Like any cult, pet parents want to increase the membership in their cult. While Mike and I are particularly fanatical about our birds (a cult that we were indoctrinated in by my parents but have been unable to convert anyone we know to, yet), we love it any time someone we know expands their definition of family to include a pet of any kind.
A few months ago, my best friend, Jackie, did this for the first time and it’s amazing to see the change and to hear her talk about her family now. Jack has been with her boyfriend, Matt, for a few years now and they have made a life together here in Wisconsin. After years of living in overly restrictive housing that prevented Jack from getting the two things she desperately wanted, an accent wall and a puppy, they moved to a duplex in another area of the city. They are now renting directly from the homeowner, not a gigantic corporation, and enjoy more wiggle room in both areas, decoration and pet ownership.
With that opportunity in hand, Jackie and Matt decided to start considering puppy. Jackie had long been interested in adopting an adult greyhound and began getting involved with the rescue society in their city. They filled out all of the paper work, had a home visit, and made several visits to different dogs to try to find the right one for them. Finally, they met Freddy and knew he was the one.
So Freddy came to live with Jackie and Matt. As anyone who has every adopted an adult pet knows, the transition is not always immediate. Many adopted pets have come from neglectful or abusive situations and often it takes months to build trust and affection. Both of our cats, Sweetness and Stella, were adopted as adults; Sweetness became mine after my grandmother passed away and we brought Stella home from the Wood County Humane Society. Freddy has been no exception to this rule but is getting used to his new family quickly.
Freddy was a racing greyhound for the first two years of his life. After that he was placed in a rescue and put up for adoption. He is now four years old. He is finally in a forever home with Jackie and Matt and has begun to build some bonds with them. He is warming to his new home and family and I think he’s going to be very happy with Jackie and Matt.
I’m amazed at what adoption does for people, however, more than the pets. I’ve always been an advocate of pet parenthood, not just to increase membership in the cult, because owning pets makes us better human beings. Our hearts grow exponentially and our treatment of each other greatly improves when we share our lives with pets. This is a lesson that many of us know about children: children are kinder to each other and to animals when raised in homes with pets. But this works for adults, too. Being a pet parent has made a huge difference in my life: in the ways that I deal with stress, in the ways that I treat other people and other animals, in the way I feel about myself and my place in this world.
There has been more than once, when I have felt like giving up, that I have pulled myself up by reminding myself that they depend on me. That I have a family that needs me.
I can see that this has happened to Jackie, too. She has always loved my pets, especially Sweetness, and been very excited and affectionate when she sees them but there was a distance there. While she understood why I loved them and valued them, she wasn’t yet a member of the cult. Now, as a pet parent, Jackie is in love with her dog and her new family in a way that makes me smile just to think about it. And she can appreciate the way that I love my family in a whole new way, as well.
Here’s to all the pet parents and pet families out there. Love each other and be grateful for all of the wonderful gifts that you give each other.