Saturday, May 1, 2010

Being a different kind of parent

Just a warning, this could be considered sappy.... but it's my blog, so sappy is alright.

So, since I was about 5 years old there have been animals of one kind or another in my home and in my life. First was Kitty (real original I know, but it was my Mom's choice) who had been the runt of the litter and was thus rescued. I cant give you any more than the names of the ones that followed, because they came to us via strange paths, but Buck, Smokey, Cupcake (strangest path, from Norwalk, California to Omaha via the seat next to me on American Airlines, lured into my 9 year old arms with tuna from under a car in Norwalk) and Munchkin (aka the cat i called Monkey, with permanent PMS). But these were my Mom's pets more than mine. She paid their vet bills, fed them most of the time, scooped the poop and changed the litter. It wasn't until 199 that I started my own journey as a pet parent.

I was working at Boys' Town right out of university and thought I would work there until I retired, since I had been a resident and graduate of BT and loved my time there when I was in high school. Working there was a COMPLETELY different set of experiences, rules and obstacles which ended in me losing my job due to what my evil harpy of a boss called "a lack of professionalism and poor judgement". (Just to set the record straight, she had been working at BT when I was a resident and had been an evil harpy then too.) However, about 2 months after I started working, there was a notice in the company newsletter about an employee who had a 6 week old kitten that needed a home. This kitten became my Alex (full name: Alexandria Egypt, Port city on the Nile.. what? She looked Egyptian and Cleopatra was so overdone!!). Alex and I have had many adventures including 8 moves, the addition of Emma (full name: Somalia of Omaha, even though she never lived in Omaha for even a day) in 1995 and the inevitable addition of Dave and Merlin (in 1996), and finally the welcoming of Solo (who was going to be put down because of an idiot who worked at my final job at Hammer Residences) in 2001. So they became our kids for lack of a better term, because what I have felt for these cats, especially those who I have lost, is an unconditional love that most non-pet owners find strange, and only real pet lovers understand.

When Solo and Em died I felt like a huge part of me died and I think that Dave felt the a lot of the same feelings. Solo's journey to the other side was longer than Em's, which was so fast that it felt almost blurred. And over the past few weeks we ALMOST lost Alex. It was far and away some of the worst days that I have ever endured. Talk of cancer, when and if to stop treatment, heart problems, kidney failure... (for what turned out to be some major constipation as well as severe dehydration for reasons still unknown) and numerous visits to our fantastic vet, culminating in a last visit with a fairly clean bill of health for an 18 year old total diva kitty. As she got better slowly through the days, I had times of being giddy with joy at the simplest things, like Alex going up in her tree, jumping on my bed, eating an entire bowl of food and last but certainly not least yelling at me and everybody she sees (it is a charming trait, I swear!) I also had the horrible sleepless nights just watching to make sure she was breathing, administering sub-cutaneous fluids (a 2 person job if there ever was one) and just making sure she was warm and comfortable. It felt like weeks and we're still all enjoying the thrill of sub-cue fluids, medications and checking the litter box for "deposits"...

So I guess the point of this post is that even those of us who don't have human kids are still parents to furry kids. Because I love these animals that God has led into my life and would sacrifice anything to help them any way I knew how. The past days and weeks were about making decisions with respect to what to sacrifice and what would be enough. This is something that I wish no parent ever has to go through, ever. But I know all too many do, with human children and non-human children alike. My hope is that God will help us to be the best parents that we can be to the children that we have and help us with the support we need in times of crisis and indecision. Love and blessings upon all parents and children, everywhere, how, and when.

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