When I first moved to Hawaii 20 years ago, I befriended a feral cat from the Kahalu hillside. About six months after I started feeding her, she became pregnant. She gave birth to two female kittens, brought them to my backdoor step with a proud "meow" when their eyes opened, and left them with me when she died a month later of undiagnosed kidney failure.
The two little girls, Elizabeth and Victoria, got their names because they were such dainty and delicate kittens that my husband said they should be named for royalty. They lived long, happy, loving, and much loved lives with us. They were the source of hours of laughter, pranks, and games, as well as contented cuddles and purrs. They helped seven of my foster daughters learn to be more gentle and loving with each other. Pets don't turn there backs on us with ridicule the way people sometimes do.
Victoria became "Boots" named for the Nancy Sinatra hit which included the line "These boots are made for walking and that's just what they'll do…one of these days these boots are going to walk all over you!" because she grew out of dainty, became rather more like big foot, and used to walk from my feet, up my body, to stand on my chest and stare into my eyes until I awakened. Boots was the first to go, dying of lung cancer. She purred in my arms as she exhaled her last loving breath and her eyes grew dim.
Elizabeth used to awaken me in the mornings by lifting my right hand by a gold chain I wear. When she got my hand over her head, she would release it so it would pet her as it slid back to the bed. Two or three tries were all it would take to awaken me enough so I would pet her and she could stop doing the heavy lifting. She lived to age 18 and died in my arms at the vet's when I could not longer bear to see the fear and panic on her face at the feeling of fluid building up in her lungs. It was an autoimmune disorder of some kind.
At that point, I decided I needed a break from pets. The loss just hurt too much. Two weeks later, my husband, who has Alzheimer's, told me he needed another pet because he was so lonely without Elizabeth who used to sit at his feet when I was at work. He said she always looked so loving and stayed so near, even when she no longer had the strength to jump up on his lap. He really missed her.
What could I do? I put him off a week and got myself together, then we went to the Humane Society on Valentine's day. I didn't want a cat who looked like Elizabeth who resembled a lilac point siamese or her sister who was dark gray and white with white boots. I looked around and found a skinny two year old red tiger cat who was hiding under a bench trying hard to not be noticed. I dragged him out from under the bench gently and put him on Wayne's lap. It seemed they would get along ok. We made our donation and got in the car.
Wayne held the cat in his carrier on his lap and scratched his ears all the way home. When we got home, I helped Wayne into his chair, then opened the carrier and turned the cat loose. I expected him to cower or run to hide under the nearest bed. Instead, he looked around, spotted Wayne in the chair and galloped across the livingroom. He jumped on his lap, put one long lanky paw on each shoulder and dropped his head on Wayne's neck. Pippin had found a home and safety. Wayne had found a friend and began to act much less depressed.
Now that Wayne is more incapacitated, Pippin looks to me for care. He is now a big 18 pounds of solid muscle, who thinks he needs a human food schedule, really feels deprived if he doesn't have three meals a day and at least one snack at bedtime. When I am typing around mealtime, he will sit between me and the keyboard until I feed him. When I ignore him, he has a series of annoying tactics he uses in sequence until I give him what he want.
I have come to love this big manipulative four-legged friend. He sleeps on my bed, purrs when he cuddles, loves to be petted and held (all 18 pounds of him). He has been a source of much laughter and joy, as well as annoyance and frustration. In the end, his presence is soothing and calming to me, lowering both BG and BP. I am blessed that we went to the Humane Society that day and found another friend.
Some of us have service animals and can share how those are helpful. Others of us have a variety of creatures either four legged or two winged who share our homes and raise our spirits.
Would you share some of ways your pets help you reduce our stress and bring love and joy into your life?
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