Growing up I always had a dog. I never knew it any other way. When I was born, my parents had Gretel. After Gretel was Pandy. After Pandy was Suzy and Belle. I didn’t know what life was like without a dog. I was closest with Suzy. She gave me so much love and comfort. You don’t realize how much comfort and love a pet can give until you experience it.
When I was doing home visits counseling families, I found a little white kitten at my client’s home on the East Side of Buffalo in a very rough neighborhood. She was crying and starving, and I wanted to take her home with me. That dirty tiny little kitten turned out to be pure white, beautiful and my best friend. She was by my side every day as I cried and cried about the bad relationship I was in. She was right by my side when I finally ended that relationship for good and met my husband. She was by my side when I got married and had three babies.
Seth had two cats when I met him, and we couldn’t have been more thankful when we blended our cats and they lived well together for many years. My kids didn’t know any different than having cats. We had three cats when they were all born. They grew up with our cats Hope, Checkers and Pouncer. Then they started to get old and sick. The hardest part of having a pet is watching them grow old. It is all worth it, is what I tell everyone.
One by one our elderly cats died, and my son Max was grieving worse than any of us. He cried and cried and begged me to get him kittens. My husband was grieving our three cats in a different way than my son and was asking me for time to grieve without adopting any new pets. I was stuck in the middle of my men. I hated coming home to a house with no pets. I had never remembered a house without pets. They were always there to greet me and always gave me so much love. My house was feeling so empty without my cats. My way of grieving is adopting more animals and Seth’s way of grieving was to just have time to sit with his grief.
As I watched my son get sadder and sadder, we began to start visiting kittens. My dear friend Amber suggested taking us to the rescue where she adopted her cat to cheer us up after ice cream one summer day. I absolutely loved watching my kids with all the cats and kittens. They were bringing them so much joy.
Max continued to beg me for kittens and Seth continued to ask me to wait. One day Max saw our kitten Faith. He knew she was our cat and when we left the rescue place, he was a mess in the car. Max told me that he wanted to name sister cats Faith and Joy. Knowing that my recently deceased cat was Hope, those names couldn’t have been more perfect. I always wanted to name a cat Faith to go with Hope.
I told Seth about Faith and that her black and white sister was at the vet because of an infected toe. I told him that I wanted to foster Faith and her sister and see how it goes. He wasn’t amused with me. We hadn’t met Joy yet because she was at the vet, but I knew in my heart that I was supposed to wait for her. I am so glad I waited for Joy. She is such a love and I am so attached to her.
I put my son’s needs above my husband’s needs (not so nice of me) and we fostered and then adopted Faith and Joy. I thought that because Seth’s boy brother cats were black and white that it would warm his heart that we adopted black and white sisters. I think it actually made it harder for him.
Max turned into a different child instantly. He was absolutely in love with Faith and Joy. They were always next to him and he was always petting and cuddling them. I would find Max gaming, with Faith and/or Joy cuddled on his lap. He was smiling again and so happy. I knew I did the right thing for him. Sometimes a mother knows best. I can’t even begin to tell you the benefits of adopting pets for your children. I know you may be thinking about the bills, the pee, the poop, the puke and the time. I am here to tell you that it is all worth it!
I know that you have heard about all of this in other blogs, but it deserves more attention today. I will explain why as I go on.
I had been begging my husband for a dog for 15 years, and he always said no. On Facebook a friend of mine posted a picture with her new golden retriever puppy. I showed it to Seth. He said, “If I were to get a dog, that’s the kind of dog I would get.” I took that to be as close to a “yes” as I was going to get. I arranged a time to go meet the boy golden retriever puppy from the same litter that didn’t have a home yet. This was the only puppy left. I made sure to not get my hopes up yet. I was sure that Seth was going to say no. When we walked into that home and met the puppy, the puppy instantly ran to Seth and started playing with him. When we went outside to “talk,” Seth was tearing up and told me that this was our dog. I couldn’t believe it. After we went to the pet store for supplies, I let Seth go pick up Tanner by himself to give him his own private time to bond with Tanner first. This was going to be Seth’s best friend. I could tell right away.
Faith, Joy and Tanner instantly became a part of our family. I knew that the kittens would accept Tanner because they were so young. I was hopeful that if we got all three as kittens and a puppy together that it would go well. Thankfully I was right. I know the introduction doesn’t always go well and I know that it tends to take a lot of time and patience.
My husband would go to work, my kids would go to school, and there were Faith, Joy and Tanner looking at me. Tanner would give me puppy dog eyes to take him for long walks. I would find Faith and Joy just sitting at my feet watching me type, do dishes, laundry, etc. They love to lay in the middle of the bed when I fold laundry. It’s my favorite thing because Hope used to do that too. I miss Hope every day.
A year and a half goes by and COVID-19 begins. We are home in quarantine as a family. My husband moves his work computer home to work at home and my kids begin distance learning. It was/is a stressful time as you all know. I would start to notice how happy my pets were. I started to notice that we were home ALL the time. My pets were probably wondering what on earth was going on. They were used to us all running in and out of the house every day all day.
As my emotions ran all over the place, my pets were always right there for me. I would pet my cats and find myself relaxing and smiling. I would say my greatest coping strategy was walking Tanner a few times a day. My weight began to go down as I walked him more and more every day. I would get a little stir crazy and found myself turning to Tanner to go for a walk and to get me out of the house. I would ask Tanner if he wanted to go for a drive and he would hop in the car with me. I would cuddle him on the couch and think about how much our cats and dog were helping us through this difficult time. They were always there for us through every up and down in our life.
More and more friends began posting on Facebook that they were adopting dogs or cats. I was so happy for all of them. I knew how much my pets were helping us and I wanted that for everyone. I am happily surprised by how many friends have been adopting dogs recently. If we are stuck home, what better time to adopt a pet!
It doesn’t matter what you are going through. If you had a bad day, you will come home to happy furry faces waiting for you. If you lay down sad, your furry baby will find you. I was crying one day (I don’t even remember why) and I remember Tanner coming over to me to comfort me. I taught Tanner how to hug me. I cuddle Joy so close she is my little cuddler. Faith is just like my cat Hope and wants to sit near me. She hates when I pick her up. All three pets are so different just like my three children are so different.
My friend Jamie read my book Whinypaluza. She asked me why there wasn’t more about my pets. She knows how much my fur babies mean to me. She has seven cats, one dog and four children. I know you are thinking that is a lot of pets and even Jamie would agree with you. Each pet has a special story as to how they ended up in her home. I am so glad she filled her house with so much love. Jamie has a full and busy house and her pets mean the world to her. They have given her so much comfort and have helped all her family be in a happier place. When she lost two elderly cats that were very special to her, her family went three long years without any pets. She advised me not to make the same mistake as she saw the negative impact it had on her and her children. As they adopted each cat, I saw her family get happier and happier. I saw how it brought them together as a family. I saw how good it was for them.
Jamie, you couldn’t have been more right. I did not give my cats Hope, Checkers and Pouncer enough attention in my first book. I appreciate the insightful observation. Our pets give us so much love, comfort and joy. They deserve attention.
I know that some families have allergies. I know that some families are never home. I know there are plenty of good reasons not to adopt a pet. My advice to you is that if you are able and hesitating, stop waiting and go adopt a pet(s) for your family. They need you and you need them. You won’t regret it.
- Increased Exercise
- Decreased loneliness
- Increased health (blood pressure, cholesterol, heart health)
- Increased Socialization
- Increased time outside
- They teach kids to be more responsible.
- Give comfort, joy, endless love
- Lower your stress
- They make you feel safe.
- Reduce anxiety and depression
- More fun / play time
- The BEST therapy!
Go love a fur baby!
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R