I was immediately in love. The tiny features, utter dependency and warmth made bonding natural. I felt like some imposter receiving a gift I wasn’t supposed to receive. I had adopted a one pound black ball of fur and did it for me and no one else.

For years our family had pets. One dog per child and a plethora of others. We had smelly turtles in a tank, a demonic rabbit that bit, a corn snake that grew from inches to feet and hamsters. Oh yes, and fish and a mouse named Ronaldo. The fish was interesting in that it was a goldfish that was won at a fair and lived about five years. Another fish inexplicably flipped itself out of its bowl and was never seen again- gone, without a trace.

The goldfish I was telling you about had the most curious name, Grace Cannot Name Me. Our son had enough of our daughter naming pets and so it stuck. The snake, found in the yard, was domesticated by my husband and son while I was out of town for the weekend. They had the tank, heating lamp, rocks and bedding up and running before I could say no. I detested having it inside and its escape four years later was the only way I was finally rid of its presence. Of course, there was the shed snakeskin found behind the fridge some years later that made me wonder.

The tuft I fell for appeared unexpectedly while our three sons were in high school. I was talking with a woman who volunteered at a shelter and told her I would love a tiny dog. Apparently, another shelter I requested a small dog from didn’t trust my motives. I found out later they had contacted my vet and wanted to know if I really did take care of my pets properly. I found that humorous. Regardless, the woman was also a foster dog parent and wanted me to meet this particular one.

My husband, on the other hand, forbade me to have a tiny dog on the grounds that we “were not small dog people.” He said it would get stomped or slammed in a door. I got him anyway and it was love at first sight.

My daughter and sons laughed at me. They said he was the favorite son and that if the house were burning down, he’d be the first one I’d save. My daughter also made the humorous statement that she didn’t know what they were going to do about me if something ever happened to the dog.

At first I felt guilty having him. It was a purely selfish move and it was all about what I wanted. I took him everywhere. He went to work and the grocery store. He was so small I could put him in my tote and nobody knew he was there. He had sweaters and was beyond cute.

I was telling a retired pastor how much I was enjoying him and how I couldn’t believe a ball of fur could bring so much joy to my life. I told him I felt like God had sent him to me at the time I needed him most. He said, “Of course He did! God loves you and wants you to be happy.” At that point in my life, I had come to believe that life wasn’t supposed to be happy or joyful anymore. I felt it was all duty and responsibility. And then along came the furry love note from above.

My boys and husband finally got used to the fact I had a “girly dog” and it took three years for them to quit calling him a “she.” He was the only dog I’d ever had that peed in excitement. He would pee every time I came home and I found there was no remedy. Somewhere along the way, this ball became 27 pounds and became quite portly. He loves food more than anything. I have to be careful to put away our other dog’s uneaten food and buy weight management dog food. I honestly believe he would eat until he burst.

He’s five years old now and my husband calls him his vanguard. My sons love him and hug on him as much as I do. He still thinks I’m some Hollywood starlet. I won’t be correcting that assumption. If I’m gone mere hours, you’d think I’d been gone weeks. He gives more adoration, loyalty and unconditional love than anyone. I am so thankful for him. I think I was the one rescued when I adopted him.

Rescue Raccoon?

img_1373-1.jpgOur family has an unusual affinity for rescuing animals. Most people think of an animal shelter where one goes and picks from an array of cats and dogs when they say “rescue animal.” Or the melodramatic commercials asking you to donate the price of your daily coffee to the pitiful, sympathy- inducing picture of a dog in a cage. None of that applies to us. My family likes to take home anything it happens upon. For instance, today, my son was working for an outdoor management company and caught a baby raccoon. Soon my phone was blowing up with calls and pics of the little black fur-ball. I had to admit, it surely was a cute sight, but over the years, my rationale has won out. I started visualizing a 30 pound raccoon pilfering through our kitchen at night and scratching up our tiny dogs. No raccoon moving in….

You see, I have come home to a snake, hamsters, fish, hermit crabs, turtles and the odd dog found wandering the road. I handpicked 3 of our 6 dogs at shelters. And one, my children say, will be the end of me if anything happens to it. I wholeheartedly agree. I think God sent that one to help me cope through rearing high schoolers. It rescued me first.

I am all for rescuing when you have the option because a pet is expensive enough without the papers. There are so many animals in need of good homes that I can’t fathom driving cross country to get a So and So breed from the top So and So breeder.

I once succumbed to our daughter’s persistent request for a rabbit. I regret it every time I see another “cocoa puff” that’s turned up. That little white, angelic tuft of fur grew into the most demonic of biting creatures that actually snorted and terrorized our chihuahua. She had to go. But, I always wanted to be the parent who at least gave pets a chance and not always said no for my own convenience. That tactic was both overly generous and masochistic at the same time. Hamsters have babies (not one, but like 15). They also smell and require frequent cage cleanings, as do turtles. We never did get a bird, praise the Lord, but we did actually rescue an injured falcon and delivered it over an hour away to an animal conservation program (on a Friday at 5:00pm). Our altruism wasn’t that well received. But we did it as a family and we tried!