On cats and dogs. And chickens. And a horse. And a mule.
Halloween night 1976. One of my older brothers returned from a youth group party with a package under his arm which he quietly placed in my mom’s lap. It was a puppy — a little black puppy. A friend’s dog had a litter and this was the last one.
I woke up the next morning, it being two days after my birthday, and was overjoyed at my new present. Of course, it was my dog — whose else would it be that close to my birthday? We had other dogs and a couple of cats in the past, but I was too young to remember them. My mom developed cat allergies, and the elder brothers were too busy to help with the dogs.
Our Halloween dog, Spooky, lived with us for 13 years – the only pet my folks kept around. That’s what got me started on allergy shots and antihistamines. I was willing to live with those things if I could have Spooky in the house.
This morning I woke up with a cat sleeping against my leg, a dog on the other side of the bed, and a second cat meowing in my face from atop my bedside table. This is now typical.
In our little house, we have five cats and two dogs. In the backyard coop, we have two hens. On a local farm, we have a horse and a mule. I married into all this. It’s crazy, preposterous, loud, and hilarious.
When the dogs go out in the backyard, little Elsa always has to be the first one at the door. She will literally shove her sister Stella out of the way to get that spot. The door opens and the dogs practically trample one of the cats who’s waiting to come in. Then another cat wants out. And another. And another. And another. Phoebe, Bella, Junebug, and Camille. The only cat who doesn’t go outside, as much as he thinks he wants to, is Flynn.
The chickens are a new thing. We ordered 3 hen chicks this past January, and they arrived at the start of March. We get a call from the post office that we have a box that’s cheeping — we need to pick them up before six. Our big problem: this was the day that our house got flooded into the second floor, and our coop was on its way to the Mississippi, and our yard was a lake.
We are grateful for friends who took the chicks in and raised them for six weeks while we lived in our church gymnasium for the next four months. Once we bought a house in town — on high ground, with a big backyard — the chickens could finally come home to us. Except only two of them were hens, and an extra rooster had been packed in the box.
Luckily, we re-homed the boys, and the lovely ladies, Belinda and Brandi, have been gifting us with eggs these past number of months. I don’t have much interaction with Eddie the horse and Buck the mule outside of occasionally accompanying my wife to the farm to feed them and to say hey to the other equines. And ducks. And chickens. And sheep.
The sheer beauty of all these critters, along with their unique personalities and antics, keeps us entertained every single day. Elsa the dog is a cat whisperer. They all love her, especially Phoebe who will cuddle next to her on the couch. Oh, yeah, we don’t sit on the couch. Apparently, the couch — along with seven other beds, sofas, and chairs — are all critter-occupied.
Stella loves people, but not other animals all too much. Bella the cat will only drink from the bathroom sink. Flynn, the ginger cat, has thumbs on his front paws. Plus, I haven’t even mentioned the young cat who hangs out on our front porch and back deck and loves to snuggle on our laps. Hunter (we call him Stinker) makes his way to a few different houses. The folks next door leave him food in the mornings, as well as a porch bed. Every now and then, when he tries to get in our house, I have to look twice to make sure he’s not one of ours. But, we consider him just that.
I still get allergy shots and take Zyrtec every day. It’s a lovely price to pay to live with such an amazing menagerie.