Those big eyes stare at me from the Facebook posts … Ringo, Bailey, Kyleigh, Anastasia, Constance, Harriet, Ross … the list goes on and on. Big, sad, longing eyes of dogs and cats seeking forever homes, posted by friends on behalf of the various animal rescue agencies. All my life the dogs and cats we owned were rescue pets, and they quickly made a home in our hearts, as well as our houses. They arrive in their new homes with stories their humans can’t really know, but it’s easy to anthropomorphize their gratitude. They become part of the experience of home in no time at all.
This Thanksgiving we spent several days visiting our son and his beloved. We arrived just eleven days after they laid to rest their dear canine companion. Whistler was part of our family since the fall of 2000, and she’s been part of our son’s life for 15 years. She was a fixture in their home … loyally waiting by the door for their return, always playful and so smart – she learned many fun tricks. When we first arrived a few days ago it was such a shock not to see her at the door to greet us. And with every morsel of food that fell to the floor, we felt her absence.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about what makes a house a home as we gathered with a host of relatives from different sides of the family. We swapped stories from our childhoods, and among the stories there were many accounts of past canine and feline companions in our families … tales of their antics, personalities, and how we loved them. It was clear that these companions were as much a part of the stories, and the feeling, of “home” as the humans in our families.
Pets aren’t for everyone … allergies, travel schedules, time commitments, finances, and other considerations may not allow for one to bring an animal into their home (and this is a good thing … please don’t take in a pet if you aren’t able to make the commitment). But for those who share their home with a beloved animal companion, especially a rescue animal, you know how it can change your sense of home for the better, and add value for your family. Pets can help children learn empathy and compassion, as well as respect and responsibility for living beings, and they soothe our spirits when we most need soothing. Perhaps you, like me, often speculate about what these animals are thinking and what they might say if they could. I’m sure those dear beings we’ve rescued would say, “Thank you – there’s no place like home!”