For years, off and on, I have worked on a memoir called “An Ark of Sorts.” The book tells the stories of many of the animals we have fostered and adopted since we brought our first dog home in 1969, as well as my involvement in trying to change the system of animal “control”.
Working on the book led me count the number of critters who have shared our home. The total comes to a whopping 80 (or more). I bond over the phone, so I am an easy mark. But I also encounter distressed animals that other humans don’t seem to notice (or purposely ignore). This has led my husband Chris to frequently remind me that “Other people can go out the door and not come home with a critter,” The highest head count came to a shocking twenty-seven. At the time, we were caring for two mama rats and their nine offspring until a rescue group had room for them.
Our children, Jennifer and Matthew, somehow adjusted to the comings and goings of various creatures. Their friends weren’t surprised when they encountered a chicken on the living room couch, a litter of abandoned kittens in a bathtub, or a duck running around the back yard.
Every time an animal left for a new home, all of us felt had mixed feelings. It was especially hard for Matt to say goodbye to the ginormous puppy he and I found at a gas station at dusk.
When they were in elementary school, I volunteered in their classrooms. But no kid wants his/her mom hanging around in junior high school. Instead, I ended up at a public animal shelter. I walked in as an innocent and left with memories that still haunt me.
Our small band of volunteers gave comfort to the resident animals, but we also discovered that the vast majority would end up in the freezer. The few fortunate adoptees weren’t spayed or neutered, allowing their offspring to feed into the overpopulation of companion animals. Obviously, the system had change. We joined with other concerned citizens to change the status quo.
As “An Ark of Sorts” gets closer to publication, I feel the usual mix of excitement and satisfaction mixed with my concern that no one will want to read the book. Also I cringe at revealing the tragedies we could have prevented. But the truth is the truth…
Overall, Chris and I are grateful for our connection to non-human animals. They have enriched our lives and given us the gift of unconditional love. Neither of us can imagine living without those other beings.