Celebrate Pet Parenthood
April 24: This one’s for us!
It occurs every year on the last Sunday in April, and even though it involves millions of people, it doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. It’s National Pet Parents Day, which honors the unbreakable bond between pets and their human parents. So, consider this my greeting card to you: Happy Pet Parents Day!
Which are you, a pet parent or a pet owner? I tend to think of Howard and me as pet parents. We own things, but we nurture beings, and this includes our precious cats. We provide them with shelter, health care, food, emotional and intellectual support, and, of course, love, just as any human parent would do for a child. We worry about them when they’re sick and clean up after them when they make a mess. And as with all parenting, our job requires patience, tolerance, and creativity.
Sweet Walter with the diamond on his nose.
They may have four feet, whiskers, and fur, but each is unique with specific needs, personalities, and foibles. We need them and they need us, and the joy and comfort they give us every day is a blessing.
Take our newest addition, Grogu. Despite coming to us last October in terrible shape — matted, smelly, and with a serious heart condition — Grogu is thriving. He’s such a character and he brings us so much joy. When Howard sits down to have lunch, Grogu stands at his feet, looks up, and yells until Howard stops eating to play with him. It’s hysterical. He’s also a little stinker. He pounces on Mooshu, Helen, and Walter…when they’re using the litter box!
This once shy, neglected, sad kitty has become a happy, handsome, outgoing little guy with a huge personality. We just can’t get enough of him and cherish all the time we have with him. We’re not even thinking about his bad heart. And his charm has captivated Yoda, too, who has barely left his side since he arrived. They do everything together: drink from their water fountain, eat, play, and sleep. Yoda has an extra skip in his step these days, and his “purpose” now is to make sure Grogu is watched over at all times.
Another sweet pair is Helen Rose and Pebble, who definitely fall under the heading of opposites attract. Their personalities are so different: Pebble, naughty and playful — sometimes a bully — while Helen is squishy and docile, yet they fit together like two peas. Some of my favorite IG posts are videos of Pebble grooming Helen. She’s almost aggressive the way she licks Helen’s ears and head, while Helen just goes with the flow. A photo I took recently says it all. There’s Helen in the background, ready for any stray belly rub that might happen by, and there’s Pebble, giving the camera a classic feline stink eye. They make me laugh all the time.
I know parents aren’t supposed to have favorites, but sometimes you just can’t help it. I must admit that my beautiful blind Bella owns my heart. (Am I allowed to say that??!) She was found pregnant in a junkyard and brought to a municipal shelter, where she was about to be euthanized when North Shore Animal League America rescued her. She gave birth to four healthy kittens and was a wonderful mother.
After I fostered and found homes for her babies, I went back and picked up momma. I took her to many eye specialists, but there was nothing to be done. One eye never fully formed, and the other needed to be surgically removed as the result of an early trauma. I can barely think about it.
Eventually the moment arrived when I felt she was ready to fly. I remember having dinner with Howard, and he looked at me and said, “Bella’s not going anywhere, is she?” And I said no. She’s been with us since 2013. She is my love. What’s fascinating is that the other cats know something’s off with her and have embraced her. Even Pebble, who as I said, is often a bully, respects her and never gives her a hard time. She actually defers to gentle Bella, which is amazing.
Our sweet Walter is getting older … sometimes we call him “our old man.” We still can’t believe he was adopted and returned twice to Animal League America. How could anyone give him up! We adopted him in 2010 and he and Howard bonded immediately. He adores Howard, and it’s mutual. Howard honored Walter with a beautiful watercolor, one of my favorites.
Longhaired Calico Mooshu Peaches was a feral kitty who was born and lived outside for more than five months. I knew she was going to be challenge from the day I met her, but there was nothing more rewarding than the tiny moments of progress we experienced every day. In October 2019, she became a Stern. Walter loved her from the start, and soon she came to love Howard, who spent a lot of time socializing her. But not me, no matter how hard I tried!! It took time and patience, but after many months of working to win her trust, Mooshu Peaches now lets me cuddle on the bed with her. But I don’t dare pick her up or make a sudden move! They all have such distinct, different personalities and have enriched our lives. I can’t imagine our home without them.
Three years ago: Above, a scared Mooshu Peaches trying to get used to us.
Today: Below, The Moosh and Walter, sweet friends.
The one thing that made all this possible — that brought joy, laughter, and wonder into our lives — is my work as a volunteer. April is Volunteer Appreciation Month, and I urge you to find a way to help your local animal shelter by sharing your unique skills. Everyone can do something, and every something saves lives. Being a foster pet parent is best for me, and I salute all foster families who welcome homeless animals into their lives to love, socialize, and nurture so that another family can adopt them forever. Through fostering and adoption, I’ve met some wonderful pet parents, including these recent adopters.
Left to right: The pet mom who adopted special-needs Promise; the young couple who adopted Shrimpy, the megaesophagus kitty (seen here distracting dad from the dishes!); and the lucky couple who saw the photo I posted of Minnie from Oman and adopted her directly from NSALA, before I had a chance to meet her! I love it when this happens.
For those of us lucky enough to be blessed by this profound interspecies relationship, pet parenting is a sweet way of life. Sure, there are challenges and even sadness, but the unconditional love and companionship our pets give us make it all worthwhile. Pet parents know that the deep and complex nature of their relationships with their pets is pure magic. So set aside a little extra time on April 24 to let your pet know that this special day belongs to both of you!
P.S. April is Heartworm Awareness Month. Both dogs and cats can get this serious even fatal mosquito borne disease. The prognosis for cats with heartworm is bad, with the most common symptoms being vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, weight loss, and difficult breathing, coughing, and gagging, all of which may be confused with feline asthma. Unlike in dogs, there is no cure for heartworm in cats. The best bet is to prevent it, especially if you live in warm, muggy areas of the country. Talk to your vet now before mosquito season begins.
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