Tag Archive | cats and dogs

Friends and Relatives, Cats and Dogs

How many friends and relatives, cats and dogs does it take to make one’s life wonderful?

Hundreds. Maybe thousands. What it takes to make a life wonderful is to learn to appreciate – to be thankful for – the  enrichment each person and pet contributes to one’s life.

Mim and Marian with Megabyte - our first puppy - in our living room in Chicago.

Mim and Marian with Megabyte – our first puppy – in our living room in Chicago – 1990.

During the last couple weeks, Mim and I have had opportunities to see lots of friends and relatives from much earlier times in our lives. That got me started thinking about all the people in our lives – in our whole lifetimes – and how much all these people, and pets, have enriched our lives.

Mim and Roger Hovey

Mim and cousin Roger in 2006.

Last Friday, we attended the funeral of Mim’s last first cousin, Roger Hovey, age 93. We drove over 500 miles to Clear Lake, South Dakota for the funeral. After the service we ate a funeral lunch in the church fellowship hall with about a hundred of Roger’s friends and relatives, and we enjoyed a couple hours of visiting, mostly with second cousins of Mim. Then we drove 500 miles home. That’s how we spent Thursday, Friday, and half of Saturday last week. The trip was exhausting, but the time spent remembering Roger’s life and talking with Mim’s relatives was incredibly refreshing.

Roger and his wife June had lived and farmed in South Dakota their whole lives. For the last 30 years or so they spent their winters in Florida. When Mim and I moved to Wisconsin from Chicago 23 years ago, Roger and June started to drive through Cambridge almost every spring and fall on their way to and from Florida for a short visit. They never called to schedule the visit. They just rang the doorbell, usually mid-morning, and came in for a cup of coffee and an hour or two of conversation. Fortunately, either Mim or I always happened to be at home when they came. The last few years their daughter Pam drove with them. We always enjoyed their short, lively visits. Each visit was a time to step out of our daily routine and enjoy both reminiscing and catching up on the current lives of these loving people from our past – in this case, Mim’s past. However, over the 20 years of their twice yearly visits, they became good friends of mine, too.

June-Roger-Pam-Gene 2006

June and Roger with their daughter Pam and her husband Gene – 2006.

The week before the funeral, Mim and I went to Chicago for a church music conference. (All this travel is very unlike us with our 24/7/365 assisted living business, but everything just happened to work out smoothly for these two trips.) The conference was great, both practical and inspiring. But even better was the reconnection with more old friends and relatives. One day we had lunch with Mim’s niece and her daughter. We hadn’t seen them in at least 25 years. That evening we had half-pound cheeseburgers and a pitcher of Sangria in the beer garden of Moody’s Pub, our old hang-out in Chicago, with Marilyn, a friend from my college days who co-owned and lived in our two-flat in Chicago with us for 13 years.

Marilyn, Mim, and Marian in the Beer Garden of Moody's Pub - 2015.

Marilyn, Mim, and Marian in the Beer Garden of Moody’s Pub – 2015.

On our way back to our motel from Moody’s we drove through our old neighborhood and stopped to see Ruth, the woman who lived next door to us in Chicago. At 98, she’s still living in her two-flat, now all by herself. Until just a couple years ago, her sister Elaine had lived with her. Although Elaine was six years younger than Ruth, Elaine passed away first. We talked about some of the changes the neighborhood has seen in Ruth’s lifetime. Her parents had built the two-flat she is still living in, 90 years later. Their family was one of the Russian Jewish families who settled in that block of Chicago when it was first being developed in the 1920s.

Ruth (left) and her sister Elaine and their first dog Jenny, visiting us in our farmhouse just after we moved from Chicago to the farm in 1992.

Ruth (left) and her sister Elaine and their first dog Jenny, visiting us in our farmhouse just after we moved from Chicago to the farm in 1992.

Zoe - dropped

Zoe – still a puppy at heart until the day she died at age 15.

One of the more current things we talked about was Ruth’s dog Zoe. Her 15-year-old dog had died less than a week ago. One of Ruth’s friends wrote “Elegy for Zoe” on her blog, MidwesternRobot.com. It’s a beautiful story about Zoe and about close-knit friendships in the neighborhood. (I encourage you to follow the link to Zoe’s story, but be prepared to shed a tear or two.)

That’s partly why I’m reflecting on how friends, relatives, and pets enrich our lives throughout our whole lifetime. That’s what makes life so wonderful. I guess that’s why the Bible tells us to love each other.

For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Galatians 5:14]

Fortunately, throughout my lifetime, I have had many, many neighbors – friends and relatives and cats and dogs – who have loved me and enriched my life greatly. It’s good to take time to remember these wonderful people and other loving creatures from our past.

Mim and Pam in cemetery - 2015.

Mim and Pam in cemetery – 2015.

Abbey’s Dream

Abbey Profile 2Abbey came running to see me this morning. “Hey Mom, I’ve gotta tell ya about the dream I had last night. You won’t believe everyone who was in it!”

“Really, Abbey. Who was there? Tell me all about it,” I replied.

“The dogs who used to live with you – Megabyte and Maia were in the dream. Aunt Marilyn’s cats were in it, too! I can hardly believe it, Mom. Grandma and Grandpa were also there. The dream was so vivid. Now I know what everyone looks like, even though I haven’t seen anyone face to face – yet. The whole dream took place in heaven…”

Megabyte (left) and Maia

Megabyte (left) and Maia exploring CamRock Park about 12 years ago.

The dream began with Megabyte trotting home to her dog mansion on the banks of the little creek in Dogwood Estates. (Yes, Mom. There are lots of smaller settlements throughout the “Holy City.”) Maia was lying on the front step, just waking up from a nap. She looked up at Meg and asked, “Where have you been, Meggie?”

“I’ve been visiting with Grandma and Grandpa over at their house in Peaceful Prairie. Did I ever have an interesting afternoon! Too bad you didn’t come with me. I decided to go over there to ask Grandpa to throw some tennis balls for me to catch. I didn’t ask you to come along with me because I know you’d rather play herding games than catch a tennis ball.”

“That’s right. But if you had an interesting afternoon, you must have done more than catch tennis balls. What happened?”

“Yup. Grandma had some visitors. Cats! You remember Spiffy and Kimberly Katt, don’t you? They were Aunt Marilyn’s cats when she lived in Wheaton and Chicago.”

“Of course, I remember Spiff and Kimberly. We get together to play stalking games sometimes, but we haven’t seen them in several months. What were they doing at Grandma and Grandpa’s house?” Maia asked.

cat talking“They were bringing a new cat, Millie, to meet Grandma. Millie lived with Aunt Marilyn for the last 17 years, and she just arrived in heaven a couple weeks ago. Spiff and Kimberly were taking her around to meet some of their favorite people. Grandma made them all some catnip tea. They were having a good time! When Grandma saw me coming, she dished up some ice cream for me. We all sat around and visited for a long time.”

“What did you talk about?”

“That’s what was so interesting. The cats took turns telling us what they each had taught Aunt Marilyn. They were actually bragging about the wisdom they each had shared with her. To hear them talk, you’d think cats were the smartest creatures God ever created. But I’ll admit, they did teach Aunt Marilyn a lot.”

“We taught our moms a lot, too. But what did the cats teach Aunt Marilyn?

“Well Spiff talked first, as the eldest. He had only five years to teach Aunt Marilyn because he died young of feline leukemia. He taught her how important it is to go on adventures, to stalk for prey, even if it’s imaginary.”

Maia smiled. “I like Spiff. He’s always ready to go on an adventure. We need to hike over to Cattail Land more often to play together.”

“I agree, Maia. I especially like to play with Kimberly Katt. In our conversation at Grandma’s, Kimberly said she taught Aunt Marilyn to play catch, to take time to play, to not be too busy to enjoy life.”

“Yeah. Kimberly is right about that. I’ll never understand why it’s so hard for people to learn that. They always think they have to be so busy.”

cat talking and smiling“From this afternoon’s conversation, I think Millie taught Aunt Marilyn more than the other two cats put together. Maybe it’s because she lived with her the longest. Or, maybe it was just that Grandma encouraged Millie to talk the most because she was new to heaven, and Grandma wanted to make her feel at home.”

“Yup. Grandma would do that – want to make her feel really welcome,” Maia interjected.

“Millie described herself as an engineer. Her favorite game was to watch Aunt Marilyn pull a string under or through something. Millie would calculate where it would end up, and that’s where she would pounce. However, on the rare occasion that she miscalculated a jump, the lesson she taught Aunt Marilyn was that it’s okay to make a mistake, but then it’s important to get right back up and try again. Millie talked about other lessons she taught Aunt Marilyn, too, but I finished my ice cream and wanted to go play catch with Grandpa, so we went outside to play ball while the cats kept on talking inside with Grandma.”

Meg w tennis balls

Megabyte resting after retrieving two of her favorite tennis balls.

“Well it sounds like you had a good afternoon. I had a good nap. I think I’ll go down to the front gate for a while to see if St. Peter needs any help keeping the new arrivals in line. See you later, Meggie.”

“Bye, Maia.”

Abbey was quiet for a minute when she finished telling me her dream. Then she looked up at me and said, “You know what, Mom. I think when we get to heaven, we’ll get new healthier bodies, but we’ll still be the same inside. Megabyte is still a golden retriever at heart. You can tell by how much she loves to catch tennis balls. And Maia is still a border collie who lives to herd anything. She loves her job helping St. Peter at heaven’s entrance gate.”

“I’m sure you’re right, Abbey. Hey, thanks for sharing your dream with me. You’re teaching me a lot of things, too. God had a really good idea about placing cats and dogs in human households to teach people about what’s important in life. I’m not sure we would have ever figured it out on our own.”

“You’re welcome, Mom. I’m glad God brought us together, too. And just think, some day we’ll all get together in heaven, just like the song says.”

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
Sing His mercy and His grace;
In the mansions bright and blessed
He’ll prepare for us a place.

When we all get to heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

[When We All Get to Heaven by Eliza E. Hewitt, published 1898]

sunset-with-dog-picture