Whether we like it or not, all of us at some point in life will be forced to walk through the fire. For me, the last year has been a raging inferno, bringing with it the end of my 20-plus year marriage, two painful surgeries only 5 months apart, and the loss of my mother. Not gonna lie, I hope I never have to face another one like it again for a very, very long time.
During this time, it definitely wasn’t inner strength that carried me through. Instead, it was the outpouring of love and support from family, friends, and from another source that only those who walk through this life with animals can fully understand.
How is it possible that our pets are often able to sustain us during the most difficult times in our lives, just by their presence? They don’t speak our language, yet they’re able to communicate everything in an instant with just one look, one tilt of the head, one unsolicited act of love. Over the last year it was my furry kids who were always there, at 2am whenever I woke from a sound sleep with anxiety attacks so bad I couldn’t breathe, when I was recovering from surgery and could barely take care of myself, when sometimes it all just got to be a little too much and I ended up crying quietly alone in the kitchen. They surrounded me like little sentinels, taking turns curling up on the bed and watching me sleep, following me around wherever I went, gently coaxing me away from the pain by reminding me that life could still be beautiful and silly and fun.
Home is so much more than the place we come back to every night to lay our heads. For someone lucky enough to share their life with an animal, it’s the brush of soft whiskers, a warm gentle breath against our cheek when we’re not expecting it, a cheerful chirp or madly wagging tail whenever we walk in the door, or the look of pure, unadulterated love we catch out of the corner of our eye on the faces of those creatures who trust us enough to share their hearts, and their entire lives, with us.
So, to my sweet babies: This letter is for you.
Dear Trouble, Squirt, and Piper:
Do you even know how completely and irreversibly you’ve changed my life?
It sounds so cliche to say that you are the ones who ended up saving me, but the truth is, I don’t exactly know where I would be without you. During crisis, it’s so frighteningly easy to lose yourself, to feel like you just want to stop time and crawl under a blanket and disconnect from everyone and everything. But every morning when I open my eyes, there you are – your little faces peering into mine, reminding me that a whole new day awaits, whether I feel prepared for it or not…and besides, that food isn’t going to come out of those cans on its own!
Trouble and Squirt:
I still remember that day I first saw you 11 years ago like it was yesterday. Your mama picked a great place when she carried you into my backyard and hid you behind that big, overgrown hibiscus bush. You were so little. I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to get close to you, but with time and lots of food, you gifted me with your trust (even though your mama disappeared before I could win her over too).
I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive about permanently bringing you inside the house when you had spent your entire lives outdoors with little socialization and a pretty big mistrust of people. I wondered how you would adjust. Do you even know how proud I am of you that, 10 years later, you’ve never once used a piece of furniture as a scratching post and have never, EVER gone outside the litter box? Not. Even. Once. Your manners are impeccable, my perfect little gentlemen.
Squirt, my sweet and gentle peacemaker. You hate conflict and are always smoothing the waters. Whenever your siblings are arguing, I always know you’ll come running into the room from stage left, sliding like a baseball player into home plate, right between them. And usually they’re so surprised and distracted, they end up just walking away. With your huge, expressive eyes, you’re also the best at suckering me into giving everyone treats simply because you’re just so damn cute and polite about asking.
Trouble, you are such an amazing caretaker. I watched you and your brother as kittens when you slept, your arm around Squirt’s shoulders to keep him safe, a position you still use after all these years. And after both of my surgeries, you brought every toy mouse in the entire house into my bedroom and laid them all at the foot of my bed every night for a week, just to make sure I was provided for. Most impressive of all, right after Auntie Jen brought me home from my first surgery, you temporarily put aside all your differences with your little sister Piper and sat side-by-side with her on the bed, both of you staring at me for hours until I finally woke up and you knew I was going to be okay.
My charming, fun-loving girl. I can’t believe it’s already been 2 years since I first locked eyes with you at the adoption booth at the BlogPaws Conference. You were one of the tiniest kittens I’d ever seen, but there you were, confident and defiant and calm amidst all the noise and chaos of the exhibition hall. Somehow, our eyes met through the crowd and it was love at first sight. I was going through an extremely painful divorce at the time, and came so close to talking myself out of doing the right thing and bringing you home. But thankfully the universe had other plans, and you’re here now, sprawled across my keyboard as I write this, sound asleep.
You are so smart, it’s scary sometimes. If cats had opposable thumbs, I’m fairly certain you’d be running the world by now. Instead, you’re content to cuddle up with me at every opportunity, making me laugh with your expressive face and goofy antics and your very obvious sense of humor. Whenever you see me, you let out a happy chirp, even if it’s only been 30 seconds since the last time and I was just in the next room folding laundry.
Sometimes I look at you and your brothers, and it literally makes me tear up with gratitude. What you so freely give – your love, trust, friendship, and unconditional support – is more valuable to me than anything else in this world, because I know it is the most pure and honest thing in my life. And I know I can count on it, always.
So to my furry kids: Do you even know just how much I love you? Can you tell somehow that my heart literally feels like it’s going to burst every time you jump up on the bed, curl up next to me, gently lay your soft, warm paw on my face, close your eyes, and sigh?
I don’t deserve you.
But then, what human does?
How have your pets changed your life? Please share your story with us in the comments below!