Chickens across Texas
This column ran in the newspaper lately. Soon, I'll have some more to say on the afterlife, but in the meantime, "Chickens across Texas."
I've lost two of my pets in recent months — my beloved dog, Molly McGuire, and the baby of the family (at age 7), Jack the Brat cat. Some readers saw Molly out and about town. She loved to go places.
Now, I have one pet left, a 13-year-old cat named Shamu, who must take medication twice a day for a hyperthyroid condition.
When my husband and I went on vacation recently, a belated honeymoon at a beachfront condo, we were loath to leave Shamu behind. So, we covered his carrier with a brightly colored beach towel and sneaked him in.
Traveling/sneaking with pets is a tradition that began in childhood. Dogs and cats got special status in planes my father flew across the Atlantic and the Caribbean, getting them to new Navy duty posts.
When I was just a small child, we traveled in a big, old station wagon from Hutchinson, Kan., to Corpus Christi, Texas: my parents, a carsick border collie, two kids and two chickens. The chickens had come into the house as Easter gifts — one dyed bright blue and the other bright pink. Most of the dye had grown out, leaving them strangely mottled.
Dad stopped at a gas station for directions. The attendant looked in the station wagon and saw a border collie foaming at the mouth, two strange-looking birds and two grubby kids. He backed up about six steps before giving directions. That border collie, Lassie, traveled to North Africa and back with us.
I returned through U.S. Customs from Panama with a screaming small parrot inside a covered cage; I had hoped to slide through quietly. Nobody asked any questions about the noise or what was under the towel. I think no one wanted to wait all day with a screaming bird until he was taken to quarantine.
Cats and dogs have stayed with me in hotels and motels too many times to count.
When Molly was about a year old, she traveled with friends and me to West Texas and back. A motel maid in Texas spotted her in the room, but said nothing.
These animals are such great companions. I read recently that because of their long association with humans, pets absorbed the ability to love. I believe that's true. There's no more unconditional love than a dog can give, or a cat.
Molly, who was my Christmas present to myself in 1999, adopted from the Flagler Humane Society, was full of the kind of joy and love that can come only from the Holy Spirit. Jack would jump on the counter and stand on his hind feet to nuzzle my face as I put on makeup in the morning.
I've learned much from living with pets. One lesson is how love can triumph over the misery in this world. Another is, if there's a heaven, Molly and Jack will greet me there.