Yesterday was National Sibling Day. I almost posted a picture of my first dog, Ray. He was my brother and constant companion for the first 6 years of my life. I talked to him and played with him. He was the brother of my heart—if not my flesh!
Ray went everywhere with us. He lived to ride in the car. He loved for the windows to be rolled down so he could rest his head and feel the cool breeze blowing on his face. He even went to the drive-in with us. One night as I sat in the front seat between my parents watching the movie, Ray saw a cat run by . . . and so he leaped out the window to give chase.
Suddenly, both the driver’s door and front passenger’s door flew open. My parents jumped out of the car. Up and down the aisles went the cat. Followed by Ray. Then my dad. And my mom bringing up the rear. It was almost like a Pied Piper run, with each running after the one in front of them. Horns began honking. Lights were flashed. My family (minus me) put on a better show than the actual movie! I felt like I was watching a tennis match as my head would turn from side to side as they raced up one aisle and down another. The cat eventually got away. Dad grabbed Ray. Everyone returned to the car. It was quite a night of excitement.
My sister and brother arrived in quick succession after that, so I had true flesh & blood sibs, not just a furry cocker spaniel one. But frankly, growing up I always considered our pets if not siblings—then at least family members. We had Mummy, who gave birth to several litters of kittens. We kept one of her kittens, and his named morphed into Roosa, after Edwin Roosa, an astronaut. We had a walking disaster of a dog called Poochie, and then I left for college. My mom used to accuse me of coming home on a weekend to (a) see my friends, (b) wash some clothes, and (c) cuddle with Roosa.
One of my favorite stories is how I decided to come home early one weekend from school. Roosa never, ever slept on my bed . . . until right before I came home each time. My mom walked down the hall and saw him on my bed. She told him it was Thursday, and she wasn’t expecting me until Friday. Much to her surprise, I arrived minutes after that. Somehow my pet & I were in tune, and he knew when I’d be there to stroke his soft fur and tell him all about life as a college freshman.
When I married my husband, I just assumed we would have pets. That was a part of my life. Our first together pet was a kitten named Biscuit, who was golden on top and had a white underbelly. She reminded me of a biscuit! I remember coming home from a tough day of teaching once and looking up to our 2nd story apartment. There in the window sat Miss Bisc, waiting for me to come home. Suddenly, everything seemed much better.
Naming pets is almost as hard as naming characters in my novels. It has to be just right. One time I adopted a cat from a shelter that favored Biscuit so much, but I didn’t feel it would be right to have a Biscuit II. So this one got the original name of Encore! We also brought home his brother, Dickens, named because for years I’d always wanted a pet named after Charles Dickens. This was the 1st one that fit the bill—plus, he was just under a pound—so he was a Little Dickens (who turned out to be 16 pounds in the long run and live almost 16 years!).
I’ve been a better person for having had cats & dogs in my life as treasured family members. They’ve been a comfort to me, and they’ve provided unconditional love throughout the years. They’ve sat in my lap while I’ve read the newspaper or watched TV. They’ve snuggled with me in bed, sometimes even getting under the covers on cold nights. They’ve gone on walks with me as I’ve plotted out new books in my head. I can’t imagine my life without animals in it.
So here’s to all the pets everywhere as today we celebrate your existence. You bring joy into our lives, and we people are happy we share them with you. And yes, I’ve even gotten on board with the idea of grand-dogs, simply because my daughter’s dog Jake is about the cutest little guy to ever walk the planet. Not that I’m prejudice or anything. I know cute when I see it, and Jake has that special something. If he were a person and sang well, he’d be a shoo-in as the next American Idol.
So hug your pet today and give him or her a treat. Hats off to National Pet Day!