Our Pets: Then And Now, Part 1

A photo of Barnaby as a puppy. His face is silver but he's black everywhere else.
Barnaby – Young

Can you believe that this tiny puppy, who used to fit into my hand, is now eleven years old? Welcome to a part one of a post featuring our beloved pets, as youngsters and adults.

The average dog lives between ten and twenty years; the average cat between fifteen and twenty-five. Some of the other animals we choose as companions live even shorter lives: such as guinea pigs, with a typical lifespan of five to seven years. And some much longer: such as birds, with lifespans ranging from twenty to fifty years or more, depending on the species.

The idea for this post came to me after seeing a collection of first and last photos of pets. As part of writing this article, I put out a call for submissions. Most responses came from cat owners, but some dog owners shared too. In addition to asking for photos, I asked for cute memories. A few stories ran almost a page, while others took just a few sentences. All made it clear how much we love our pets.

My first entry came from Janet Wilkinson. Back when I had asked for pet foster parents to share experiences and insights, Janet had submitted photos of kittens whom she had fostered through Dolly’s Animal Legacy Rescue. Janet eventually adopted these kittens and so had also included photos of them as adults. When I felt ready to write this post, I immediately emailed Janet to ask permission to use the photos, as well as for stories about her many pets.

A photo of Butternut and Angel as kittens, curled up together.
Butternut and Angel – Young

Janet ended up dubbing Angel and Butternut “the Velcro Kittens”. She explains why in the following story. “When both Angel and Butternut were around 6 and 7 weeks, they realized that they could jump on the couch. They would run on the back cushions of the couch. They were sideways running all around the backrest of the couch and they reminded me of Velcro because they were using their claws to stick to it.  They were definitely in their happy place.”

A photo of Butternut & Angel as full-grown cats
Butternut & Angel – Adult

Angel and Butternut remain mischievous even in their adult years. For example, Janet told me that as the two cats grew up they found it fun to climb up window screens.  Anything on shelves they would knock down.  One day Janet heard a loud crash and discovered they had locked the door on her.

A photo of Hannah as an adult dog
Hannah – Adult

Janet is not just a cat-lover. She also owns dogs, one of them being Hanna. When Hanna first arrived she was about five months old. She didn’t understand how to sleep on a couch, and often she would roll over and fall off. Janet put a fluffy dog bed on the floor so that Hannah would land on something soft. In the years since, Hanna has become a sleeping pro on both the bed and couch. 🙂

Recently, as part of teaching two summer clubs, I met two ladies involved in animal rescue. After they gave a  guest presentation to my Writers to the Rescue club, I told each about my idea for this article; they were eager to contribute stories of their own.

Courtney Johnson, a volunteer with The Cat House, told me about Squeak and Snickers. These two cats are litter-mates who were born in 2006. Courtney got them through her mom, who had agreed to take in a pregnant cat when the previous owner could no longer care for her.

A photo of Squeak and Snickers as kittens
Squeak and Snickers – Young

“Like all cats, they both have their little quirks. Squeak got her name because even as a tiny kitten, she hated being held and would meow very loudly until I put her down. Even today, I can only hold her for about 15 seconds before she starts meowing. Otherwise, she’s a pretty quiet girl.

“Squeak is definitely the more playful of the two but she is very particular about this wand toy. My mom purchased it as a gift, and Squeak didn’t even wait for me to take it out of the bag before running away with it (packaging and all). I don’t know what it is about this toy, but once she grabs it, she won’t let go to play more. She grits her teeth and pulls until I finally let her just take it, and she will gleefully drag it around the apartment with the plastic handle dangling behind her.

A photo of Squeak & Snickers as adult cats
Squeak & Snickers – Adult

“Snickers, on the other hand, is my burrowing cat. She’s the one who’s always cramming herself into weird places. The kitten picture is from a time when she decided it would be a great idea to climb under the legs of my desk! I still have no idea how she managed to wriggle in there. I have to be careful when climbing into bed because she likes to hide under the covers. In this adult picture, she’s ‘helping’ with my bedding during laundry day.”

Melissa Ripley, Adoption Coordinator with Second-Chance Pups, told me about Ellie. “Ellie is a very smart lab and we often find ourselves spelling things around her. Over time, she has caught on to us and, when we spell W-A-L-K or B-A-L-L or even G-R-A-N-D-M-A, she has learned that we are trying to trick her. Now when we spell things she goes crazy! She’s too smart for her own good.”

A photo of Ellie as a puppy
Ellie – Young

“One funny story was that we had a basset hound when we first got her. He was older and very tolerant of her puppy ways. He slept with us and ALWAYS insisted on sleeping under the covers. When we first got her, she would watch him go under the covers and would tilt her head to the side as though trying to understand why he was doing that. She tried it and decided it was a great idea. Now, our 80-pound yellow lab continues to sleep in bed. Under the covers.”

A photo of Ellie, a yellow lab, as an adult dog lying in the grass with her tongue out
Ellie – Adult

As you’ll notice, many of the submissions came from contacts whom I made in this past year during my involvement with animal rescue. Others came from friends whom I know from the Greater Obedience Lincoln Club, a source for dog training in Lincoln. My husband has taken numerous agility classes there, participates in their trials, and even assists with classes. Besides agility classes, I have also taken obedience and rally classes there. The friendships Andy and I have formed with GLOC members remain special.

A photo of Meg, an Corgi puppy, sleeping peacefully
Meg – Young

Jennifer Brown shared with me about Meg, who in the above photo is just 8 weeks old. “Meg loved chasing balls around the yard. Soccer balls were her favorite. She loved playing fetch. One day when she was little, Meg dug a hole to lay down in because she was hot.

A photo of Meg as an adult dog
Meg – Adult

Meg liked to have on an adventure in the backyard. “There was a rock where we had a water dripper for the birds and it fascinated her.” The second photo of Meg shows her all grown up. “I was just taking pictures that day and she was my favorite subject. I have a picture of her sitting on the hood of my car. I liked taking pictures of her in different settings.”

Lady - Young & Adult
Lady – Young & Adult

Marcy Graybill shared with me about a few of her dogs. “Lady was my first dog, she was adopted from the Capital Humane Society.  She was spayed when she was 5 month old, but her maternal instinct was very strong. She would adopt balloons as her babies. She would carefully pick them up by the tied end and carry them around for days.”

Gita, Young
Gita – Young

“When Gita was about three months, she caught a little yellow moth, but when she went to bark to get our attention, it flew away. She was so disappointed. Not even a week later, she made her first real kill and caught a small bunny that had been eating veggies in the garden.

Gita Adult
Gita -Adult

As she grew up, Gita turned out to be a work-a-holic, earning her first obedience title when she was about 18 months old. On the trip down to the trial, she woke Marcy up at about 2 am. “I thought she had to go out to relieve herself. When we got outside she just wanted to train. I couldn’t get her to leave heel position. She would turn up her nose at food for training or tennis balls. Though she had her Agility Championship through the UKC, she earned her AKC novice agility title two weeks before she passed away, and she earned a flyball dog title the weekend before she died.”

Check back tomorrow for Our Pets, Then and Now, Part 2.

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