Several of my friends have pets who are ill at the moment, and may perhaps be in their final illness. My heart breaks for my friends, because I know how much we can love our pets, and how much our pets love us ~~ unconditionally. They are our best companions, never judging, never asking for more than we can give, always affectionate, always ready to please. All they ask from us is our attention, love, and perhaps some food and water ~~ definitely food and water. That's a pretty good quid pro quo.
When my brothers and I were growing up on Vancouver Island, our home was almost a menagerie. We had the usual dogs and cats, and my brothers ~~ both animal lovers ~~ were always rescuing stray animals, much to my mother's consternation. Fortunately, we had a large closed-in back porch, which was turned into an animal hospital on a regular basis. My father loved dogs, and we would often have two or three following along behind us. The dog in this picture ~~ Shep ~~ insisted on having his picture taken with us, and my brother had to hold him still because he was such a show-off. My brother went into a deep depression when Shep passed away, and refused to love another dog. That is, until he met Sporty, our border collie. Then it was love at first sight ~~ again.
One of the more unusual animals we had in our menagerie was a baby bear. His mother had been accidentally killed by loggers, and he was found crying in a hollow log. My father, ever the softy for baby animals, agreed to look after him. Of course, the task ended up being done by my mother, and she used to feed the little bear with a baby bottle from one of my dolls. The little bear cried just like a human baby, and loved being cuddled and rocked ~~ just like a human baby. Unfortunately, baby bears grow very quickly, and he soon became too big for us to look after him any longer. My father gave him to the forest ranger, who raised the bear to adulthood. Our little baby bear, when full grown, was often seen picking berries on the lakeshore road. We always called him "our bear", because he had stolen our hearts forever.
Another unusual little creature we had in our care was a North American Murre, a cousin to the penguin. He blew into our town on a huge typhoon storm that came in from the Pacific Ocean, and once again, one of my brothers rescued him and brought him home. My mother set up a galvanized wash tub full of water for him to paddle in, but he much preferred following her around the house while she did her chores. He could be seen padding along behind her on his little two feet, like a small child. He had a strange little call that sounded almost like a seal barking, and whenever my mother was out of his sight, he was grievously anxious until he could find her again. What a cacophony... He especially loved the warm laundry basket, and if we couldn't find him, we knew where to look. There he would be, buried under the towels and face cloths, having a snooze. Our little murre lived with us throughout the stormy winter, and in the spring my father released him back onto the open ocean. However, my mother had bonded with this strange little creature, and she missed him for months afterwards.
At one point we also had a shrew (or mole). He was an odd little thing, and he lived in an Eddy's matchbox filled with cotton wool. We called him "Moley", and the only food Moley ate was live spiders. So my father and brothers had to dig around underneath the porch, armed with tweezers, in order to bring Moley his dinner. They would slide the match box open, call "Here Moley, Moley, Moley..." and a little snout would pop out, grab the spider, and retreat back into the cotton wool. I'm not sure why we had this little fellow in our possession, but we all loved him. My father took the little mole outdoors and released him to the spider smörgåsbord underneath the porch, where he could dine to his heart's delight.
My favourite dog was Maggie, our Scottish terrier. Her full name was Margaret McTavish of Windbrae, and when we first brought her home, she was a fierce little thing. My mother and I were always jumping onto chairs, to avoid Maggie's sharp little teeth. She mellowed as she got older, but she was still fiercely protective of our home. Her bark, however, was much bigger than her bite. A special treat for Maggie was to sit in front of the fireplace in the evenings. Like all dogs, Maggie loved car rides, and she especially loved going to the lake. A friend of mine had a pier and diving board out over the lake, and Maggie loved taking a flying leap off the diving board. Then she would paddle to shore, run along the pier and take another flying leap off the diving board. We were all heartbroken when Maggie was no longer with our family.
My most recent pet was a Siamese cat named Samantha. Oh, goodness ... what can I say about Samantha. She was evil, she was wicked ... she was the most wonderful cat I have ever known and I adored her. She didn't know she was a cat, and I didn't have the heart to tell her. Whenever I chatted on the telephone with any of my friends, Samantha would stomp up and down beside me, hollering, "Oh, yah! Oh, yah! Oh, yah!" My friends would ask, "Who the heck is that?" Of course, after a while, they knew not to ask. Siamese cats are famous for "adopting" other people, and Samantha assumed everyone in the neighbourhood was "hers". I would often get a telephone call from one of my neighbours saying, "Um ... Jo, your cat is sleeping on my chesterfield again; can you come and get her?" I cried for two weeks straight when my bad old Samantha was no longer with me. I still miss her, and sometimes I can see her, out of the corner of my eye, looking for some way to get into mischief.
My heart goes out to my friends who may be losing their wonderful companions. I wish there were something I could do to ease their pain, but I know from experience there is nothing I can do. We have all felt it. Unconditional love.