Random Mind Scan: Memories of Pets Emerge

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.

Cathleen Hulbert cat

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 soCathleen Hulbert hamster 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?

Cathleen Hulbert orange kitten

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. Cathleen Hulbert cat2A 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.

Cathleen Hulbert German ShepherdYears 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 grownCathleen Hulbert dogs 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.

Cathy_Hulbert_small1Cathleen 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/.

11 Comments on Random Mind Scan: Memories of Pets Emerge

  1. Sandy
    October 11, 2009 at 3:16 pm (10 years ago)

    A very touching post. It reminded me of past pets when I was younger.

    I didn’t have cats until I was an adult, I have my beloved Bogey’s who 19 1/2 and very thin now.

    In my early teens I had hamsters, the first two had babies (the male + female were in separate cages, but my brother let them out of their cages to play at the same time and nature took its course). The mother ate most of them. Tried to feed and save the last 2 with an eye dropper of milk but couldn’t.

    And I remember coming home one day from jr. high school to find that my guinea pig, Pepper was gone. My mother had the Animal Rescue League pick him up while I was at school without telling me. He’d gotten big and was really too big for his cage, but I didn’t understand why we couldn’t just get a bigger cage. He was also quite smart – he squealed every time anyone went near the fridge – he knew his treats of lettuce, carrots and cucumbers came from there. I’ve always wondered what happened to him.

    Reply
  2. Ingrid
    October 6, 2009 at 5:49 pm (10 years ago)

    Welcome to The Conscious Cat, Patricia!

    Inky and Biko both sound like two very special souls. I agree that loss is always devastating, but despite the pain, I think most people still wouldn’t trade having had the love of these wonderful animals in their lives.

    Reply
  3. Patricia Self
    October 6, 2009 at 2:24 am (10 years ago)

    Ingrid, I can only agree with you. When I was 8 and my mom was (unbeknownst to me) expecting my little sister, the family cocker spaniel sired a litter of puppies. I was given my pick of the litter, a precious black puppy with a white spot on his chest. Inky was his name. How I loved that puppy!

    After maybe six months, as I walked home from school one day, the word got to me from the first house on the block as I descended the street to where our house was. “Inky died.” I didn’t believe it.

    Bless her heart, my mom was the one who had to tell me. Inky had run out into the street (just like her daddy) and a mail truck had run over her. We had a burial with full honors in the back yard and I was inconsolable.

    Maybe a year later, my dad bought me a new Schwinn bike and we were assembling it in the front yard. A mail truck drove into our driveway with a package my mom received. I glared at the driver, muttering to my dad that this must be the same man who killed my Inky. It probably was, and my dad kept his hands on me so I wouldn’t run, screaming like a banshee, to attack the murderer.

    I’ve never forgotten that little puppy, symbol of so much I loved and lost. But then, much later in life, fate sent me a black Lab/probably Flat-Coat Retriever cross, named Biko. He also was black with white on his chest. He was already 18 months old and he became my alter-ego for the marvelous six years we had him before he succumbed to cancer. He was so wonderful and completed the life cycle, as far as I was concerned. Life is about loving and quite often about loss, and just because one has endured the latter doesn’t make it any easier when it happens.

    I so enjoyed your blog, Ingrid, and look forward to reading more throughout your website. Laura sent me the link, thank goodness!

    Reply
  4. Cathleen Hulbert
    October 5, 2009 at 10:23 pm (10 years ago)

    I am so moved by the stories shared as replies. What an important conversation to be having with one another about such a sacred relationship.

    Reply
  5. Ingrid
    October 5, 2009 at 6:54 pm (10 years ago)

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Elizabeth.

    I agree, it’s important to be honest with children when it comes to pet loss. I’m not a parent, but I can only imagine how difficult it must be to have to watch a child go through this kind of an experience. Hopefully, talking about Holly and the good memories of the times she shared with your daughter will help.

    Reply
  6. Ingrid
    October 5, 2009 at 6:50 pm (10 years ago)

    I’m glad Cathleen’s post made you remember Beau Beau, Tammy. Working with animals is the best, isn’t it?

    Reply
  7. Elizabeth Spann Craig
    October 5, 2009 at 5:32 pm (10 years ago)

    I enjoyed your post! We frequently talk about our cats and dogs from years past here. It’s usually a happy time of thinking of the animals’ unique personalities and funny characteristics.

    Your thoughts on your parents’ explanations of Muffin’s disappearance made me think. It’s so hard on children to lose a pet, but honesty really is the best policy. We had to put our 16 year old cat down a year ago and our daughter (then 6) was absolutely devastated. The poor cat was having such a hard time, but we made the mistake of taking the cat to the vet when our daughter was at school. She was completely distraught…had planned on having her picture made with Holly. If I’d only known!

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

    Reply
  8. Tammy
    October 5, 2009 at 11:47 am (10 years ago)

    What a lovely post. Of course, it got me to thinking about my own animals through the years! Most of my childhood, I had a poodle named Beau Beau. I remember him fondly!

    Animals have played an important role both personally, and now professionally too! I would not have guessed I would work in “animal-related” fields, but I love it! Our cats (while in the “dog-house” today for keeping us up last night) mean a lot to us.

    Reply
  9. Laura
    October 5, 2009 at 11:43 am (10 years ago)

    Wow. I never thought about it that way at all. Knowing Sinead, and how she did her best to take care of me, I think you are right. Wow. This has been quite a powerful morning. All because I was merely checking in with your blog. I’m thankful. 🙂

    Reply
  10. Ingrid
    October 5, 2009 at 11:04 am (10 years ago)

    This brought tears to my eyes, Laura – aren’t these animals amazing? I’ve often felt that animals take on their humans’ diseases, often in an effort to heal them, because of the close bond that exists in such a relationship. I wonder whether that was the case with Sinead? What a special cat.

    And I”m so glad that Mr. Boober is having mostly good days. Cherishing every moment is really all any of us can do, and our cats are such wonderful reminders of that each and every day.

    Reply
  11. Laura
    October 5, 2009 at 10:01 am (10 years ago)

    This story brought tears to my eyes. I still remember my first cat Sinead, who I had in my twenties, when I thought I knew everything but didn’t. Sinead helped me through my bout of cancer, only to eventually succumb to the disease herself, which happened so fast that we barely had time to say goodbye. I called her my “afghan” because she was 18 pounds of love that was ready to sprawl over my lap before I was even completely sitting down. She was the best.

    Fast fwd 20 years, and my husband and I are owned by three cats: Lulu, Matisse, and Aliza. Matisse (or Mr. Boober as his nickname has replaced his original name!) has been battling feline lymphoma since since his June 2008 diagnosis. The doctors thought he had a few months at the most. He’s still here. And he wants to be here. It is as if Mr. Boober is giving me the time to say goodbye that I never had with Sinead. It has been a special time, whether he has good days or bad days, or his horrible days which happen a lot more frequently now.

    We don’t know how much time we have left with Mr. Boober, which is not any different than how much time any of us have with our pets. But we definitely cherish every moment.

    Thanks for another great post on your blog, Ingrid!

    Reply

Leave a comment

First time visitors: please read our Comment Guidelines.