For those of you who already have animals, then you personally know the many joys and wonderful moments that having animals in our lives can bring. In this blog, I want to share how our animals have helped our family and in particular my youngest daughter MiKayla as we have been traveling our grief journey.
Throughout my life, I have always been blessed to be in a home with pets. While I was growing up, I was so happy to be in a family that loved animals. We started out with German Shepherds, and for the first years of my life, our family included a loving, protective German Shepherd named Prince. My dad also made our lives so exciting by having German Shepherd puppies in our home. He brought home two other German Shepherds named Duke and Duchess, and they had puppies. My childhood was filled with my brother and I having so much fun with the puppies, and I remember the happy feelings and love that came along with all of our time with the puppies. These are such wonderful memories. My dad later brought home another dog that he gave a funny name to. My dad and one of his close friends had a contest on who could name their dog the silliest name. His friend named his dog Kitty, and we would laugh so hard when that dog would come running when you called “Kitty”. My dad named his dog D.O.G. D.O.G. also had puppies, and again we had so many happy memories and fun moments with those puppies.
Once I reached high school age then my dad shifted to Golden Retrievers. We had Cody for many years just like Prince. Cody and Prince were a part of our family for many years, and once they were gone then we truly grieved their loss. My dad brought home another golden retriever named Sammie, and again our home was blessed with puppies. When the Golden Retriever puppies came then I was already out of the home and off to college, but these were very special times for my baby sister Kim. She adored those puppies and had such a heart for them. She still talks about how she felt when it was time to sell the puppies. She felt true sadness, and she felt very protective of them as she tried to find out at a young age if they were going to be truly loved and cared for in their new homes.
It is special to look back and see how my dad instilled this love of dogs in us. We still call him the dog whisper. My parents currently have Tessa who is another Golden Retriever, and we have enjoyed watching throughout her life the love that my parents have for her and the special relationship that she has with them. My dad has her very well trained, and I think it would be difficult to find a more loving or more obedient dog than our Tessa. After my husband died in August 2011 and my son died in June 2013 at the age of 18 in a car accident, then my parents would come and stay with us and they would bring Tessa. The way Tessa would look at me and come by me with so much love would cause me to wonder, “Do you sense my grief Tessa? Do you feel that my heart is breaking?” She always seemed to be so loving and concerned for me. I experienced the same love and care from my sister’s Golden Retriever Dakota. When Kim and Dakota stayed with us or would come to visit, then it often felt like Dakota sensed our pain and would come close to me and would show so much love. Again I would wonder, “Do you sense my pain Dakota?’ Animals truly are amazing.
We also had cats while I was growing up in our home. I have lots of funny memories when I think back on the cats that we had in our home, and the stories always make me laugh especially when I remember my mom with our cats. When I was moving to the South after having grown up in the North, I was very concerned about living in a region with poisonous snakes. I did not grow up with poisonous snakes and felt very worried about living in an area with them. I was so concerned that I spent time talking with a game warden in order to learn what were the best things for me to do to try to avoid having snakes around. The game warden advised me that the best thing to have around was a pot belly pig. He said that animal would take care of the snakes. After Kirk and I had gotten married, then he was quick to let me know that he understood that I was scared of snakes, but that we would not be getting a pot belly pig. LOL!! The game warden said that the next best thing was a cat!! He shared that you could have a dog around and that a snake would not care and would not be deterred. He said that snakes could care less if a dog was around or not. He advised me that cats and snakes were arch enemies, and he told me that if I couldn’t get a pot belly pig that a cat would be the next best animal to have around. I can assure you that since I have lived in the South that I have made sure to have at least one or two cats outside always!!
After I had gotten married, then we always had a dog and a cat as part of our family. We had several golden retrievers and two labs. My kids grew up loving having animals around. It is special to me to look back and see how my dad instilled that love for animals in me. I am thankful to have the opportunity to give my children the same gift. When we moved in August 2011, then we had a Chocolate Lab named Jake. Sadly, Jake was hit by a car and died not long after we moved in August. My husband had died in August 2011, and my 11 year old girl desperately wanted kitties. We found two kitties for MiKayla after her daddy died, and these two little kitties helped MiKayla in ways that no one else was able to. She carried her two kitties Smokey and Jo-Jo around in a basket, and usually when MiKayla was home from school and on the weekends then her kitties were with her. These two kitties would be inside the house with MiKayla and would also go outside. If you wanted to have a conversation with MiKayla then the best thing to get the conversation going would be to talk with her about her kitties. They became her special friends after she lost her daddy. Of course, these kitties did not make the pain go away from this 11 year old girl who was missing her daddy with all her heart, but these kitties were there with her no matter what she was doing.
Jo-Jo disappeared on us one day, and we never saw Jo-Jo again. MiKayla was so sad about Jo-Jo. We are not sure if Jo-Jo was taken or killed or what happened to Jo-Jo. Once Jo-Jo was gone then we got Snickers (pictured in the bottom right corner). Snickers is the most vocal cat ever! We still laugh about all that Snickers has to say, and Snickers has some real volume. Snickers is an outside cat and one that I was hoping to help with the snakes. I must share that we don’t think that Snickers is doing his job. One day when a snake was outside by the back of our home then Snickers was hanging on the screen door. I was not impressed with Snickers! Snickers is to be scaring the snakes away and not hiding from them scared!!
Right around the time that my only son was killed, then MiKayla’s kitty Smokey was also killed on the highway by our home. Again, my sweetheart was so sad. As her mom, I decided that was enough. She had lost both of her sweet friends Jo-Jo and Smokey, and at that time I made a decision to get her two new kitties that would only be inside kitties. Nala and Shenzie (pictured on the left hand side) joined our family in July 2013. These two kitties are with MiKayla all of the time, and the bond that she has with them is very special. I know that her kitties through the years have given her amazing gifts of love and companionship that no one else could have given her. These kitties have been with her through her grief journey of losing her daddy and her brother. These kitties will always have a very special place in my heart because of the gifts that they have given to my baby girl.
You may have noticed a fourth cat in the picture collage. MiKayla was worried about our outdoor cat Snickers and felt like he needed a friend. (Of course this was a plan of MiKayla’s to get another kitty. She LOVES kitties.) I felt that we had enough animals, but this kitty Misty joined our family anyways. Misty lives outside with Snickers. Misty is our feistiest cat! MiKayla calls her baby kitty, but she is one tough cat! She is definitely not hanging on the screen door in fear of snakes like Snickers. Misty is a hunter.
After our chocolate lab Jake was killed then we brought home our Golden Retriever Max in the spring of 2012. Max was an adorable puppy and all three of my children enjoyed Max. However, I was at work all day and the kids were in school and then often on nights and weekends, we were still all gone to games and activities. Max was lonely and was acting out so I decided to get Max a friend. In the spring of 2013 we got Addie. Addie is another Golden Retriever, and all of the kids loved having another puppy around. Addie and Max both got lots of love. Addie is our alpha dog and has been in charge since the day we got her. Even as a 6 week old puppy, she was taking all of Max’s toys away from him even though he was towering over her as a 1 year old. Today, we all laughed at a vine video that PK had made that showed Addie stealing all of Max’s toys. Addie has been in charge since the day she arrived. (Max is on the far right of the picture and Addie is in the back.)
I did not plan on being a family of three dogs and four cats. I still laugh when I go to the vet and they say, “Which one today Kristi?” On the left of the dogs is Kya. Kya is a Goberian and is half husky and half golden retriever. MiKayla decided she really wanted a puppy for her 15th birthday . At first, I was not going to do this, but all I could think of was the love and companionship that my daughter has experienced with her animals. I decided to get her the Goberian that she wanted. I have not ever regretted it. Kya is the most loving dog. We adore her with her sweet personality. MiKayla adores her, and Kya is definitely with her on her journey as well. We laugh because Kya is even friends with the kitties. Addie has had two groups of puppies that have brought much love and joy to the girls and I. Kylee and MiKayla both loved having the puppies around so much. We are looking forward to puppies with Kya next and all of the love and joy that they will bring.
As you look at the featured picture and see our 3 dogs, 2 inside cats, and 2 outdoor cats, then you may feel overwhelmed that we have so many. I can share straight from my heart that these animals are all a special part of our family. The girls and I have lost almost half of our immediate family with the deaths of my husband and son. These seven pets bring us much love and joy. As I look into their eyes then I often wonder what they understand and sense.
“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.” Martin Buber
I know our sweet fur babies have shown the girls and I much love and concern with their eyes and their actions. I love and appreciate each one and the joy that they have brought to our family. Our grief and pain have not been taken away by their presence, but they have brought much love and joy to all of us. I am thankful they are on this journey with us. The priceless gifts that they continue to give especially to MiKayla have been true treasures in our life!! We love them so much and are so thankful for the gift of each one!!