Growing up, my family moved frequently as my father climbed his way up the corporate ladder. In fact, I never lived in one house for longer than two and a half years. Despite the change of scenery, we did own a few pets. But because of the difficulty of upheaving the family and our belongings, our pets never made the journey, instead they found wonderful homes with new owners. However there was one cat, Pumpkin, who was too perfect to leave behind. But despite being a member of the family for 10 years, my everchanging life as an adult has rarely called up memories of her, until now.
I have a dear friend who is struggling with a serious medical condition. She is suffering from a debilitating form of arthritis which is so severe, she is unable to straighten her back and literally walks at a 45 degree angle. Her spirits are for the most part positive but spending days alone while her loving husband works hard to help pay the growing medical bills is a psychological battle that few can win. Something had to be done to keep her mind off her struggle and an upcoming surgery and to keep her attitude going in the right direction.
Desperate, the husband confided with a friend who had adopted a pet from a local kennel weeks before. It took only one visit and the adoption process was completed in a week. I talked with my friend before Bailey had officially arrived and she was like a kid waiting on Christmas Eve for the fat guy in the red suit. She barely could contain her excitement as she spoke nonstop for 15 minutes about her big plans for the little pooch. Her husband took her to a local pet store to load up on doggie food, bed, blankets, and of course, her first doggie toy, a small rope with a loop perfect for a chihuahua. The conversation ended with a tear filled, "I haven't been this excited in a long time".
A week later I got to visit Bailey. My friend wanted to enter her in the ScanMyPetPls 2012 Pet Mascot contest. She didn't care about winning the $200 prize or the free membership, she just wanted to show her off to the public. I took my 2 year old daughter with me and she instantly bonded with Bailey. As I snapped photo after photo, I couldn't help but laugh out loud as the two wrestled and chased, kissed and in the case of Bailey licked, each followed with a scream or yelp. I noticed my friend sitting in her comfortable spot, a love seat with enough pillows to cover a twin bed. It wasn't the smile that caught my eye, it was the her disposition. She seemed like her stature had grown, her body had found a strength from years past, her face had found that expression reserved for mothers watching their child crawl for the first time.
It was then that I finally got it. Pets are about one thing and one thing only, absolute love. They exist to pull us out of our busy world full of trials and heartaches and into their world, a place where there is no cellphones ringing, no care if we missed an email, no pain caused by an incurable disease. I instantly remembered my cat Pumpkin, the joy I had as a little boy chasing her around the house, the comfort she gave to me on a sick day home from school, the times she pulled me into her world.
After 20 minutes or so and countless photos, one which is proudly displayed on the ScanMyPetPls facebook page (hope she wins), my daughter and I said our goodbyes. As I drove to the park to cash in another wonderful daddy-daughter moment I had one last reflection. I remembered holding Pumpkin in my arms as her body, mangled after being struck by a car, held on for a few more moments. Despite her injuries, there was no sad look, no sorrow, no regret. We sat there in her world for the last time, smiling.
Bailey will probably outlive my friend. She has surgery tomorrow to relieve pain and to comfort her last years. She will never be cured and slowly her body will give way. But with the addition of one of the cutest dogs I have ever seen, I feel confident that her remaining years will be spent in a world that only pet owners know. Absolute and true love.