I believe that I am a better person for having them in my life.
It started with Gus, a hamster who lived well beyond his specie’s life expectancy. He has been followed by a never-ending revolving door of rodents, birds, cats, horses, fish, and a dog. Growing up my parents operated under the philosophy that as long as I was responsible for their care I could be graced with the presence of animals. I fed, watered, cleaned cages and stalls, walked, brushed, bathed, and played with them all. There were days when it seemed like too much work but looking back what I remember is the comfort and enjoyment they gave on a daily basis.
I became more aware of the roll these creatures played as the trials and tribulations of the real world unfolded before me. In college going to the barn was the highlight of my day. The stresses of a research paper, bad grade, or botched chemistry experiment were quickly forgotten and order restored as soon as the smell of hay, leather, and liniment filled my nostrils. It was clear when order was not restored because I was snippy with the horses and they were snippy with me. Nothing grounds you faster…literally, then a 1200lb disgruntled animal. Post graduation, as I found a job and a place to live, the gathering began again. I have gleefully sacrificed more of my medium sized apartment, time, and money to make them a part of my life. After a long day of phone calls, emails, unhappy clients, and potentially long hours in the car I can retreat the inner sanctum of my humble abode. I can curl up on my couch with three purring felines and two whistling guinea pigs while watching the terrarium antics of my amphibian roommates. I can laugh, I can cry, I can yell, and I can scream. I can break hearts and have my heart broken. I can make a million dollars or I can make one. They don’t care. People question how I can find happiness in a floor littered with catnip mice, the ever present scattering of bedding on my bedroom floor, and a box of chirping crickets on my counter. How do I make them understand that I’m okay with having to watch where I leave hair clips and fresh flowers; that an unraveled roll of toilet paper is easily fixed; that the occasional escaped cricket will not end the world; that there are worse things in life then getting peed on by an small rodent; that I cherish every scar from my equine experiences? My personal answer is in watching how my small zoo takes pleasures in the simple things like chasing their own tails, lounging on a lily pad, or munching on alfalfa. They constantly remind me to not sweat the small stuff, do what I can about the big stuff and at the end of the day just release the rest. They have taught me about love and loss, life and death, work and play. I have learned how to properly stalk a stuffed mouse. I have learned that fence posts make great back scratchers and a sunny spot on the floor can be the best place for an afternoon nap. Now if I can just figure out why dogs turn around three times before lying down…
I may never really know if they are better for having had me in their life but am I better for having had them? This I believe.
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