I have loved animals all of my life. I realized early that their love is unconditional. Animals do not judge. They accept you; they do not ask for explanation. They never expect more than you can give, appreciating what you are able to offer.
Throughout my life, I have been able to share with several kinds of critters. Pets were my best friends, as a kid. I moved often, attending eleven schools. Critters can be counted on when no one else is available.
My earliest pets were turtles. There were many of the small water turtles. They lived in plastic bowls, with the little island that had the plastic palm tree. I had quite an extensive turtle cemetery, out behind the house. Each grave was marked with a rock and a prayer. After awhile, there were so many rocks that even I couldn’t remember which were actual graves!
I gave up on them when we adopted Snoopy the painted turtle. She came from family friends who caught her while fishing in a local river. She was blind in one eye, but I thought she was beautiful. I guess it was obvious that I wanted a dog when I named her Snoopy. Bashful was a rescued tortoise that we later acquired. Someone had painted her shell.
There was also a succession of box turtles: Nagi, Nova, Belle, Ivy, and Studs. Each had their own personality and set of traits. They came from abusive or neglectful homes. We took in snakes, lizards, and other reptiles and amphibians, too. While turtles and reptiles seem low maintenance, they are living creatures with specific needs. Temperature, clean water and proper diets are critical with all living things.
We have cared for hundreds of tropical and native fish. Bill is the fish expert, and I learned much through him. We have cared for both small, fragile tropical fish, and huge predator types. Each one of them taught us something, as well.
Many rodents came in and out of my childhood. Snowball was my albino hamster, who did not like to be awakened. Perdita was the guinea pig rescue. A family in our apartment building did not want her. She was very noisy and loved to eat! Stanley the gerbil turned out to be Taffy, and not a Stanley, at all. Her cage-mate was Oliver, who was a male gerbil. I rescued Roscoe the mouse, from a date with a snake. There were pet rats, too. Much later, there were dormice. They all had reasonably short lives, but left a lifetime impression on me.
I have had the blessing of knowing birds, too. There was Rosalee Dove, and Dale Birdheart, both of which were wild doves. There was Jo-Jo the baby starling, and Virgil Vulture, who was not really a vulture. God sent them all to be cared for, when they could not do it for themselves. We gave them what they needed, and received love in return.
There have been the occasional really “wild” animal, like Rasputin the skunk, and the families of raccoons and opossums. I have also been blessed by unique pets, such as John Henry the squirrel monkey, who rode on the backs of puppies, as if in a circus show. When he came to us, he had been neglected. His collar was embedded in his neck. With proper medical care, he turned out just fine. He was very entertaining, if a bit ornery.
I have loved some special rabbits, too. Razzle-Dazzle, Buck, Rusty, and Cotton were rabbits I cared for as a child. They lived in a long wooden, sectioned coop out back, behind the house. I was very devoted to them. I have raised many wild bunnies, with an eyedropper, love and patience. These, however, I release back to the wild. They are God’s animals, not mine. They are shared with me for only a short time, because they need me.
I have had the fortunate experience of being a veterinary technician. I then operated my own pet-sitting/pet care business. I have always shared my home with numerous cats and dogs throughout my life, and will continue to do so. Rescue has been a very important part of that. I cannot say they were mine, or I was theirs. They remain with me always. I love animals for the lessons and love that they give.
I am sure there will be more animals in my life, as I leave my heart open for them. I believe that God loves animals, because He makes so many of them, and so many kinds, as well. I am thankful to have known the ones He has shared with me, and I look forward to knowing and loving many more. I believe I am a better person for having them in my life.