Guest post by Amy Shojai
Many years ago, more than I care to admit, I became an accidental pet writer.
I grew up rescuing orphan bunnies and baby birds fallen from nests, turning turtles and snakes into pets, and luring squirrels and raccoons to eat from my hand. I loved feeding Grandma’s chickens, horseback riding, and milking the cows (or trying to).
But my deepest affection was for dogs and cats.
It seemed fated when I found a job as a veterinary technician and met countless caring owners. I never set out to be a writer, and my career would never have happened without the countless veterinarians, behavior experts and trainers, researchers, dog writers and cat writers and pet lovers who not only posed questions, but also helped me try to answer them. More than that, it wouldn’t have happened if not for the pets—unexpected gifts, one and all.
Like most cat and dog lovers, many of the benchmark moments in my life revolve around some furry memory. I told important “secrets” to my childhood dog, Toby, and he never played tattletale on me. At age four (or thereabouts), after finding a bar of soap on a rainy day, I learned firsthand that cats prefer to bathe themselves—a mud puddle won’t do. And an oh-so-fearful Sheltie named Lady taught me patience during 4-H Dog Club—amazing how our mutual shyness evolved into confidence during those long ago dog-training lessons.
You have your own special pet memories: a special heart-cat who always clowns for you; a bruiser mutt gentle as a lamb licking away a child’s tears; puppies that prompt smiles, and geriatric felines demanding lap-time. They bring us all unexpected gifts—and no, I’m not talking about hairballs or “accidents!” Pets raise our spirits, touch our hearts, soothe our souls and remind us of the simple joy of living and being in the moment. This season, perhaps more than any other, should be a celebration of these moments.
So many dogs and puppies, kittens and cats grace my memories—those who shared my home and others I met only briefly. I know now that the critters of my childhood and early adulthood prepared me for the life I now live.
My current furry wonders keep me endlessly entertained and both inspire and inform my work. Nineteen-year-old Seren is devoted, loving, opinionated, and determined to keep her domain safe and free of ‘interlopers.’ Seren sounds like a balloon with a slow leak as she hisses her displeasure when uninvited guests dare to make kissy-kissy noises at her, or Karma-Kat invades her space. And she becomes a seven-pound feline music critic whenever I sing or play, ack-ack-acking her opinion in much the same way that my sheltie, Lady, would howl.
Karma-Kat, my handsome delinquent cat, will celebrate his second Christmas with us this year. He ignores the fancy holiday gifts in favor of playing in empty boxes and hunting crickets, demands his share of holiday treats, and keeps us informed of his very important opinion. Then every evening, when the workday winds down, Karma curls into the bend of my knees and snuggles alongside me in bed.
Magical-Dawg puts up with the cat antics while gently reminding them that we humans belong to him. With no off-switch (even at age nine!), my German Shepherd boy now has more gray on his muzzle than black, but he still thrills at car rides, Frisbee fetch and lap snuggles (as much as will fit). He adores his Karma-Kat and no longer fears ferocious Seren-Kitty, and they in turn recognize him as part of their clowder.
I need no words to understand their mutual message: “We belong together.”
Cats and dogs have filled my life with joy, with heartbreak, with hope, and with love. They reflect the very best of the human spirit. And in rare cases, a special pet touches us and connects in a way we cannot explain and could never predict. You will recognize it when this happens to you. Accept this blessing, and know that your life will never be the same.
As the New Year approaches, celebrate the pets of your lives. Cherish the memories, relish the days you share together, and remain open to the many unexpected gifts our furry wonders bring.
On second thought, maybe becoming a pet writer wasn’t an accident after all.
Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, a former vet tech, and author of more than 30 pet care books. You can learn more at her Bling, Bitches & Blood Blog.