Cats and Dogs

A Dog named Trucks

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When I was six years old, my mother’s best friend gave us a cat. Her name was Rita. She was one or two years old, dark and light gray co-mingling in a way that hinted at her half-Siamese parentage. Just above her little gray nose was a streak of white. To this day, I’ve never felt a coat so soft.

For over 15 years, she slept in the crook of my arm, kneading my side every night. In the summer, she sometimes slept by my head, on my pillow. In the winter, it was not unusual to come home and find her curled up on the counter, wrapped around our warm crockpot. She saw me to my first day of kindergarten, and my first day of college.

Rita Bathing

In October of 2007, she started getting thinner, and then weaker, and finally quit eating all together. She died at home, peacefully, curled on a blanket from my infancy that she had long since claimed as hers. I thought that I would not survive it.

Time passed. I was in college, renting a room from a young lady who had a dog—her brother’s dog—living in a small cage in the backyard. Her brother lived in another state, and she didn’t have time to give him any real attention. Winter came, and it snowed. She asked me if I would check on him, bring him in out of the snow. I did. Then, later, if I could feed him regularly. I did.

I walked by his cage every day. He wagged his tail, hopped around, looking for some love and attention. I would say, “You are not my dog. Quit. I don’t need a dog.” I continued saying this to myself as I pulled out my cell phone and called my land-lady. “Hello, Kasie. How much would you give me off of my rent if I found someone who wanted this dog?” “$50 all day long!” she replied.

I sighed. “Done.”

“Well, who wants him?”

“Me.”

I had never had a dog, and in all honesty, I had decided after Rita passed that I would never have another pet, since losing one hurt too much. Trucks—an odd name for a dog—wiggled his furry butt into my heart, opening me to the ability to love in such a vulnerable way, yet again.

My mother says, and she’s right, that it’s easy to love our pets in a way that opens our hearts to more pain than we might expect, because they, too, love unconditionally. They want only to be with us, to play, to cuddle. They do not play mind games, they do not mistake our words—they only love us, and are there when we need a friend.

Rita was there for me for my whole childhood. I don’t remember her not being there, so when she wasn’t, my world temporarily cracked. I decided to refuse to feel that pain again—but as it turned out, the only cure for my pain was to love more. All thanks to a dog named Trucks.

I think love in all forms is sacred, and I think the love between furry people and humans has a special place in the development of our souls. What animals have touched your life in a special way?

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