OUR ANIMALS, OURSELVES: Life before, life after … animals

Golden retriever Addie with Willow (Provided photo)

This morning I reached for my running shoes only to discover that the shoe laces had been chewed to pieces. Be forewarned. This is what happens when you bring a dog into your home. This and countless other undesirable events will become your new reality but this reality also means a wonderful adventure and the most meaningful relationship (humans aside) that you will ever have. It will change your life. Life after dog.

Far too often people don’t think about the consequences when introducing a pet into their lives. Especially when they don’t consider the needs and traits of the breed they are about to coexist with. Whatever dog or cat moves into your home, life as you know it is over. Cats not so much, even though they too have their own set of crazy quirks one has to adjust to. It’s the dog who will set the path of your existence in a totally unexpected direction. The subtle shift of one’s reality will change significantly.

My own experiences covered the gambit of unforeseen changes. We had a cat who loved retrieving Wiffle balls. Running after them and returning them, dropping the ball at our feet for another toss. When Mr. Kitty was 16, we brought an Australian shepherd puppy into our fold. Mr. Kitty stopped retrieving balls. We were sad that we completely altered his life with the presence of this puppy. That’s the other consideration. If you already have a pet, be prepared for the changes in their lives, too. And the Aussie? Well, chasing airplanes was high on his list of fun activities.

Recently we adopted a rescue dog. A 14-pounder from Texas. We initially thought we would take her back to the rescue organization because many personality issues were not initially shared with us when adopting her. We kept her after all. Now our morning wake up call is 4:30 a.m. and we walk with two dogs instead of one. Our golden retriever Addie doesn’t need a leash. She stays with us on our walks. Our little Poppy explores a little too far from sight. So one dog leashed, one not. She is also dominant over our 65-pound golden and Addie begrudgingly takes it.

Other undesirable traits are fear of people and a little doggie bark that can sometimes be jarring but, oh my, is she comical, cute and loving. I now have two dogs chewing on bones or wresting and playing tug of war in my studio as I try to embrace my creative inspiration. Every aspect of our life feels a little different with this new dog, and we all will need time to adapt and adjust, but we will. Life after new dog will be good.

Willow and the new pup, Poppy (Provided photo)

Having a pet in your life comes complete with the yin and yang of love and frustration, fun and aggravation. I’ve on more than one occasion expressed, “What have I done?” But the beautiful spirit of the animal always prevails. Yes, follow your heart when you are adopting or buying a pet but do your homework first and know the breed you are bringing into your life and if it’s a rescue dog the issues that carries with it.

And then there’s life after the passing of a pet. I’ve always felt that I moved into a new era of my life after a dog or cat died. Everything from the sensation of the atmosphere to the movement of the day felt different. There was clearly an energy there that was no longer there and an extra space that wasn’t being filled and we could feel it.

We recently lost our cat, Willow, who I’ve often belly ached about to my sisters because she woke me up in the middle of the night pawing at the covers near my face so I would lift them up, allowing her under the blankets and near me. My sister said, “Someday she won’t be around, and you’ll miss that.” Well, that time has come. I’m feeling the changes. The shift in the energy, the newness of each day now that she is gone.

I remember when I brought her home 20 years ago as a kitten. She was sweet and gentle from the start and loved kissing you and remained that way her entire life. Loved all our dogs, and they loved her. How quickly the time has gone. It reminds me that everything I’m experiencing now will be a distant memory someday. My animal memories remain strong and real but life after the death of each one of them shifted and changed everything.

Now it is life after Willow. We’ve introduced six dogs and five cats into our life. Each and every one changed the aura of our home. They quickly became family members. We embraced the good along with the not so good, and we could never imagine our lives without them. If you are a person who loves animals, the changes animals bring to your life in the end will always be good once you’ve adjusted.

But be prepared. There is a personality in each and every one of them that WILL be expressed! Know that the quiet afternoon reading a book on the screened-in porch will most likely be interrupted by a dog barking at a passing car or a cat who needs a lap to sit on. Know that your morning cup of coffee will be waylaid by animals needing food and walks. But also know that nothing can replace the absolute joy that they will bring filling your hearts with enough love that finding a chewed up shoelace will only be a momentary inconvenience.

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