Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Care Center for Geriatric Pets

We have been petless now for about 18 months. Prior to that there was always at least one animal in our home for over 15 years, sometimes two or three. In the latter days of our pet life we felt more like trustees or caregivers than mentors or partners in recreational pursuits. We basically assisted our aging friends in their transition from this world into some other form of matter.

We've had a wide range of pets: feline, canine, rodent, amphibian and reptile. Fish, too. However, the recurring classifications were feline and canine. And in the geriatric phase, our home sheltered three dogs and one cat. Oliver was the king both because he was the oldest and also because he didn't take shit from anyone. He was not the first to go either, but the penultimate. Oh, by the way, Oliver was a cat, THE CAT, if you asked him.

Sally was our first dog. We got her as a pup and she was tiny at the start, clearly the runt of the litter. We didn't know what we had for awhile, but soon we learned that we had acquired a manic animal. Sally was the dog that thought she was a bird. At least that's what it sounded like to us. Who knows what she thought? She was pretty much always ecstatic, no matter what was going on or who was around. It was hard to see her age, because spiritually, she kept her sunny disposition right up to the end. It must have been frustrating for her to have to slow down.

Sally in her last year
Duke (the second dog) had two lives with me. I got him from the Humane Society for my kids one Christmas back in the late 80s. Several years later, Duke and I parted due to circumstances beyond his control. In one of the stranger twists of familial interweaving, Duke and I renewed our acquaintance when he came to spend his golden years with us. It actually was a kick to have him around again and to enjoy his serious weirdness. He was a German Shepherd, Basset Hound mix. Try to picture that! He gave the impression of perpetually running downhill due to the irregular length of his two pairs of legs. Duke was a hoot.

Our most recent and last canine was Pepper. We accepted Pepper as a mercy mission, not as a deliberate choice. Pepper was my sister's dog and when she was unable to keep her after a move, we took Pepper in. Pepper was a sweet animal that we came to enjoy after learning to accommodate her challenges. She was stone deaf and nearly blind. The deafness was caused by ear infections when she was young and I believe the visual challenges were simply the result of aging. Pepper left us in the spring of 2009 and we've been petless ever since.

And yet . . . the (im)petus for this post is the appearance of an (im)pish stray kitten that adopted us in the late summer. It's an adorable creature, but we can't take it in because more than one of our family has significant feline allergies. We don't want to mess with that. However, we do occasionally think about getting into the pet arena again, especially since some of our children are actively doing that. Regardless of what we do in the future, our history with our animal mates is a strong force in family lore. Anyone care to give a home to this kitty? Winter is coming on.

The recently acquired friend


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