Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The importance of pets!

Hello all. As I hope this will become a place of sharing ideas, here's one from me. Please join in and write your own.

I counsel folks to have a pet. Even if all you can handle right now is a goldfish, have something to care for. Since my diagnosis with a very painful, incurable nerve disorder, I have always had a pet. Actually, the first pet, an adorable, very needy, 8-pound-toy poodle named Gizmo, came shortly after my diagnosis. My sister Elizabeth helped me pick him out from the Coppell Humane Society, and, as she is very fond of reminding me, I then called her at 3:00am in a blind panic. I said "I can't even take care of myself, how am I going to take care of a dog?"

She talked me down that night, bless her very sleepy heart, and I had Gizmo for 14 years. He has since passed, but he was one of the most important parts of my life during the bleak years. He would sit in my lap all the time, he would lick tears off my face, he would look very pathetic and sorry for me, then he would get a look on his face that I would swear was saying "ok look, I've helped you all day, now get your butt out of bed because I want to go outside now." I heard him loud and clear. And what he was telling me was that it wasn't all about me, I was not alone, other people in the world have needs too. He was really great at teaching me unconditional love, and he was equally great at not allowing me to wallow in self-pity. Thank you so much Elizabeth for talking me into keeping him; that was the best thing you ever made me do!

Since Gizmo, I've had a menagerie of other pets, and they all have taught me things. I had a little beige mutt who taught me how to be good and faithful. He was not a terribly bright dog, but he was always there at the foot of the bed watching out for me. There have been a number of cats who have taught me the value of cuddling with a warm kitty. They also taught me the value of asking first, as kitties who don't want to be hugged can cause a lot of bleeding. There is a delightful weiner dog named Sadie who is the house clown. She constantly makes me laugh, and there is real value in that. We also now have a black-lab mix, Buddy, who was found roaming around (all of our multitude of animals have been rescues, we have yet to pick a critter, they all pick us) in need of a loving home. Well, a few weeks after we opened ours to him, he was diagnosed with a terrible cancer. We were told his life would be counted in weeks. We were devastated. That was about 7 months ago, which teaches me that the doctors don't know everything. They are paid to be consultants on our bodies (or our dogs'), and they do the best they can, but it's still our body and we know it best. Buddy has taught me that it's all in the out-look. He doesn't know that he's supposed to be sick, nor does he know that he's supposed to feel sorry for himself. So he doesn't; he runs and plays and loves his backyard. The reality is he has cancer, and his life is short, but he's here now and we love him. I don't want to waste the time we have with him feeling sorry for him or for me. So we play.

Ok, this may be really simplistic, but there's a lot to be said for what animals can teach us, and what they give us. For me, having something to care for gives me time in my day to stop thinking about my pain. No matter how much pain I'm in, they still need to be fed and walked. They don't allow me to pull the covers up over my head and stay in bed all day. They love me, and they insist that I love them back. Maybe, the next time you hurt, get up and feed your goldfish (not every time you hurt or the poor fish will explode) or feed the birds then watch them from the window. Work up to a cat or a dog who will have needs of his own.

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