A three-hour drive home on a Sunday morning at the beginning of a new year seems like as good a time to reflect on life as any. So today, as I came home from a relaxing visit with a wonderful old friend (all alone in my new-to-me Rav4), I thought about everything I have to be thankful for, and many of the goals I still need to set and reach. I also thought back on a Kurt Vonnegut quote that I love… “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'” I think of this quote often, when I am happy, and I try to enjoy it, but also consider why that moment is so special.
Today, it was a combination of things…
First and foremost, as it should be, are my children. I love them more than life, but recently our time together has been pretty strained. I could pretend that life is perfect, but we all know that isn’t true for anyone. We have suffered a bit lately because of being busy, different personalities developing, stress all around, and lots of other factors. Something I need to work on is providing them with more structure, never my strong suit. I’m more of a free spirit, do-whatever-I-feel-like-in-the-moment type of person, and that doesn’t always work in parenting.
I’m looking forward to seeing them this evening, and to putting some new ideas into place that we have worked on together. Ideas that will turn to actions and hopefully new habits that will cut back on some of those stresses. Less phone time, more reading time. Journaling, especially about what we are grateful for. All of us showing one another respect. Less yelling, more talking and listening. Trying our best to leave school/work/outside relationship anxieties and pressures at the door and making our home back into a peaceful sanctuary where we all feel safe and loved. And appreciated.
Money, unfortunately always an issue, has been tight. That’ll happen when you have multiple major home repairs within a few months, not to mention November and December birthdays, followed immediately by Christmas. Also, vet bills, doctor bills, bills, bills, bills. Although taking classes and doing student teaching were quite obviously my smartest career move yet, the six months with little to no income it required took a lasting toll on finances. Getting caught up in the near future is something I am looking forward to, and it really feels like it’s going to happen.
Speaking of teaching, I go back to work tomorrow after two weeks off. It has been an enjoyable break, overall, despite a bout of depression somewhere in the middle there. It is not something I talk about often, but I, like so many others, do struggle with anxiety and depression. I have to work to get myself back into the right way of thinking, and there are times I need to let myself stew in it for a minute. I can just never stay there, but crawling out of the hole is sometimes easier said than done. This weekend went a long way in getting over my stresses and getting my mind right to get back in the swing of things. I’m trying to finish up some work today and get ready to help motivate my kids to go back to school tomorrow as well.
I am thankful that I have a job that I love. I am not dreading going back tomorrow, and that is huge considering how I have felt about jobs in the past. I am looking forward to seeing my students and helping them achieve more.
My daughter is on new meds that I hope will help with her migraines. She takes pride in her work, and I love watching her dedication turn into success. My son is starting off the second semester with new accommodations that I expect will help him to see more success in school as well, and I really hope these changes will help ease some of his tension.
I am also loving our involvement with Misty Eyes and all our work with saving animals. I am proud to be a part of current and future efforts to educate the youth on the importance of kindness and responsible behavior with animals.
On top of all this, I am starting master’s classes Saturday, and I am so excited about this new chapter! I feel like we are exactly where we need to be in so many ways, and that we are setting ourselves up to keep getting better.
I guess my point in writing this is to say, life gets hard, but then it also gets totally amazing. If I don’t teach my kids anything else in this world, I hope that they can learn from my successes and my mistakes. I wish for them that they will catch on early in the game that life really is, for the most part, what you make of it. We are all, always, a work in progress, and if you don't think that's true, then I think you're doing life wrong.
Staying positive, looking at the bright side, continuing to work hard, and loving yourself, but also putting in constant effort to grow, evolve, and improve are keys to a happy and fulfilling life. I wish it hadn’t taken me 40 years to fully realize this!
Note: The above photo gallery is simply some highlights from our break. :)
TGIF. I am saying that wholeheartedly today, even though we have a busy weekend planned, and despite the fact this was the only day this week that I was able to be at work for the entire day. Life is throwing a lot at me right now, but we also accomplished some positive things this week, and I know, it could always be worse. It has been worse before, and it may get worse again. Things have still been piling up though.
My recent life in a nutshell… let’s just start with Sunday:
This may seem like a blog full of complaints, but I really don’t mean it that way. Life is good, and I feel so fortunate for so many things, including my two beautiful children, and that we have been able to find the resources to help them, along with the fact that I have a house, even when it’s falling apart, and of course for homeowner’s insurance. And I am thankful for the time we have gotten with our kitty Olive, even though it has been far too short.
Also, back to the subject of that birthday party tomorrow, Jae has opted to collect donations for Misty Eyes Animal Center in lieu of gifts this year. If you are interested in making a donation, visit www.mistyeyes.org/donate. We also still always need more volunteers and fosters. If you are interested in learning more about our new Impact Program, read my last Misty Eyes blog at www.mistyeyes.org/blog.
This week, I’m facing a decision that every pet owner dreads. My gorgeous mama kitty Olive, our first foster kitty, started losing weight a few weeks ago, and now her kidneys are failing. The exact cause is unknown, but that doesn’t even really matter right now. She is dying, and I can choose to make her hold on for our sake or do the humane thing and choose euthanasia.
I have dealt with this type of decision before, but this time is so much different. With an 11- or 12-year-old dog, or a 16- or 17-year-old cat, the choice is still hard, and it still rips my heart out, but she is only 2 years old. When we brought her in, she was scrawny and still really a kitten herself, and had four sweet babies who we watched her raise. Misty Eyes found them homes (except for Hatter, who we also fell in love with and adopted).
And then Olive blossomed… up until a few months ago, when she was at her peak. She was a beautiful and majestic queen, with flowing fluffy fur, and a loving demeanor that is rare in a cat. She ran the house, and she regally watched over us all from atop her cat tower.
We were so proud of her progress, and we loved (and still love) her so much. And then suddenly, everything changed – she started to get skinny and her fur has lost its luster. She was still acting like herself up until only a few days ago. She has begun to lose her appetite, and she has continued to lose weight. She is not as social as usual, and she seems to be in a daze much of the time.
Since she is so young, the vet recommended hospitalizing her for 2-3 days, flushing her kidneys, and observing her for improvement. The cost for all of this was already up to about $1600 on the low end. If this would guarantee her survival and I could have her another 15 years, as I planned, then I would probably do my best to scrape up the funds.
On the other hand, we could put this poor cat, who doesn’t understand what is happening, through all that and she still may not survive much longer. She may not recover. Or, she may get better, and since we don’t really know the cause of her kidney failure, it could happen again.
I did end up bringing Olive home with me yesterday. I wanted the kids to see her again, and I have been trying to snap myself out of denial about the situation. She was so healthy and beautiful not too long ago. I keep trying to think back and pinpoint when she started showing signs of weight loss. With her long hair, it was not noticeable at first. And apparently by the time they start losing weight, the kidneys are already beginning to fail, so could I have caught it in time anyway?
These are questions I will never be able to answer. And many people, I am sure, will say she is just a cat. But, when you open your home and your heart to such a loving creature, how can your heart not break she is going through this kind of pain and struggle? In the end, I will have to make the best decision for her, so that when it is her time to go, she may go peacefully and with dignity, and I will be holding her in my arms.
Layla and I bonded during the birth of her puppies. I had never been through anything like that with an animal, and I was proud and excited to be a part of it. The miracle of life! And the puppies were beautiful. So much fun… and so much poop. It was a crazy summer. Thank goodness I had gotten my teaching job and we were off for the summer to dedicate more time to them!
The babies grew, and grew, and grew some more. I am pretty sure, as I am writing this, that all four of them outweigh their mother by now, and they aren’t even six months old yet. I love when the center gets an update on one of them. Abraham’s new family sent a photo of him yesterday, and he is HUGE and beautiful!
The puppies created quite a stir on social media. They were four handsome boys, and we think the father was Great Pyrenees, so they will probably all end up being more than 100-pounders. Poor Layla, at only around 50 pounds… no wonder she was acting so crazy when we first got her! And then when they kept trying to nurse while all four were around 20 pounds, it was a hard time for her. We were sad to see the pups go, but after they were all adopted and out of the house, anyone could see that Layla was relieved to have some time to herself.
While the puppies were still around, Layla had to go stay with two different families when I went on trips in July. She acted so happy when we got her back, and we missed her! We really wanted to keep her, but I was still not planning to adopt another dog, or at least not anytime soon. Also, in the middle of all of this, she tried to burn my house down. She apparently was trying to get some pizza off the stovetop and turned on a burner, which then melted and caught a plastic pitcher on fire. The kids and I came home to a house full of black smoke and the smoke alarms going off.
Long story short, I put out the fire and sent all eight animals we had at the time (Ella, Olive, Hatter, Layla, and the four puppies) out the front door for the kids to collect them. We chose to be grateful rather than sad about the fire, as we came home in time, and everyone was safe! And it really wasn’t Layla’s fault. She was starving due to nursing those giant puppies! Plus, we got to live in a hotel suite for two weeks while our house got painted and fixed up.
Anyway, we thought another family was going to adopt Layla, and although we were sad, we knew it was a wonderful home and were happy for her. The kids and I talked it over as a family many times, and agreed that we could let Layla go, as we knew she would be happy and well-cared-for. As luck would have it, she ended up coming back to us, and we are honored that we get to be her forever family. She had her leg surgery, and she is healing well. She is happy and SO much a different dog than when we first met her. We are thankful for her, and grateful to Misty Eyes for everything they have done for her, and for bringing her into our lives!
That brings us up to four pets of our own now – two dogs and two cats – but we started fostering cats again in July as well. We have had up to five at a time (three right now). The litter boxes aren’t so much fun, but otherwise, fostering brings us a whole lot of pleasure. Many people seem to think we are crazy, or they wonder what it is that we get out of it.
Some common questions we get…
We have also decided to spend more time volunteering with Misty Eyes Animal Center. I am the new “outreach program lead,” and feel fortunate to be a part of the great things this growing organization is doing. Everyone involved in the rescue is a volunteer, and there are plenty of people who put in a whole lot more hours than I do.
Questions or comments? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 2017… this was a month that has changed our day-to-day lives forever. Number one, I completed a Transition to Teaching program, and got my teaching license! This was no easy task, with everything else we were going through at that time, but I did it! Number two, we began fostering cats.
That summer was rough. I had to quit my job as an instructional assistant in February that year to do my student teaching, so I had little to no income for months. We had a friend, his son, and his cat staying with us. I loved having them here, but let’s face it, five people in a three-bedroom house is kind of crowded, especially when everyone involved is fairly stressed … me with no money, him looking for a place to live, and the three kids having to share their space and toys all day every day.
I made one of my famously impulsive decisions to start fostering a mama cat and four kittens. My children and I went to pick them up, and my niece and nephew, in Terre Haute late one evening. Through some badgering from all four kids, I had agreed that we would adopt the mommy cat, but the four kittens must go, I said! We brought them home and we LOVED having so many little kitties to love! (By the way, the day after we got the cat and kittens home, I took all the kids back to Terre Haute to meet my newborn great-niece. What a beautiful and happy day for our family!)
If it has not become clear through these blogs, I seem to enjoy (positively charged) chaos. With the house full of people and animals for me to care for, my heart was also full. We named the mama cat Olive, after our sweet dog Ollie who had passed. She and my friend’s cat Jojo were not thrilled with each other’s existence, to say the least. It added to some of tenseness already in the air, but we dealt with it. As the kittens were weaned, they began being adopted out, one by one.
We took in another kitten, Agnes, and she too was adopted. Only one kitten was left, little Hatter. He had developed the most adorable friendship with our dog Ella. Convincing ourselves that Ella needed a buddy, and that she was missing our old pets as much as we were, we decided to keep Hatter as well. This is what those in the business call a “foster fail,” but whatever. My friend found a place of his own in August 2017, so we were settled in with myself, my kids, our dog, and our two cats.
This went on for a while. I needed a break from fostering. I was trying to find a “real” teaching job (which I did in October 2017, and I LOVE it!!). We were trying to get our house in order. But, eventually the fostering bug struck again. We decided to try out fostering a dog. In March of this year, we picked up a young, black German Shepherd mix named Araya. Sweet, but wild! We were used to laid-back Ella, and this was too much! We only had her a few weeks before she was adopted, but I wasn’t sure about the whole dog-fostering thing.
Then came Layla. For whatever reason, we decided to take a chance and foster her. The first week was HELL. She peed on my couch. We crated her, but she managed to chew up our couch through the small squares of the crate! She pulled trim off from around my front door. She chewed up my daughter’s winter coat. She totally freaked out every time we left. She had an injured leg, so she hadn’t been spayed yet. Misty Eyes was going to get her leg surgery and spay done at the same time, so we were waiting for the vet to decide the best course of action.
Layla eventually settled down some, and we grew to love her personality. But then she started getting fatter and acted hot and out of breath all the time. I didn’t know what was wrong with her. Then she started peeing on the floor frequently. Then she was pacing at night and couldn’t settle down. I wasn’t sure I could deal with it anymore, even though she was so sweet.
One weekend while the kids were at their dad’s, my mom came to spend the night and hang out with me. My mom put her hand on Layla’s belly, and said she felt movement… puppies? Layla continued to get worse with the panting and pacing so I texted Jennifer at Misty Eyes and said, “Is it possible she could be pregnant?” She said, “Yes, it’s possible!” Yikes!!! We were not prepared for this! Jennifer offered to try and find another foster, but we decided to stick it out, and I am so glad we did.
A couple days later, on Memorial Day, Layla was in labor. I spent the entire day shut in my son’s room with her while she struggled through the labor and birth. The kids were so excited, but I was trying to keep them from stressing her out, so they would pop in from time to time and I would tell them to be quiet. It ended up being an amazing experience for all of us. Layla had four beautiful (and huge) puppies, and we spent our entire summer caring for them.
Fostering is fun! Ask me about it! Email me at email@example.com.
From 2013 until now, really, the years have been full of major transitions for myself and my children. To say our pets have helped us through it would be an understatement. I went from spending nearly every minute with both kids, as a stay-at-home and then work-at-home mom, to losing them every other weekend and sometimes for as much as nine days at a time in the summer. I always feel like a piece of me is gone with them. During these times, I admit, I rely heavily on my animals for comfort and companionship.
I left a horrible relationship in October 2013. If you remember, we had seven pets to deal with. Seven. I took them all with me and went to stay with family. This was not a sustainable situation, for obvious reasons. I was able to find us a rental house in December 2013, but we were only allowed two pets. I took three. Ella the dog and my two oldest cats, Miles and Benny.
My brother and his family took Ollie the dog, and my mother took Ikey the cat. My ex took back Fred and Ted. All of these were on the condition that we would get the animals back when we were in a home where we could have them. (Fred and Ted have never been returned, but what can you do?)
During our time in the rental house, in 2014, both Miles and Benny passed away, within a month or two of one another. So, we were down to just Ella. We got an apartment in December 2014, and after a while there, we got Ikey back from my mom. I did not tell the apartment complex, but got caught with him, so that was $50 extra a month, for a 6-pound cat.
In August 2016, I pulled off one of my proudest accomplishments… I bought a house. It had been a dream of mine for so long – a nice house for just the three of us, in a safe neighborhood, close to their school. What a wonderful feeling! As an added bonus, we could finally get Ollie back! We moved in, had a privacy fence built, and a week later, my brother and nephew brought Ollie to us. It was such a happy day!
Unfortunately, a benign cyst that Ollie had on his back leg for years began to grow and change shortly thereafter, and then his front leg began to swell for an unknown reason. Vets were baffled, and they tried a couple of different (very expensive) surgeries to try to help. This was a terrible time. Ollie was in pain and I was not sleeping, as I was up every night crying and caring for him, trying to make him comfortable. We were not willing to let go yet, as it seemed that he was getting better from whatever had caused it.
In November, he got to see my brother and his family again, at my son’s birthday party. He was happy and acted fine. We all thought he was on the mend. The next day, he had trouble getting onto my bed and seemed to be in pain again. I found that his inner leg was bruised and angry-looking. I took him to the emergency vet, and they said it appeared to be cancer. I was already thousands in debt at this point, and Ollie had suffered long enough.
He went with me to see everyone one last time on Thanksgiving. Then the next morning, I cooked him some eggs, one of his favorite treats, took him to the nature park for one last long walk together, bought him a burger at Steak n Shake, and then took him to the vet to say goodbye. After he passed, they took him from my arms and later told me that they found several tumors all over his body, so we had made the right decision to save him from more pain. So many tears were shed for him, by the entire family. He had won all our hearts, and now they were broken. I felt I could never bear to go through this type of loss again.
Now we only had Ella and Ikey left. Fred and Ted are still living, but not with me, so Ella and Ikey were all I had left of those seven animals that had been mine. And within a couple of months after Ollie’s death, our sweet little Ikey started to go downhill rapidly as well. He had been diagnosed with hyperthyroid disease many years earlier and was on medication for it, but it was getting to be impossible to keep his levels regulated. He kept losing weight despite treatment, and eventually had to be put down in March 2017. He was 17 years old. I counted up once that he had lived in around 11 different homes with me over the years! So now there was only our beloved Ella.
Again, I vowed that we would not get another pet. It was just too painful to lose them, and their lives are too short! Still, my love for animals drove me to want to continue helping, and we missed having cats. That is when I began considering the option of fostering, as it seemed a win-win. We get to love pets and help them find homes, but we don’t have to go through the deaths! I started looking into it, and that is when I found Misty Eyes Animal Center in Avon, Ind.
I had been to one of their events before, but I did not know a lot about the organization. I ended up contacting Misty Eyes in May or June of that year, and I believe it was one of the best decisions I have made for my kids and myself.
More about fostering to come soon… if you would like more info on it, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I have always been an animal lover. Growing up, we were limited to one cat for most of my life (Taffy, a Siamese), but when I was a teenager, we ended up with two in the house... Tootie and Louie. Tootie was mine, and Louie, my brother’s, but they both ended up being my mom’s when I was out of the house.
Once I moved out on my own, I started collecting more cats. My first boy of my own, Miles, was my sidekick. He came from the Terre Haute Humane Shelter. He had been taken from his mommy too soon, and I would wake up to him “nursing” on my t-shirt or blanket. Other times, I would wake up to him attacking me to play. I was hooked. He would go places with me, riding on my lap in the car, and looking up at me lovingly the whole way. And he was such a beauty, silver and sleek, and I loved him deeply for all of his 16 years.
A year later, we decided he needed a friend. I adopted Benny from the Clay County Humane Shelter. He was a tuxedo cat. He was gorgeous, but always a tortured soul. We loved him so much, and he was a wonderful friend for Miles, as we had hoped, but he was temperamental and didn’t adjust well to change. And he went through a LOT of changes with me through his 15 years. He was always a challenge, and went through valium, kitty Prozac, and more, but he never really was a happy or well-adjusted cat, though very loving when he felt like it.
A few months after Benny was adopted, I came home from work one day to find a little orange ball of fur curled up on the back of my couch. He was a surprise from my boyfriend at the time, acquired from one of his friends whose cat had kittens. If you are keeping track, that’s three cats now, all close in age. We named him Ike, a.k.a. Ikey, a.k.a. Ike E. Pants. He went on to be a loving companion to me and eventually inspired my daughter’s first word, “kitty,” many years later when they became best friends.
My next pet was Greta, an apparent Rottweiler/German Shepherd mix, who showed up in the Terre Haute Days Inn parking lot when I was working there in my college years. She was about 4 months old and I loved her fiercely. I had never had my own dog, or a dog indoors, and she was extremely intelligent and loyal, crazy strong, and more than a little frightening at times. It was an interesting journey with Greta, and she lived to be 12. I felt bad about her later years, as we could not trust her around our children so much, though they remember and love her still.
Next was Ollie, an 8-week-old goofball of a dog, who we adopted from a friend’s cousin, who found him near the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point, Indiana. He was crazy at times, but that was part of his charm. He was the sweetest dog a person could ever ask for, even though a bit wild and clumsy, a challenge to potty train, and he loved to get in the trash. Nevertheless, he was wonderful. I will miss him forever. During my divorce transition, he lived with my brother and his family. I am eternally grateful for the unconditional love they gave him during that time. We finally got him back when I bought my current house, but unfortunately, he wasn’t around long after that. We all went through a terribly rough time with losing him at age 11.
Next were Fred and Ted, who came along at four days old, along with their sister. My ex-husband brought them home from his work, where they had been born in a Caterpillar machine that had to be moved for rental. I bottle-fed them and nurtured them, planning to find homes for them when they were ready. The little girl, unfortunately, died at a few weeks old. She just wasn’t eating and there was nothing I could do to save her.
Fred quickly became my daughter’s first love (she was 3, almost 4) and Ted became my son’s (he was 1, almost 2). So, obviously, I had no choice but to keep them. Fred and Ted are now 8 years old and still flourishing, though I, sadly, no longer have them. Luckily for the kids, they still get to spend time with their precious kitties at their dad’s house.
Add all of these up… we now had seven pets. Seven. In a two-bedroom house, and if you noticed, I also had two children by this time. In 2011, Greta got lung cancer. She was filled with tumors when the vet discovered it. She had to be euthanized to save her from suffering any more, and I held her as she died. I will never forget it, and it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, up to that point. She had been with me through some of the best and worst times of my life. I did not think I would have the heart to adopt another dog at that point, but Ollie convinced me otherwise.
Ollie had been with Greta since he was a baby. She wasn’t always the nicest to him, but he loved her so. After she was gone, his howling would wake me in the night, and I would cry again over our shared pain and loss. It was not long until we decided he needed a friend. That is where Ella came in, in 2012.
There are no words to describe how much Ella has meant to me and my children since she came into our lives. She is gentle, patient, kind, and a beautiful soul. She has been with us through a divorce, loss of our other pets, three new pets, 19 and counting foster pets, multiple moves, sickness, health, great times, low times, and everything in between. She has been a rock to our little family – a source of boundless love and joy – and the thought of losing her terrifies me. She is around 11 or 12 now (she was four or five when we got her), we think she’s going deaf, white hair has taken over most of her formerly black face. She is amazing, and she inspires me to continue in our journey of helping animals to have better lives.
This is already long, so I am going to stop for now… stay tuned for my next blog, when I will talk about how we got started fostering. If you have any interest in fostering or adopting animals, feel free to contact me for more info at email@example.com.
Being a parent is harder than I had ever imagined. My children go through trials and tribulations that I never would have dreamed of as a child. They demonstrate amazing strength in the face of fear, and they are succeeding, despite the obstacles.
Our daily schedule, like most people’s, is chaotic. I sometimes miss days when we actually had time to be bored. Then a day like yesterday comes along…
It started off as busy as usual, with both having soccer games at 9 a.m. It was cold, and none of last year’s pants fit them. We rushed to get ready so that we could stop by Target and buy new pants on the way. We made it to the game, each child to their respective fields, and I did the usual routine of trying to walk back and forth and watch both as much as I could.
After the games, the day turned to one of leisure. This is something we do not get often enough. We had nowhere that we had to be, and nothing to do but be together and have fun. And it was one of those days when I got to observe them in their natural state, a day that allowed all of us to escape the stresses and the worries, just for a little while.
First, we made our way down to our community yard sale. Each kid took $5.50 of their own money. I let them roam and purchase as they saw fit, and it was heartwarming. My son, predictably, went straight for the pop cooler, where he spent his first 50 cents. My daughter was drawn to the candy.
Both grabbed a piece of candy and we moved on. A very nice couple who we often greet outside was selling jewelry. My daughter snagged a pair of skeleton earrings for Halloween and my son purchased a necklace with a wooden charm, a gnome holding a rock.
He then went to the next booth, where an elderly lady who was selling her yarn creations. He got a simple red drink coaster, as his favorite color is red, and a bookmark. Then he realized that the next booth had a Spiderman mask available for $1. Alas, he was out of money.
That is when my daughter walked across, her last dollar in hand, and bought her brother the mask. She used her last 50 cents to purchase a pop for herself and we walked back home.
A little later, we were on the road to meet my mom and grandma at the BBQ and Blues Festival at McCormick’s Creek State Park, where we spent hours. I had not even felt like going earlier, but it ended up being one of those amazing days that we will likely look back on fondly forever.
I spent less than $20, and we enjoyed so many wonderful moments – dancing, singing, eating, playing, hula hooping, telling stories, exploring nature and just being happy together. We drove home in the dark, tired and content.
Looking back this morning, I realized that, in a lot of ways, my children are my heroes. They love hard and they feel deeply, and these two special little people are kind, smart and beautiful in more ways than I ever could have hoped. They make me a better person, and I am so lucky to have them as the biggest part of my life.
Today is National Love Your Pet Day, and I, like many others, posted a photo of my pet -- my dog Ella -- on social media. After posting, I started to think about all the things my pets have helped me through over the years.
Ella came into our home in February of 2012, when she was around 4 years old, and already has been with us through so many changes.
At that time, I was married, my children were 5 and 3, and we already had another dog, along with five cats. My 12-year-old dog Greta had been put down a month before, after being diagnosed with lung cancer, and going downhill quickly.
That was a heartbreaker, and as a result, I did not open my heart to Ella right away. It did not take her that long to work her way into my good graces, however.
In October 2013, my pet family had to be downsized. I left my husband, and although I wanted to take all of the animals along, there are not a lot of rental options for a family with seven pets.
Two cats -- Fred and Ted -- were sent back to live with the ex, and when all the dust settled on several other traumatic events, another cat -- Ikey -- ended up with my mom and my other dog, Ollie, is still living with my brother.
I took Ella and my two oldest cats, Miles and Benny. They both passed away in October of last year. They were 16 and 15. They had been with me since the beginning of my “adult” life. It was sad, and even worse trying to explain it to two small children.
As I write this, Ella and I are hanging out watching TV. She was born to be a good friend. She does run away every chance she gets, but she has been returned every time, always with compliments about how sweet she is.
As much work as my pets were, and as frustrating as they can be, I have a hard time imagining a life without a cat or dog companion. I will never again have more than one or two at a time, but I feel like I would not know what to do without an animal around.
Ella is all I can handle for now, but I could never ask for a better dog for my kids, or me. I have never seen any pet who is so gentle, patient and kind, and I am thankful that I get to spend this national holiday with her.