Friday, August 14, 2015

Talking Animals

I'm going off the reservation this week.  Rather than a devotional, I'd like to share some memories of animal friends, many of them long gone. What brings this to mind tonight is the loss of my niece's dog, Monte, after a long illness.

Don't worry - I'm not going to be morbid. What I've been thinking about is how my mom related to animals.  On the farm we had cows, pigs, dogs, ducks, and of course, barn cats. What we didn't have was animals in the house.  Not officially, that is. I loved my cats and would always have a special one or two that I would bring into the house for a few minutes . . . or an hour. Sooner or later Mom would say, "Put that cat out."

They loved to walk all over "Grandma".
 At lower right under her arm is Oksana -
I still have her 21 years later!
As an adult I had my own apartment and for the first time a bona fide house cat. When it became necessary to move home, there was no question about Cindy moving in with me. It mushroomed from there. Together Mom and I bottle fed six kittens (not all at the same time). The deal was that they would stay in the house until they were old enough to go out to the barn.  Somehow they never got old enough to go out to the barn.

We had an initiation process for all of our dogs. Mom had an old plaid scarf. She wore that thing on her head for most of my life. At some point it became (my) tradition to bring the dog in the house and put the scarf on its head. There is nothing so funny as a dog wearing a granny scarf. I literally fell over laughing when I put the scarf on my dog Sara's head. Sara laughed, too (I swear she did) and ran over to Mom to get an opinion.

My animals all called my mom Grandma. And they spoke to her -- using my voice, of course. I've always made my animals talk. Some people might find that a little crazy, but it certainly helped out when I wrote my first children's book

What was funny was that when they asked Grandma a question, she never answered me. She looked at the animal who was addressing her and answered it. I remember one time we were doing first aid on a duck (more on that next week) and Joey the cat came over to sniff the duck. 

Joey said, "Grandma, I like this, this -- what did you call it?"

Mom picked Joey's front legs up, looked him in the eyes and said, "Ducky Lucky."

This from the woman who always tried to act tough when it came to animals. In many ways, she was as bad as me!  It wasn't unusual for me to have a cat or two or three in bed with me. They make great foot warmers in the winter.  But Mom always said she didn't like animals in her bed. That is, not until Daniel came along. She (yes, I know - we made a mistake on the gender, but she learned her name and I couldn't change it!) was one of the kittens we bottle fed. We nursed her through an illness and was the sweetest little thing. She always stayed petite, which made her even more endearing. When Daniel decided she wanted to sleep in Grandma's bed at night, Mom didn't chase her off.  Mom got a towel so Daniel could sleep on one corner of the bed.
"Grandma" and Sparkle

At Mom's funeral we brought an electronic photo album that we let run for the visitors. Many of the photos included not only her human family, but animals, as well. Almost against her will she became known as an animal person.

As my family bids farewell to Monte, I think Mom would have been sad, too. I doubt she would ever admit that she loved her animals. She always said, "You can't love anything that can't love you back." Her actions throughout her life spoke louder than her protests, however. And as any animal lover will tell you, animals do love you back.

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