Pets — what a joy they are most of the time, but sometimes not so much. Remember when they were tiny pups or kittens and other baby species, so full of energy and all the times you had to get up at night to reassure them that they were not alone? Then the fun stuff started: potty training, and exercising them to tire them out so they would listen to you or so they would sleep and then so could you. The disciplining — oh, what fun that is (laugh out loud).
Then there are all the pictures you took, just like when you had your first child. The first time they barked so loud it scared them and they ran and hid. The time they ran so fast they couldn’t stop and went for a tumble. How proud you were when they did what you asked, like sit, stay, shake a paw, lie down or, the best, come.
How frustrated you would be when they just did what they wanted and would not listen to your commands! Then as they grew older, they would take your shoes, socks, papers and especially embarrassing items. They could be messy in the house.
Pets have a way of getting into your heart no matter what they do, be they dogs, cats, fish, horses, sheep, gerbils, mice, snakes or many other kinds of animals. One must remember that these pets are not people and as such do not have the same feelings we do or the understanding as we do. They are what they are: pets.
The seniors at the Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors have had many experiences with pets over the years. Some are able to have one now while others are not allowed to have them in the facilities they live in, which is too bad — they make life a little brighter and help seniors to have a healthier outlook on life. It has been proven that seniors are mentally healthier when they have a pet companion.
I, for one, have a dog and find that I am not so self-absorbed as I once was. I have a pet that I care about — I see to her needs and don’t look at all my aches and pains so much. We had a cat named Spots that passed away recently from old age. He would sit and talk to you, “Meow, meow.” then stop and let you talk to him, then he would reply in his own way. What fun that was! I’m sure people thought I was a little bit loony talking to a cat.
Della had a dog that was kept in the barn and cats that would wait for the cows to be milked so they could get their daily ration of milk; the cats would sit with their mouths open to get a squirt of milk.
Other seniors had a variety of pets such as a Dalmatian, beagle, Scottish wire-haired terrier, German shepherd, chocolate labrador, chihuahua, great dane, English setter, springer spaniel, cocker spaniel, Shih Tzu, Persian cats, tabby, white cats, mixed breeds and so on. Horses were always fun on the farms, but not when you fell off or were bucked off. Seniors rode them to school when they were children, as the schools were often miles away.
Oh, the wonderful stories the seniors can tell about their pets they have and or had! One lady got a dog from an ad in the paper and they made her promise to take good care of the dog. Another lady said the one dog of theirs was won in a poker game. The ladies that had cats loved them to pieces — true cat lovers. Many of the seniors who lived on farms had cats to keep down the mice, and cats in their lives as they grow older. One lady was a pet groomer at one time; she loved her job.
Some of the names of their pets were and are Sheba, Ragdoll, Cotton, Mesha, Gizmo, Blondie, Pal, Maude, Sandy, Sunia, Patches, Tinker, Sweetie, Baby, Molly, Misty, Abby, Simon and the list is endless.
The one thing to remember about pets is to keep them healthy with proper food and clean water. Keep their vaccinations up. If you are not going to breed your animal, the kindest thing you can do for them is to have them spayed or neutered.
Marleyne Krell is a volunteer with the Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors.