“I taught my basset hounds to wait for my approval before crossing the street, not to nip at me for attention, and that they must attend to certain necessities outside.”
“They taught me how to find joy in a simple walk around the neighborhood, not to give up on people so easily, and that my dad loves me although I had never believed it.”
If you’ve ever shared your life with a pet–merely owning one doesn’t count–then you know that people usually get the better end of the deal in the human/animal relationship. Sure, we feed them, attend to their needs, and even indulge them. Their jobs, however, are often much more demanding and important–the stuff of changing hearts and destinies.
Author Jon Katz calls it “the new work of dogs,” but his belief about this extends well beyond dogs into other animals he shares life with–a lovable bull named Elvis, a chicken with personality plus named Henrietta, and a persnickety rooster named Winston.
The emotional connections we make with our pets change our lives for the better and teach us important life lessons.
This, Katz says, is the essence of their jobs today since most never herd sheep or eliminate mice or pull a wagon. Pets are our friends, counselors, teachers, and companions. In short, they change our lives in more ways than we could ever have imagined.
Kentucky Living readers have made the same discovery. This month we share some of your stories about lessons learned, hearts opened, and memories made with pets.
A TIME AND A SEASON
Robin Lovelace, Radcliff, Nolin RECC
Snowflake has taught me that no matter what is going on in my life, I need to enjoy every season. She seems to become one with nature whether it is snowing, raining, or the sun is shining.
In the winter, she frolics in the snow as she almost becomes a part of it. Springtime brings the rainy season, when Snowflake loves to be out under the trees letting the rain fall on her. During the summertime, you will find her stretched out on the deck enjoying every minute of the sunshine. In the fall, Snowflake rolls around in the leaves waiting on us to give her a belly rub, her favorite thing.
Snowflake has taught me to take some quiet time for myself. After all, there is a time and season for everything.
AGE WITH ACCEPTANCE AND DIGNITY
Sarah Tsiang, Richmond,
Clark Energy Cooperative
Four years ago, my daughter retired her competition barrel horse at age 16, and Bonnie became my horse.
While Bonnie is a sorrel, and I’m in my 40s, notes of The Old Gray Mare ring true. I’ve learned a lot from my large pet as we both face life at a stage some would call past our prime.
I still practice Bonnie through the pattern to remind her that she is a barrel horse. And I show her in events where she can succeed, like halter-trail. When Bonnie wins a ribbon, beating out younger and faster horses, I feel there is hope.
Bonnie has been an example for me of how to mature with acceptance and dignity. She keeps me fit and gives me confidence in my appearance. And this stately retired champion reminds me that there’s always an arena you can win in.
MIDNIGHT’S FOUR POINTERS
Amy Gilley, Shepherdsville, Salt River Electric
A solid black cat with piercing yellow eyes, Midnight taught Gilley these four truths:
1. Voice your needs loudly.
2. Differences make life interesting.
3. There’s always room for one more.
4. Be ready to make a fast getaway.
LIFE CAN BE SHORT, LIVE IT UP
Lisa Jarvis, Flatgap, Big Sandy RECC
I was diagnosed in 2005 with uterine cancer. I started chemotherapy in September, and I received the best gift ever in October–a cute little boxer puppy. We named him Hank. He has been my “therapy dog.”
He came to me at a time I needed him most. Hank has shown me that above all else, no matter what, he would be there for me. Boxers are generally hyper dogs. Hank knew something was going on in my life. Therefore, he picked up the most laid-back attitude ever. I have learned from him that life can be short, so live it the best you can while you can.
I do believe that animals are the best therapy in the world. Hanky, my boy, thanks for being there when I needed you the most.
Marty Boggs, Coxs Creek, Salt River Electric
My dog Vin taught me how to be eco-friendly and stay warm all winter long while saving on fuel/electricity.
Just stay under the covers until spring.
WATCH OUT FOR EACH OTHER
Kaitlyn Mackenzie Parker, Frankfort
I am 9 years old. My pet is a yellow Labrador retriever named Charlie.
My daddy is a Marine and has been to Iraq three times. Mommy and I never had to be afraid when Charlie was in the house. He will always protect us and watch out for us.
I have also learned that I have to be responsible for feeding Charlie each morning before I go to school. I don’t mind, though, because he watches out for me, so I’m happy I can watch out for him. I wish that everyone had a good dog like Charlie.
LOVE THE UNLOVED
Nancy Brinker, Georgetown, Blue Grass Energy Cooperative
Dogs have not been my favorite pet in the past, to say the least. After the stress associated with our previous dogs, I was the holdout on getting another one. Eventually, we chose to look for a dog that needed a good home rather than buy one bred for profit. Although this may sound noble, I was still not convinced this was a good move for me.
Little did I know that of everyone in our family, Winston would bond with me! It seemed I could understand him, as if we had some secret form of communication. There I was, as surprised as everyone else by my love for him.
Despite my previous experiences with dogs, I actually enjoyed caring for him, and dare I say “loved” him back!
Although we had rescued Winston from neglect, I think he rescued me from missing out on the joys and rewards of caring for one of God’s creatures.
BE GRATEFUL FOR LIFE
Paula Sparrow, Mt. Eden,
Kentucky Living Creature Comforts columnist
My giant schnauzer mix, Ella, was destined to be in my family. When I decided to adopt another dog, I knew I wanted a schnauzer, and I’d been thinking the name Ella would be very pretty. So when I found a schnauzer at the Christian County Animal Shelter already named Ella, I dropped everything and ran.
Ella has since become something of an inspiration to me. Here’s a dog that’s been turned in to at least two kill shelters, and yet has maintained a cheerfulness and love of life you don’t often see.
She never makes demands for attention, choosing to ask politely when I’m not busy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned around from washing dishes or making the bed to find her quietly sitting behind me, just waiting. She seems grateful for the life she has.
I think we could all learn something from this dog.
SHOW ‘EM YOU LOVE ‘EM
Nancy Blue, Cerulean
Dawn, my orange-sable Pomeranian, taught me unconditional, unmerited love. After leaping into my lap and chasing off all other dogs that sought my attention, she chose me as her person and remained the most loving, loyal friend to the day she died in my arms.
She showed me how to express joy with her ever-smiling face and eagerly wagging fluffy tail. A warm welcome on my return was another lesson. It makes you look forward to coming home.
Loyalty she showed with her constant presence, regardless of the circumstances.
Dawn taught me that discipline is an important part of life. Her quick correction of her puppies, followed immediately with comforting licks, was a wonderful example of loving care.
A friend gave me a plaque that reads, “Lord, make me the person my dog thinks I am.” She thought of me as the most wonderful being in her life, and so I try daily to live up to her shining example