I have loved animals from as far back as I remember. All kinds—well, except foxes, but we’ll talk about that some other time. When I was six years old, we lived on West Granby Road in Granby, a small town at that time in northern Connecticut. One side of West Granby Road was lined with houses, while on the other side was a large cornfield. Behind our line of houses, at the edge of our backyards was an old barbwire fence and beyond that fence was an expansive cow pasture for a farm somewhere in the distance.
Every afternoon the cows would come and graze and sometimes they would come to the barbwire fence. But behind our house there was always just one cow who always grazed alone. I would go and visit him and after a while I named him Lonesome. I would go to the fence and talk to him and see how his day was and while he munched away, I’d tell him about my day too. Every so often he’d look over at me. I often wondered, why was he always on his own, away from the other cows? Lonesome became my friend.
I sometimes wonder what my mother thought looking out the kitchen window as she did the dishes and see her six-year-old daughter talking to a cow.
But Lonesome and I had some things in common. Growing up in the Navy and moving every two years or so, I was often the “new girl” in the class, did not know anyone, and learning to navigate my way through my own preschool and elementary school world. Some places I adapted to quite quickly, others took some time. But eventually I would find a friend. I probably told that to Lonesome too.
Pets are a wonder. One of the unexpected benefits of staying with my brother and his family during these early days since my diagnosis is that his house comes with two pets—Luke (a Sheltie) and Whitney (a rescue kitty born in Hawaii). They are often nearby, with Luke lounging on the floor thinking about his next meal, and Whitney, usually lounging on the couch or the lap of the person who sat there. They do funny things and cause grown up adults to do funny things. Luke is a cancer survivor. He has three legs now, but after the vet told my brother and his wife that Luke would only have a year to live, this January it will be four years.
He’s had to make some adjustments to his life. He can’t go on walks like regular dogs do, so instead he goes for his “Daily Tug,” as my brother and sister–in-law take their daily walk and pull Luke in his own wagon behind them. Luke sits in his wagon like a Royal Monarch out to greet his subjects. Neighbors and children come out to greet him during his daily tug. He loves the open air and all the attention. Other dogs look on enviously (some even hop in to the wagon) and then they look back wistfully at their owners as though to say, when do we get our wagons?
Being around these loved and lovable pets has been good therapy for me. It’s good to laugh and to receive their affection. There is a certain mystery about that bond between people and our pets. Our heads may tell us one thing, but our hearts tell us quite another. They are constant and faithful companions (yes, even the cats), they love us unconditionally, they make us laugh, even as they cause us to go running to the Christmas tree as it is munched and comes crashing to the floor—and yet we still we love them. The unconditional love of an animal companion is immeasurable, whatever we may be facing in our lives.
Even if it is a cow.