah and Lester. Hannah didn’t last long because she crapped in one of my Mother’s beds in the house. I never saw Hannah after that. Lester, on the other hand, stuck around for a little while. He eventually got hit by a car and my parents took him to the Vet. He was never the same after getting hit by that car. His mouth was messed up and he couldn’t groom himself anymore. I think it was hard for him to eat. One day I came home from school and when I asked my Father where Lester was, he said: “He went to see Aunt Kitty.”
I don’t remember all the dogs names, but none of them were allowed in the house. Every time I came home and the dog was gone, I’d ask my Dad where the animal went. My Dad would say the same old thing: “They went to see Aunt Kitty.” This was puzzling, but I never questioned my parents. Because all the pets eventually “went away”, I never bonded with any of the them. The cats were different, at least, Lester was. He was allowed in the house and I was very fond of him. Lester would jump up and throw his little arms around the doorknob of the front door, trying to open it when he wanted to go out. He also slept in the bathroom sink. The whole family thought this was funny. When Lester went to see Aunt Kitty, it was no different than when any of the other animals left. I didn’t feel a sense of loss. I had learned that animals were unreliable. I was very young when I learned about Aunt Kitty so it was years of her house versus ours until I was in my teens. There had been many years of training not to care.
Finally, we were old enough to learn who Aunt Kitty was. When Keeno bit someone, my Dad gave him away. My Dad gave him to a friend from Church who had a construction yard. Keeno was guarding the yard. Learning where the dog had gone made no difference in the way that I felt. I never learned what happened to any of the other dogs. The last dog my parents had, was a small German Shepard named Pepper. She lived at my parents house her whole life. Finally a dog that stayed. I was grown and married by the time this happened so I still had never bonded with a dog. Pepper eventually died, at home. I don’t know whether she was taken to the Vet or buried in the yard. She was just gone. Our family never had discussions about the animals.
When I had a home of my own, my husband and I went to the Animal Shelter and rescued a little dog named Amos. He was with us about a year. When my husband and I left our home town and moved to California, we left Amos with my parents. We never learned what became of him. We were told that every morning, he would make his rounds in the neighborhood, visiting all the neighbors my parents were friends with. When we got to California, we got a cat. He was with us for several years until one day he went missing. It bothered me. We then got a dog. Someone stole him from our enclosed porch. I got really upset about it. We continued to get more dogs and various things happened to them. Some ran away, some were given away, one died. We had another cat who ran away. There was something wrong with my bonding instincts. I wonder sometimes if kids who are raised without ever having a pet feel that same lack of bonding towards animals.
Fourteen years ago, I walked into the pet store and they were having “rescue a pet” day. My eyes locked onto this dog’s eyes and I knew I had to have her. This was the first time I had a connection with a dog. It was love at first sight. I had never had a feeling for an animal like this. I was 45 years old. Her name was Amber and she was a wonderful pet. My heart had opened. We already had 2 cats and we went on to collect 3 more. I loved them all. We were one, big happy family. All of our animals were indoor pets and stayed with us until their deaths. We lost 5 pets over the past 3 years and their deaths were horribly painful. We now are down to one cat, and I’m clinging to him for dear life. He’s 17 years old and we’ve had him his entire life.
I know why I never bonded with the dogs at my parents house. I never interacted with them. I never went out in the back yard. That was my Father’s domain. The dogs weren’t allowed in the house so I never really saw them except though the sliding glass door. Since my Dad was always giving the animals away, I had no inclination to get to know them. Once I finally made a connection with Amber, I knew how you were supposed to feel about your pets.
My heart has changed. Now, I see the beauty in all animals. In fact, I’m totally overboard for them. Every time I see the advertisements for “rescue the animals” I want to send them all the money I have in my checking account. I don’t know how a person can go from being apathetic about animals to being head-over-heels in love with them, but that’s what happened. If I had been raised with an indoor pet, I know I would have loved that pet. I know I could have avoided all those years of apathy. I think people who are raised with pets usually go on to own animals whom they love very much. It took me a few pets to get it right. I’m just grateful that I finally got there.