Thursday, October 26, 2017

Five anchors

I have a lot of pets. Five, to be exact. Sometimes I think what life would be without them. I'd be able to skip away from the house on long adventures without feeling guilty. No more spending exorbitant fees for shots, mysterious ailments, and fancy food. No more having to readjust my schedule because someone needs a walk/needs shots/needs more food/can't be left alone/smells like a skunk even though you've bathed her four times. Being able to find a place to rent while we build our house, because every landlord recoils in horror at the word "pets".

I have friends who swear off pets for many of those reasons and it does make sense. I couldn't have a pet when I was a seasonal worker, and I was able to go to New Zealand for six weeks/move across the country every six months/backpack anywhere in a national park/own clean vehicles.

But my heart. With one exception our animals are all rescues. One cat would have died without us feeding him with a bottle. We rescued one cat from a house that, I kid you not, had air literally blue from smoke. One of the dogs was taken from a hoarding situation. Someone else would have taken them--maybe.

Ruby before the molt. She looks totally skinny now.
In these beautiful fall days, I hike with the dogs. The older one feels he has earned the right to ignore me and poke along; he's eleven. The puppy runs ahead, and then comes back to check on me. It's fifty degrees and feels so warm; even though I laugh to myself that just a month ago it was fifty degrees more than this. This is what I love about living in a four season place. You get to watch the miracle of your body adjusting to extremes.

I've also witnessed rescue animals adjusting to love for the first time. Our old dog is getting more and more cuddly with age, just like the last one did. It makes me think of people--once you have experienced a trauma, it takes forever to trust again. The animals give me hope.

Callie! Fifteen and going strong.
 And despite the challenges of these five anchors, having a trail buddy has been really great. Ruby has gone from a stubborn, independent puppy to one who will sit when other people come by (she used to try to run off with them, as if they would give her a better home), will "leave it" when told (she stopped running after a deer, a huge victory) and who will come sit by me as I sit by a lake, putting her head on my lap.

 I don't know if I will always have pets. Now, while I am chained to working at home, it makes sense-I am there a lot of the time. If I get to retire, I plan to chase all the trails I can. Maybe I will want to be more footloose then. For now the pets fill up some empty spaces and make me happy. Plus, who would I talk to all day? Myself? Far better to talk to the pets. "Okay, Ruby, now we need to make a conference call."

Then there's the hardest part--pets don't live very long. Not nearly long enough. It breaks your heart when they leave you, even though you know they will. Every day with them, you live knowing that someday they won't be around. I also have friends who won't get any more pets because that pain was too hard to bear.

Puffin as a kitten, rescued from certain death
Do you have pets or have you chosen not to have them to pursue a more free life?

15 comments:

  1. Our son and his girlfriend took our dog and cat over a year ago because R had to find a place to rent near his job and couldn't find one that took pets. They of course fell in love with Bandit and Red and yesterday Bandit had to be euthanized (cancer). R and I came and we all went together to the vet and then came home and buried her and I did a ceremony. It was terribly hard, though also a good honoring.
    I do like not having pets anymore (just less to have to deal with), but also my lifestyle doesn't allow for any either (try keeping a cat or dog in a wall tent!).

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    1. This year a girl hiked the PCT with a kitten. She taught it to ride on her backpack. I was skeptical but the cat made it to Canada and by all reports seemed to enjoy the trip. But alone in a wall tent all day, nope.

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  2. My pups have given me so much love and friendship over the years that my life would not have been the same without them. They do everything with us from backpacking to kayaking and everything in between. A year ago in August we had to say goodby to my precious Abby girl, she was 14. I honestly can say I've never felt such heart break and I still miss her but life goes on. My sisters Springer Spaniel had a litter of pups 2 weeks ago and we are getting another girl, she's the runt of the litter and a black/white this time instead of liver/white, her name will be Emily Grace! I'm excited to show her the mountains this summer!!

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    1. My friend kayaks with her dog but I have not gotten up the nerve to take Ruby. I'm afraid she'd freak out and swamp me. Yay for puppies.

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  3. Well, you know the story of our cat. She isn't fully an anchor yet; the question remains, if we ever leave this gig, will she stay with Fenton Ranch? Still, we were talking recently about how much joy she brings to our lives, especially when we are hibernating in the winter. So we are happy she found us!!! And who knows if she will become an anchor for us ...

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  4. Hmm..well cats are a little more adaptable. She could live in the van!

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  5. Dog Love! There really is nothing else like it. They love unconditionally and without judgment. If only we all could follow their examples. I sometimes think that's why we rescue a 4-legged just to have them be our teacher and ultimately our rescuer. Yes, some of the deeoest pain ever is to say goodbye to them. But never would I not have another in my life.

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    1. I agree, my dogs are so accepting and patient, they are always happy to either sit in the truck or run. It's been fun to have a puppy hiking companion.

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  6. College was the only part of my life where I didn't have a kitty companion. I don't expect I'll go without one anytime soon. :) I hope all of them are as laid back as the two cats I've had so far.

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    1. Kitty personalities are so funny. I've had Puffin since he was 2 weeks old and he's so fiesty. Whereas my other kitties have been really mellow.

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  7. We have a dog "Rosie" and a cat "Snickerfritz Picklebottom (aka: kiki). I grew up with dogs, so getting dogs were a given for me. Cats, although I lived with two of my hubby's when we first met, were harder for me choose to adopt. I have cat allergies which made the adoption choice hard too. A couple years ago we decided to take the kitty plunge for my daughter. A doctor my hubby works with told him cats actually help build kids' immune systems. Who knows if it's true or not, but I ended up being convinced. I have grown to love the constant nighttime scamper through the house. My allergies are fine as long as I make sure she dpesnt get around my face. Our dog is almost 13. She has a bum hip which makes her walk/run on 3 legs, and her vision is also bad. She's tougher to find a sitter for now too. I've come to grips with the fact that we'll soon have to make the very hard decision. Until then she can enjoy the pet bed in front of the wood stove, and watching over our family. I don't know if we'll get another dog. If we do we'll make sure it travels with us. Maybe though we'll just stick with cats.

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    1. Cats are definitely easier when you want to travel. Hope your doggie lasts several more years.

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  8. Does Goldie count? Definitely loses on the cuddly scale but wins on life expectancy scale.

    Seriously though I missed the unconditional love and cuddles my kitties provided. My house feels empty without those beating hearts.

    The exchange of freedom and being guilt free is worth it for now, but someday I see myself as a crazy cat woman.

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    1. Hey if Taylor can take a kitten on the PCT you can take a cat backpacking! Just kidding. Goldie does count! I think when you end up in your forever place, you will probably take less long trips because everything you love will be right there. But that is a guess based on my experience.

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  9. I think a lot about this too. Traveling is a lot harder when you have pets and it's even harder when your pets are working animals with jobs and high level of needs. However...I see people with no pets doing the traveling, or even just life, thing and almost always they seem like really self-absorbed people with no willingness to think of anything but themselves. I know people who got so obsessed with things like cycling and exercise that they gave away their pets, gave them to the shelter, etc. What is a person getting out of life if they don't want to have a symbiotic relationship with a living being in any way? I don't regret having animals. We get way more out of it than we would not having them. Most of the time I prefer their company to that of the people I meet on the traveling circuit....

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