Sometimes, random snippets of memories enter our mind for no apparent reason. Today, Cathleen Hulbert remembers former pets in this guest post. We’d love it if you leave a comment and share your stories of pets that have come and gone, and touched your lives.
Guest Post by Cathleen Hulbert
What set this off? The names and faces of former pets begin to work their way into my memory.
What happened to Muffin? Muffin was a gray and white cat that I had around the age of 5. One day Muffin was gone. Mom and Dad said she “ran away.” Cats don’t run. Not well-loved, well-fed cats. I now suspect a car. It would have kinder to say she was hit by a car. Feelings linger of being rejected by a cat.
We try hamsters.
Charlie and Ben were brown and white. I told them they were good boys so that I wouldn’t be rejected again. Being in a cage, they were less likely to run. One day there were these little fuzzy things in the cage with Charlie and Ben. Turns out that Charlie should have been named Charlene. Ben gets removed from the cage so he won’t eat the kids. One day he escapes and hides behind the fridge. I don’t remember much about the hamsters after that. We gave the kids away. I really wanted a dog.
My Mom is French, so we name the new dog from the pound, “Minette.” I thought she was a big dog, or at least medium-sized. Recently I was told that she was small, like a rat terrier. I find this hard to believe. She seemed substantial when I was 7. One day Minette is gone for a while. I’m glad when she comes back. I had a lump in my throat. I want no more of rejection. Weeks later, her sides get big and we realize she’s going to have puppies. She’s mostly white and the puppies all are jet black. I have questions. The puppies are eventually adopted.
When we move to Atlanta from our Florida house, we’re going to be in an apartment for a year or so. Minette gets dropped off at a farm and I sit in the back seat in shock. It all seems so wrong. Was that always the plan? To leave my dog on a farm?
We get a white mouse because mice can cope with apartment life.
But the mouse, whose name I have blocked, gets out of the cage and scares my Mom in the night. I think he runs up the back of her nightgown. She almost has a heart attack and puts the mouse and his cage outside. It’s cold and he dies. Having pets starts to seem like a tragedy. When do we get one that we keep for a long time?
Benjamin is a red tabby. He’s pretty cool but he pees in my Dad’s good suitcase between business trips. He always finds just the right moment when the suitcase is open and my Dad is not around. Benjamin gets a free ride to the Humane Society. I sob in the back seat. Some college students adopt him before we even gets inside. None of them go on business trips or own expensive suitcases, so they think he will be fine. Will I ever love again?
I grow up and realize that I now have more control over the fate of my pets. A little more control, but it’s not complete. A few more cats pass through my life: Daisy, a long-haired beauty, Marmalade and Harvey — the latter named after an invisible rabbit in a Jimmy Stewart film of that name. Marmalade contracts a rare disease and dies. Daisy and Harvey go to live with my ex-husband, Joe, after we get a friendly divorce. I know they are in good hands. We were in New York City at the time and he had a bigger apartment. I was starting a new career. I have to admit, the freedom from pet responsibilities wasn’t bad.
Years later, after returning home to Georgia and suffering through the death of my second husband, I meet an amazing animal: a gorgeous fox-red, part chow, part shepherd rescue dog who rescues me and keeps me from staying in bed for a long time. Her owner has died and we’re in the same boat. I name her Phoenix. Together we rise from the ashes. We have some good years together. Then a brown recluse spider takes her life. She’s the kind of soulful, loving animal that people in my family still talk about. I think she is around, like one of those spirit guides that shamans and other healers rely on when there is something important to do. I love you Phoenix. I know you can hear me.
For a time I thought that I could never love a dog as much as I had loved Phoenix.
Then I saw Angel outside of a pet store on a mild winter day nearly two years ago. She was for sale: $225. I told the pet rescue lady that I didn’t have that kind of cash. I knew she had been watching me bond with Angel. She said she would give me the $75 “overflow special rate.” She turned to Angel and said, “See. I told you that we’d find you a new Mom today.”
At 10 months, Angel (that was the name she came with) was nearly grown but still had lots of uppy inside. She was wild at first, with Jack Russell traits dominating her gene pool. She ripped up part of my favorite couch, but I couldn’t hold a grudge. I was watching “The Dog Whisperer” by then and I knew I had made some mistakes. The couch is as good as new now, and Angel has become a woman’s best friend. My brother’s dog, Boo, an aging Yellow Lab, is the other dog with whom I share a home.
We all live together, along with my 9-year-old nephew. I watch him play with his childhood pets and I realize that he’ll always remember them: the way Angel cuddles with him in the morning before he goes to school; the way Boo likes to pick up a dog toy on the way to greet him at the door when he comes home. He knows that pets die. He still misses Phoenix and Yogi, another Lab that died of cancer. But he adores Angel and Boo.
These thoughts bring so many feelings. It’s all clear. Some of the most important people in our lives are animals.
Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She is the author of The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination, a time-travel tale of redemption and forgiveness. For more information about the author and the book, go to http://cathleenhulbert.com/.