“Pets are humanizing. They remind us we have an obligation and responsibility to preserve and nurture and care for all life.” ~ James Cromwell.
When I was around seven years of age, I was allowed to have my first pet. Actually, it was pets, plural. It had taken some work to persuade my mother. It is not that she was against pets in general. She herself had been a dog owner when she was young, I forget the name. I believe it was a Jack Russell terrier, and there is probably a photo somewhere to prove it. But as the mother of five young children, I expect she felt her house was full enough already.
But in my case, it may be that a teacher was involved to help persuade her. And the fact that these pets did not take up much space, made no noise, and required very little upkeep sealed the deal. I was allowed to take home the class’s water snails over the vacation, carefully carrying home the jar with the creatures inside. By the way, ‘water snails’ is not the answer to any of my security questions, so I am not giving away a big secret! As pets go, they were a little disappointing. I remember them sitting in a window, climbing up and down their glass jar, not interacting with me at all!
When my children were little, we had a cat here and there. Cats are wonderful pets. They are very self-sufficient, come and go as they please, and allow you to own them. Dogs on the other hand. Well. My standard response to any requests from my kids that they wanted a dog was: ‘you can have a dog in this house when I move out’.
Growing up in Jamaica, pets were a part of the family, but the working part. We had a couple of cats, brought to the house to help get rid of rats. Rooster, chickens, pigs, goats, cows, all produced and earned their keep. There were no ‘pot-bellied pigs’ as pets. There were hogs raised for killing and selling or eating. And dogs lived in the yard. They alerted the homeowners to the approach of strangers to the yard. The common greeting, when a Jamaican stands at the gate of someone’s home is ‘Hole dawg!’ (Hold the dog, I don’t want to get bitten!).
I have never been particularly comfortable around dogs, both for reasons of comfort and hygiene. Dogs are unpredictable, and they are a little too fond of licking humans. Not my cup of tea. But it’s a funny thing about having kids. They make you do things you never thought you would do.
My daughter was the first dog owner in the family. As soon as she moved away and got married she bought a dog, Rocco, who kept her company in a strange state. He was a good dog, supposedly a rottweiler but not a mean streak in his body. He would play gently with the crazy yorkie from next door, and with her kids when they were little. When she moved back home with her kids, she knew she couldn’t bring him with her (not unless I moved out), and a good friend adopted him. Eventually, after I moved out, Rocco came home too, and lived in Miami for the last years of his life.
But she had bought another dog, supposedly for her daughter, but you know how kids are, they promise they will do all the necessary feeding, cleaning up after, walking, etc., etc., but then it’s the Mommy who does it all. Lola is a mix of beagle and something else (I can never remember), a small creature with a rottweiler’s spirit when she meets huge dogs. But she’s also a loving, adoring, lovable dog.
Of course, I have now found myself becoming a grandparent to a dog, being roped in to ‘dog-sitting’ for the occasional weekend. Since weekends are times for rest and relaxation, on the few (two) weekends that I have been roped in to ‘watching Lola’, I have had to find places that are ‘dog-friendly’. Which meant that last weekend I discovered a park, not twenty minutes from my home that I never knew existed. It is an equine and dog-friendly park; thick groves of pines surround a man-made lake. Small hills allow for kids and dogs to run up and down and pretend to get lost. Couples can find a small hide-away to picnic and gaze at the calm waters. And dog-owners can let their dogs explore to their hearts content while keeping an eye out for other dogs (like Lola) who may decide to aggressively show off.
On my way around the park (it is not easy to have a dog on a leash in one hand, water bottle in another, and try to take photographs), I overheard a family calling out to each other. They had split up, not following the same path over the hillock. One child called to his father that he was not going the right way. The father replied “whichever way you are going, that’s the right way” which was my Zen message of the day!
When we turn down opportunities out of habit, or mistrust, or unfamiliarity, we have no idea what we may be missing. So often we stay in our paths, not wanting to try a new road, or to take a new direction. But we never know what may be waiting down the path less trodden, the road less traveled. On Saturday I saw my first great horned owl, sitting quietly at the base of a large pine tree, camouflaged within the pine needles and tree bark.
This Friday morning, I hope you have someone who loves you with the unconditional love of a dog. I hope you never have to say no to someone who looks at you with ‘puppy-dog eyes’ (yes, Lola has those and uses them to make you feel so guilty!). And may you always remember, that whichever way you are going, that is the right way!
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!