by Helen DePrima
I’ve always felt pity for kids who don’t grow up with animals – pets, livestock, or both. I can’t recall not being surrounded by critters both indoors and out. We had a constant supply of barn cats, some of whom were elevated to indoor status, and a succession of border collies as well as other dogs introduced from time to time. Chickens pecked around the back steps and goats gamboled in the barn lot.
And equines, of course – ponies and work horses and mules and our own saddle horses cast variously as cow ponies or Indian war ponies or cavalry chargers, depending on what adventure tales my cousins and I were reading at the time.
When my husband and I moved to New Hampshire after his graduation from vet school, our family’s circulating menagerie shifted from farm stock to wildlife, birds and animals brought to his clinic either injured or orphaned. My kids grew up surrounded by blue jays and beavers and baby bats, squirrels and opossums and porcupines, hawks and owls and herons. As well as cats and dogs, of course.
Now we’re down to a single dog, an opinionated Shih Tzu who behaves well when it pleases her, certainly not because she feels compelled to do so. We just lost our beautiful Maine Coon to cancer, adopted as a rescue only two years ago, but are in the process of acquiring another. Maine Coons are unbeatable for beauty and personality as well as mousing talents.
Our house may suffer in tidiness because of our four-legged family members, but I truly believe that providing loving care for animals makes us more completely human.
by Liz Flaherty
I am not--are you ready for this?--an animal person. This doesn't mean I don't like them; it means I don't connect with them very well. I used to say every dog around knew when I went to work for the post office, because they hated me from that moment on. Even my grandson's dog, Buddy, barks at me the minute I get to their house and the worst thing I've ever done to him is give him treats and pat his head. Gingerly.
I do have some memories of animals that give credence to Helen's pity for kids who grow up without them in their lives.
I grew up on a small farm. Where there were cows. We milked them by hand. They all had names, and we got attached to them. Or hated them. Cora, the Holstein, stood still and placid until the milk bucket was nearly full and then she kicked it over and slapped the milker in the back of the head with her tail in one easy motion. Myrtle loved us all and when we petted her, she would lean into us and knock us flat. The barn cats showed us how they could dance when we sprayed milk directly into their mouths. At milking time, when the cats gathered in the stable with the cows, our collie, Mort, babysat the kittens in the hayloft. He lay with them snuggled into his fur until their mothers came back.
We had free-range chickens and ducks before it was in vogue. They ranged all over the barnyard, which would have been fine if there'd been litter boxes for their use. I grew up barefoot. Do you get my drift? We also had pigs, about whom I will say nothing. Shudder.
We still live in the country. We love the deer who visit our yard on nearly a daily basis and enjoy the birds, but we don't have any livestock or even any dogs.
I do love my outdoor cats, Gabe and Susie. Gabe came to us as a baby 12 years ago, Susie several years later. She was a stray, and starved--we don't know how old she is. Gabe is the black one, Susie the tortoiseshell. They sun themselves on top of the trash can. We have seen the man who picks up our trash literally lift them off the lid, empty the can, and lift them back up. Not that they are lazy or spoiled. Well, yes, maybe.
|Susie and Gabe|
I put animals in my stories, because they are such a warm and sweet part of the fabric of our lives. It goes right long with being a Heartwarming author. Aren't we the lucky ones?
And maybe I am an animal person after all. At least sort of. Especially if the animals are cats.