Recently Sue and I volunteered with Best Friends to work a pet adoption weekend. Over two days nearly a hundred dogs and cats were adopted. The people that gave those creatures a place in their hearts were easy to pick out. In addition to being the folks happily walking, snuggling and rubbing the ears of their new best friend they were also the ones wearing stickers that read, “I Saved A Life Today”.
Seeing all those happy pets and people made me think of the dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc. I’ve met traveling over these last four years. Growing up I never thought of myself as an animal person. My first pet was a black and white cat that ran away. It’s great escape took her three doors down. She moved in with a paranoid schizophrenic. Of course we kids simply referred to her as “crazy Mary”. Mary thought that everyone was out to get her and shared her concerns with neighbors by writing her thoughts on pieces of paper and then taping them all over her windows.
Peeking out from under that jumble of paranoid thought was my black and white cat. Like most cats she seemed content enough and a bit self-absorbed. Each time I walked past the window our eyes would meet. Her look wasn’t one of longing or loss. It was more like, “Yeah, Mary has issues but you’re not living in paradise either. Keep walking, I’m fine.”
I don’t recall feeling sad when the cat moved out. Even if I wanted it back I was too scared to ask for it. Mary was known for swinging bats at meter-readers and other uninvited guests. About a year later the authorities came for Mary. She put up a hell of a fight and left in full restraints yelling and kicking as best she could. That day her delusions became reality; people were after her and they finally got her. It must have been a terrifying experience for Mary. What ever happened to the black and white cat I don’t know.
A couple of years later while in junior high my boss at the bike shop gave me a black lab with an oddly bent tail. Halfway down the tail instead of curving up it took a sharp, nearly 45-degree bend to the right. He didn’t want the dog because, “it’s too dumb to be a hunting dog”. Nonetheless I invested in books, fetch toys and even animal scents along with hours of throwing and dragging make believe birds through the backyard. But the black lab and I never saw a duck, pheasant or any other wildlife together because after a few mouths she disappeared just like the cat.
The following summer on a bike ride to the YMCA I found her. She appeared just as happy in that stranger’s backyard as my cat did in Mary’s window. I thought, “Why rock the boat?” But each time I bicycled past or in later years drove bye we would give each other a long stare. Occasionally from the bike I would softly say, ”Hi Lady”, and she would perk up as if she was waiting for me to throw a toy.
Over the last fifteen years I’ve rescued, enjoyed and given away half a dozen dogs and cats. Now is not a good time for me to own a pet but I do enjoy helping them find a home. Looking back I guess my relationship with animals has been mostly associated with their relocation. But nonetheless I see myself someday wearing one of those stickers that read, “I Saved A Life Today”.