Staying warm

I’m thankful for heat. And caring friends. And heater repair people! Our heater has gone out twice in the past two weeks. Here in Missouri, we’ve had single digit temperatures.

Things I have learned about myself while in a house with no heat:

  • I would be a terrible pioneer, despite my love for the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.
  • I take heated bathrooms for granted.
  • I should keep appreciating the warmth of snuggling with my loved ones and pets even though our heat is working again.

Here’s a little glimpse into our life with animals. They keep us warm…and entertained as you can see!

Mira the curious cat loves every new surface. Including the top edge of the bed as we move it. She jumped up there herself.

bed bed1

Mira has dreams of being a professional organizer. She jumped in there while I was going through my memorabilia.
organize

Mira squished herself into this basket.

basket1 basket

I don’t remember putting this away in the pantry…

pantry

Finally, from the outdoor animals

Horse Mountain

horse-mountain
May this week bless you with a sense of peace and hope. I hope you are staying warm!

What I’m learning about facing my dog’s death

Portrait of Mercy

Portrait of MercyA stray on the edge of starvation, she slept with her body pressed against the chain link door of the kennel. Dogs barked, children yipped at the sight of the dogs barking and the parents followed the children, their heavy sighs seen but not heard from being drowned out. Such a tumultuous place and the spotted white dog slept.

I stopped at the door. “Look at this one,” I called to my family. “She looks nice.”

It was the beginning. We didn’t know it. Beginnings can be so subtle that they are as quiet as a sleeping dog in a kennel of 80 others barking on a Saturday morning.

We took her home

My seven-year-old son named her. “We should call her Mercy,” he said. “Because that is what we’re showing her.”

Her name quickly changed to Merfect. Companionable, she is loyal, friendly and tender, always happy to meet new friends.

“Mercy is the best thing we’ve got going,” we say.

She is such a good dog she even went to church

mercy-with-boysWe needed a dog to promote our annual pet blessing event last fall. With her calm patient manner, Mercy was the merfect choice. She walked up the aisle with a wag. We gathered beneath the cross for the children’s moment at the front of church.

A dozen small children gathered around her. A toddler kept touching her eye while another tugged her ear. A boy fascinated with her wagging stub tail tried to hold it. She accepted all the clumsy pats as the show of affection they were.

For ten years, Mercy has greeted us. A docile dog of little demands and much affection, she is as easy as sitting outside on a sunny spring day. Her mouth is so soft that she once caught a sparrow. When we told her “drop!” she opened her mouth and the bird flew out unharmed.

This week, her doctor told me that she has cancer. I hung up the phone and prayed the Lord’s Prayer. I reached out to friends. In grace, prayer and community, I felt God’s holy hand of comfort. I know I will be sad, but I will not be alone. I will not avoid my grieving. It is proof of love, proof of life.

Grief honors the beloved

This might be her last spring. I don’t know if she’ll live to see the pet blessing in the fall. This is the end. We know it. I hope it will be a quiet ending, quiet as a sleeping dog surrounded by the ones who care about her.

I will treasure her as long as she is with us. I will love her after she passes from this life. I will remember her as Merfect, the stray who made a home in my heart, the dog who made my home more welcoming.

Blessing

Mercy with Chase the catLord, thank you for the blessing
of animals in their feathers and fur,
bright eyes and open faces.

Let us care for the wanderers,
the neglected, the abused by cruel hands.
Make our hands kind,
make us the good stewards
you ask us to be.

Above all, let us love as dogs love,

As if each reunion is the best,
as if each homecoming matters.

Tell me your thoughts!

Have you had a beginning or ending recently? Do you have a story of an animal who welcomes you home? How has grace touched your life this week?

Pet clutter? 5 ways to organize your cat

If you’re like me, you’ve got clutter. I have paper clutter, clothes clutter, electronics clutter and clutter so cluttered I’m unable to categorize it.

One of the most difficult kinds of clutter to deal with is pet clutter. We have six animals in various states of disarray. Rather than stay in one area, they wander from couch to window, adding noise when they deem appropriate.

Often, we think there might be a reason for the noise. We leave our couch, and look out the window vaguely in the dark. Is there a opossum? A raccoon? Nothing! We tell the dogs we see nothing. Does that stop them? No, it doesn’t. My husband has described our dog, Mercy, as mostly blank with periods of anger at the unknown.

She will go to the window and start barking. Our other dog, Cookie, doesn’t even bother to look if there’s really a problem. She will join in the barkfest without any fact-checking or confirmation. It’s time to bark! Let’s go!

They disrespect us as housemates, and think nothing of telling us about their hunger problems at 5 a.m. Do we look like we care? We’re sleeping! Or at least we were. If you want a guaranteed alarm clock that will work even when the power is out, feed one animal once at 5 a.m. and you will never oversleep again.

Thankfully, Mira our cat entered our lives last year. We adopted her from the local humane society. We were unaware of her talent: she is a self-organizing cat. Where other animals sleep without any visible sense of order or structure, Mira takes it upon herself to put herself away.

5 ways to organize your cat

Blessing

Lord, thank you for the unexpected ways
your creatures amuse and awaken us.
Help us to be good caretakers of
the animal friends who greet us, charm us,
keep us active and make us better people.

Tell me your thoughts!

How do animals entertain you? Has an animal made a difference in your well-being? What is the most cluttered–or most organized–thing your pet has done for you recently?

A blessing St. Francis understood

crazyDo you have a special animal in your life? Whatever kind of person you are: cat, dog, horse or lizard, pets bless our lives.

With the food bills, care needs and short lifespans, a non-animal person might wonder why we give so much to our pets but animal people know how they add liveliness, laughter and warmth to our days.

We learn from these non-human relationships. Practicing kindness to animals teaches us how to be kind to ourselves.

“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.” ―St. Francis of Assisi (Goodreads)

The human-animal bond brings us wellness, friendship and happiness.

Wellness

Animals keep us healthy. Dogs and horses make us stay active. Whether it’s taking our dogs Mercy and Cookie for a walk around the property or lifting hay bales for the horses, caring for animals keeps me in better physical shape.

They help our psychological health. Research shows that pets help relieve stress. Animals give you someone to focus on other than yourself. During hard times or grieving, the steady presence of a dog or the warm purring of a cat soothes you when few things can.

“It may be a cat, a bird, a ferret, or a guinea pig, but the chances are high that when someone close to you dies, a pet will be there to pick up the slack. Pets devour the loneliness. They give us purpose, responsibility, a reason for getting up in the morning, and a reason to look to the future. They ground us, help us escape the grief, make us laugh, and take full advantage of our weakness by exploiting our furniture, our beds, and our refrigerator. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Pets are our seat belts on the emotional roller coaster of life–they can be trusted, they keep us safe, and they sure do smooth out the ride.” ―Nick Trout (Goodreads via Central Missouri Humane Society)

A friendly face is a great antidote to loneliness. When you come home, you have someone there. They don’t have to check their schedule; they’re always ready to socialize with you!

Dogs excel at reunions. Who doesn’t feel popular returning to a house where a wagging tail awaits you? How would it be if we showed the same level of excitement to our loved ones when they came home, welcoming them at the door with hugs? A feeling of belonging gives us well-being.

Friendship

Bu at the pondSome animal friendships are closer than others. My dog, Bu (Sula Bula), was independent in her twilight years. She would take herself down to the pond for a swim and come back for dinner. The warm water must have felt good on her old bones. After dinner, she’d head off for bed.

We decided to adopt a second dog, Mercy, to keep Bu company. I was amazed at the loyalty of our new white spotted dog. Mercy stayed by my side, following me from room to room.

After Bu died, we adopted Cookie. She makes Mercy seem reserved. Next to me is not enough. Cookie’s place is on me. She launches herself with 15 pounds of pure Chihuahua power into my lap whether I’m ready or not.

This morning she got a splash of tea on her head because I wasn’t expecting her. She practices the philosophy of, “Leap toward the lap!” as opposed to “Look before your leap.”

Where people can hold back and worry about looking foolish, she leaps and loves without hesitation.

No matter what I’m doing, Cookie is there. She plays the roles of laundry assistant, barn help and crochet project supervisor. She outdoes herself in the kitchen while on dropped bacon pickup duty; I’ve never seen such focus and concentration. Her closeness can be cloying but for the most part I love having her constant companionship.

We talk to our friends so that means we talk to our pets. Do you talk to your pet? You’re not alone. A study showed that 97 percent of people do (Pets: Good for your health). St. Francis was known to preach to animals. (St. Francis Preaches to the Birds)

Want more interaction with your pet? Make an effort to spend time with your fuzzy friend. Play string chase with a kitty or relax in a sunbath next to the dog. Often, our animals are the ones seeking us out. It does us good to slow down and give affection.

Happiness

The best pet is the one whose face you want to see every morning and every evening. I’m happiest sitting outside where I watch contended horses graze, a dog at my feet and another on my lap. I find the sound of the horses’ chewing and the smell of fresh grass peaceful.

“Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.” -St. Francis of Assisi (Wikiquote)

It’s a good life. Pets make it even better. Enjoy this video of my animals and others I know and love.

Is there a special animal in your heart? Tell me about him or her in the comments!