Animals, especially our pets, are so much more than just something to cuddle. Pets enrich our lives and create growth in delightful ways. Listen in as Cheri and Amy reminisce about their fur-babies and the lessons they’ve learned from them. There’s lots of laughter (drunk dog, anyone?) and some tears shed too, but you won’t be able to walk away without memories of your own furry friends flooding to the surface!
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- Jen’s newest book Pawverbs for the Dog Lover’s Heart: Inspiring Stories of Friendship, Fun, and Faithfulness
- Jen’s website: https://www.jenniferbleakley.com
- Cat Quality of Life Scale that Cheri refers to
- Video of little girl singing to horses that Amy refers to
- Episode #210 Transcript — coming soon!
- What is your favorite memory of an animal that you’ve loved?
- What is the greatest lesson that you’ve learned from an animal?
- How do you see animals as a gift in God’s creation?
Featured Author — Jen Bleakley
Jennifer Marshall Bleakley is also the author of Joey: How a Blind Rescue Horse Helped Others Learn to See; a former child and family grief counselor; and a children’s curriculum writer.
When Jennifer is not typing away on her beat-up computer, you can find her spending time with her talented software engineer/woodworking husband, her two growing children, and her very needy Golden retriever. She and her family live in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Connect with Jen via her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Transcript — scroll to read here (or download above)
Grit ‘n’ Grace — The Podcast
Episode #210: Creating a Richer Life through a Passion for Pets
Note: This is a machine-generated transcript that is only about 60-70% accurate.
Cheri, this is going to be such a fun conversation today. We’re braced for both laughter and tears. And we’re starting with animals show us who were not. We are not in control.
Why does everything have to come back down to that C word? Oh my goodness. But you are so right. And, you know, one of the things I have told people over the years when when people ask, you know, are you a cat person or dog person and I’d love to hear from our listeners as to where where they, they fall on that continuum, but I am distinctly a dog person who has become a cat convert, like my life started out very much with a with a dog. I grew up with a Samoyed when I was a kid and then actually our first pet I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this, but our first dog was a Samoyed that we showed to a champion, like I literally used to go into dog show rings. And and, and I actually put one point on her we paid a handler to do the rest. But, you know, that was a definite stage of learning. We couldn’t control whether she lost her one, I could make her as beautiful as possible. And I could, I could wash her till that white coat was pure white and fluffy and perfectly groomed. And sometimes we came out with championship roset. And sometimes we came home with nothing so and then you remember my dog shotzi he died four years ago, you know, probably the funniest thing with her that that, you know that when when I used to talk to Kathy live by Skype that I would if I if I forgot to create shots, because she had a we had an indoor crate for her when she slept at night, I would suddenly become aware that she was upstairs in the kids bathroom eating the cat food. And I would yell at her and she would come dashing down the stairs, and finally got to the point that I would become aware that she had just eaten the cat food, because things would get really, really quiet. Except I wouldn’t notice that what I would suddenly become aware of is that she was just creating herself. Like she would suddenly come into the room where I was and she would create herself. And I would be like, Oh darn, she’s gone upstairs and she has eaten the cat food again. And what Jonathan told me later, is that she he would he had watched her she would creep upstairs one step at a time. And she would go up one step and then pause, one step and pause one step and pause. Literally tiptoe a little pause, you know, 30 pound K’s on pause into eat the cat food, and then she would come barreling down like an elephant. And then she would go crate herself for punishment. Like I’m done.
She understood she put herself in timeout.
She’s like, well, I’ve had the food there’s nothing you can do. So I’ll just come on into my crate now. It’s like, Oh, my word talking about talking about lack of control. So and then where we are now of course is the Gregory home of geriatric cats. And all I’m going to say about that is they are ruining pretty much everything we own. But I’m not going to give any more detail. Just imagine we have a diabetic cat and we have a who’s in remission but still has symptoms and then we have a cat with kidney disease. So it’s very exciting. And then it’s what’s really been fun is watching AnneMarie she has a brand new kitten who is about to she’s had four to two months rufio and that cat is destroying her schedule. It is the funniest, funniest thing to listen to. I’m not funny, really. I’m trying to be sympathetic and empathetic, but let’s just say she’s starting to understand parenthood in ways that she didn’t use to understand it before. So yeah, so we are definitely not in control. So how have you seen that with the pets of your habit? Have the animals in your life taught you though, that you are not in control?
Well, I grew up with cats, no dogs, no exposure to dogs at all. But I have a husband who is not only deathly allergic of cats, but he’s sort of pathologically averse to cat. Oh, yeah, it’s a family thing. It’s very strange. They hate cats. Oh, which, I mean, if you met your cats, you could never hate cats. Especially we’re fakie who’s the PR box? Yes. So and dusty with her stilettos? Yep, yep, yep. Yep. But so from the very beginning, we well we got a dog. And from the very beginning we were out of control because we didn’t even plan to get a dog so the way it went was Barry was a band director. He had a band booster president who we absolutely loved her name was Cindy. And she had a dog who had puppies well she named one of the puppies after Barry all the kids called Barry bc they didn’t call him Mr. Carroll like he was young and you know kind of hit at that point we’re not kids called him BC and she named one of the puppies bc because she said he pushed all the rest out of the way to eat.
We had to The puppy
that was named after Barry. And then we bet the puppy named after Barry. Oh, that was all she wrote. Whoa, not even plan to get a dog. So out of control from the beginning. Oh yeah. And he threw up in the car on the way. It was a sign. But we had that dog for 14 years. Wow. And bc was the love of my life and the bane of my existence. I spent 14 years chasing bc around our neighborhood because he was Houdini. And now I could tell you story after story of this escape artist dog we could not keep him in. But one of my favorite stories about BC was that we moved we moved into a larger house that we were redoing at one point and we had this this neighbor next door that just thought we were the trash next door. Second. He was very fluent Southern lady and we were not. We were not so and she made her disdain of us very evident. Well, so one day we came home we have been gone all day and she calls and she says, Amy, VC has been barking at my guests all day. And I’m like all I’m so sorry. I don’t know what could have happened because he wasn’t he was a pain but he was a Barker generally. Yeah. So I couldn’t have imagined what happened to be see that day until I went outside. Well, I had been having trouble with slugs eating my, my plants. And so I did what southerners do was I read about which is we pour beer into the pan around the slide. No, I got the pan was bone dry. gotten drunk. namers all day.
Okay, that’s a new bar for what it means to be out of control.
hysterical. I just couldn’t muster up being very sorry.
Did you ever tell her he wasn’t just barking? He was actually barking at her drunk?
No, I pretended to be sorry that she had treated us like the trash next door.
Oh my word.
Okay, so animals show us who we’re not. And we’re not in control. So moving on to love who you are. Animals help us love who we are and how how do you see that play out? What would you say your statement is specifically here?
Well, the best thing about animals in our pets is we are unconditionally loved. And so bc we spent some after he died. We spent some time without a dog. But then we got Hildy. And I talk about oh my goodness crap. That was when I became dog crazy. So Hildy was a little miniature doxon. And the kids the boys started calling her mom’s tumor. They were be like, Where’s mom’s tumor? And the reason was, is that wherever I was, there was Hildy, and if I sat down she was on me. Bc was more like a cat. Like he really could have cared less about us. It was very interesting. But Hildy was I was her person. And Barry was the Alpha Dog in the house, but I said I was the love slave. So yes, love me unconditionally. I loved her unconditionally, and my, my heritage, just German. So Barry said, Great now they’re too bossy German women in the house.
So anyway, I just I loved that dog. And she was with me, everywhere I went. And we promised we were going to cry. But now I’m going to cry because Hildy passed away about three years ago. And I miss her terribly, especially during COVID. I’ve noticed Oh, having a pet so much. But you know, she was always with me. But towards the end of her life, she just had a hard time getting around and so I bought a basket that I could put under my desk so she can be comfortable and be near me and that unconditional love if these animals is just there’s just nothing like it,
Yeah. How about you?
Well, I I just want to really affirm that bit of Ann Marie visited with a friend of hers a few months ago. And it’s somebody she’s known since college. And both of them have been kind of struggling with their friendship and they each formed some new friendships. And they were struggling with why the new friendship seems so much easier. These new friendships with completely different people are seeing easier than the friendship this older 10 year friendship they have with each other. And they came to the conclusion that they just they have all this baggage. Like they knew each other in college when they were less mature and less healthy. And they’ve had all these conflicts over the years. And they’ve invested heavily in their friendship, but it’s still when they think about talking to each other, there’s like the kind of the sigh of Okay, Gird your loins. Here we go, you know, kind of thing. And I was thinking to myself, wow, most of our relationships with animals aren’t like that. They don’t come with baggage. You know, even all the mopping I’m doing in the house, it’s it’s just physical work that needs to be done. But these relationships with our with with our animals are basically uncomplicated, they’re very simple. You know, they are animals come with their, their person, their unique personalities, and they pretty much stayed the same all the time. And with the cats, I know that their way of ignoring me is their way of showing me that they love me, like whenever I come home from being gone, dusty looks at me, like I thought we got rid of you. I thought I finally had the man to myself, you know, I take better care of him than you do. You could just leave now and we’d all be so much happier without you.
And I’m like, glad to see you do this,
see, and I have a cat with a crush on your husband,
oh my goodness, so so much. But there is something very simple and very sweet and very, very basic. That is so appealing. So for my statement of love who you are, you are more courageous than you know. And I found this in caring for my animals. And I’m going to say, especially with a good team. So you know, years ago when we first moved here, so we’re going on probably 13 years ago.
Okay, won’t worry about the math.
We only had shotzi for a few years when she suddenly became very, very ill. And I had to make some very difficult potentially costly decisions about her care, in like at like three o’clock in the morning, which was totally overwhelming for an HSP and you know, still exhausted from the move. And I was in the midst of a new job. And I was having to, to figure all this kind of stuff out. And I what I discovered was I could do it, I actually could make some wise decisions. And I ended up with a vet who was just such a godsend who, who helped us medically support her. And she came through that time. It always doesn’t always happen that way. But you know, it’s one of those things that that did happen that time. And then a few years ago, we’re going on almost two years ago that rifki was diagnosed with his diabetes.
We’re going on two years since Rafiki, was diagnosed with diabetes, and oh my goodness, two years ago, I would not have I would not have believed I could draw blood from a cat or that I could give a cat a shot, let alone run a curve of testing glucose, you know, 10 times in a single day or keeping the spreadsheets or anything, but here I am. And you know, again, fortunately, he’s in remission. I don’t have to do all that kind of stuff anymore. But I’ll admit, there’s a part of me that’s like, yeah, I actually was able to step up and learn how to do all that stuff with a cat of all things, you know, not the most cooperative animals. And, you know, one of the things that that we’re in the midst of the season, we’re in right now with geriatric cats, is that we are as a family talking openly about death, which is something neither Daniel nor I did growing up, like, and when we had got pets, when the kids were little, we didn’t even think to talk to them about Okay, well, it’s a kid now. But someday, it’ll get older and it’s gonna die. We didn’t I mean, nothing like that. We had no family background to teach us to do it. And so we just got them. And I guess part of our brains were like, they’ll just live forever. And we won’t have to deal with that. Wouldn’t that be nice. And so literally, as a family, we are evaluating where our older cats are at on a daily basis based on a quality of life scale, which is really, really helpful to be able to kind of have these criteria to evaluate go, nope, today’s another Okay, day or Nope, today’s a day to call the vet. And it’s hard. But it’s necessary. And there’s a part of me that’s like, finally, I’m learning to do this thing rather than avoid it just because it’s hard and painful. Again, on this planet, death is going to be a part of life and knowing that we can have the courage to face it and that there are people who can help us face it, whether it’s a vantage or tools like the quality of life scale. It makes me feel like I’m adulting better than I used to.
Well, and I think it’s So interesting that you brought up personally and also with Anne Marie. And as I reflect, I think, too, that animals are a source of growth for us in our lives, because it becomes about taking care of another life. So my goodness, yeah, somebody that we love some furry person. furry being, I guess, some furry being that we love other than ourselves. And so they are a part of our growth. And so that leads us into animals help us delete our one life. Well,
now you told me about a video I haven’t seen yet. But I am looking forward to watching it. So tell me and tell our listeners about it.
Yeah, I need to find it. And we need to put it in our Facebook group. But they a friend of mine posted this video just happy in Thrall The other day I actually watched it several times it was a short video. But it was a little girl in Australia. She was probably I’d say four years old or so. And she had climbed to the top of this post was perched up on the top of this post about horse height. And she was singing and the horses had gathered around this little girl as she sang. But one little one horse in particular. He couldn’t get enough of her he was standing so close to her. And as you watch the video, he even like inches a little bit closer. It was like he was trying to get as close to her as he possibly could. And he had his face like right, like sort of on her lap. And she took her face and put her face on his face. And she was singing to this horse. It took my breath away. I can’t explain it. So you’re the listeners will have to watch it. But it was this beautiful moment, this very, very pure moment. And it felt like To me, this is what creation is supposed to look like. This is what God meant when he made everything is that we’re to have this communion with the furry critters around us, just like that little girl was having in that moment.
Do you want me to talk about that scripture here? Do you want me to put it down at the bottom? I’ll go ahead and put it here just feels Okay. All right. And so and we know that as Lisa Turner says we’re living between two gardens. So if the original creation, Adam and Eve had that kind of communion with the animals, but that kind of communion with animals will be restored at the end. And so I love I love Isaiah 11 six, it says the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat the calf and the lion and the yearling together and a little child will know and we know that that’s a prophecy about Christ. But that that video of that little girl, child leading them just made me have that feeling of what life restored will look like in creation.
Oh, absolutely. I love that. So let’s talk a little bit about how animals help us live our one life well as we are still here on Earth. Uh, for me the two things that really stand out. The first one is joy. And I know you’ve met Rick Viki, and as often as he can, he needs me and I don’t just mean an ed, I mean, he gets on me and he’s what he’s 1314 years old. He’s way past being a kitten but he was a bottle baby he was a run to was rejected by actually two mothers. And so he bonded to humans and so he will get there with his paws and he will start sucking on the blank that’s on me and he will do that per that you can hear from the other room and he will just sit and need and there is something very relaxing and very restful about that. But then just the crescendo of his power. I’m like, Okay, how do you not join in and feel that sense of joy that he is exuding? And then I’m also thinking back to when dusty our little black seven pound cat broke her leg. Now there was this unrequited love relationship she was absolutely her best friend in the whole world was shot see my case on dog is sec shots. He didn’t know that and so dusty spent her life following shots around. She groomed her every morning she would come up and lick her face and if shots he shook her head, she would go for the pause like literally, you know, like washing her feet for her. She’s the only cat I knew who would hack up a hairball and it was dog hair on her own. She was dedicated. And so she ignored her and dusty, adored her. And but then dusty broke her leg. And it was the one time it was that that that period of time that dusty was in a leg cast that shotzi paid attention to her and would literally entertain her. So like we would let them you know we get them together. In the morning and shotzi would roll on her back and flail her legs like an idiot. And it would just be like, look at me, like as if it was a sibling trying to make the hurt sibling or the six sibling laugh. And for that six weeks that dusty was in recovery. shotzi was her constant companion and utter goofball and as soon as that cast aside, she went back to ignoring her, but it was just it was so funny to watch her do her best to cheer her up and kind of be a nursemaid. So joy, animals. Animals help us live our one life while true joy. And then I think what you know, I hear from you and missing Hildy. And what I miss desperately right now is companionship. You know, one of the things Jen said was that during times of grief, we have an increased need for understanding and a decreased ability to understand. And then I thought to myself, we also have a decreased ability to be understood, like in times of grief, I am less understandable to others and to myself, and it makes me think of my childhood dog, Nicky, he used to curl up outside my window when I was a kid, and I could just hear him shuffling around in the dirt, he would turn around three times before settling, and I would just talk through the window at him and tell him all my troubles. And he always understood, and he would stay awake and listen, I could just tell he was awake. And then when I would stop talking, he would put his head down. And I just, again, that unconditional loving presence, you know, he never got bored of me, he was like ever, he never ever said, Could you just cut to the chase, you’ve used, you’re using too many words, like I don’t know, the story is just give me the bottom line and also help, you know, he was just that presence. And so one of the decisions I have made, is that I’m getting a puppy. It has been four years, three seasons shotzi died, and the isolation of 2020 not being able to go see my friends not being able to hang out with you. And, and, and and be with people who provide me with companionship, and I provide them with companionship. It’s just slaying me. And there’s also with shotzi. I had wanted to train her to be a therapy dog to, to go and read with children who are struggling readers and to visit nursing homes. And so a few weeks ago, I emailed every case on breeder in Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, and Nevada.
Which isn’t that many,
it’s not to say that, is that a long list?
No, it’s not. And it’s not it’s not a very popular breed. But all I’m gonna say is that there are there are litters planned for early 2021. So stay tuned.
Oh, I’m so excited. And I’m going to live vicariously through you because I’m, well, there are many reasons I’m not sure I can go through the death of a pen. Again, to be quite honest with you. That’s a big part of it for me, but also, we’re hoping that Barry and I get to travel again someday. And so we’re not choosing to do it now. But let me just say that Barry every day sends me doxon reels and Instagram every day, they first thought I was like I finally said, Are you trying to say that you want to get one? Because if he had said yes, I would not have been able to hold back but he said no, I’m just enjoying them so much and just sharing them with you. So we’re not actually getting a dog but we’re watching other people’s dogs.
I love it. So do we want to include the scripture she gave? Or just just I think we could just Yeah, yeah. Okay. All right. So what is the what is the grid for you in all of this, Amy?
The grid is just what I just talked about is resisting getting another dog because, you know, listen, we know and you’ve lived this out with your geriatric cats that they have a lifespan that’s shorter than ours and and they they deserve and demand a lot of attention. So the great right now is not getting another one right now although I do feel like we will have another doc said before.
So right now
we’re just enjoying other people’s pets.
I do see a lot of people getting pandemic puppies. But of course, that’s probably because I’m you know, I’m looking to justify my own choice here. So for me, I’d say the grace and all of this is learning to recognize that welcome and farewell will always coexist here on Earth. You know, it’s it’s really amazing watching our aging cats play with Ann Marie’s kitten, you know, we have these two generations together. And I shared with you an email from Nadia bolts Weber, where she talked about, she wrote, she wrote the email from the ER of a veterinary hospital and she said, Well, one of the things she said Is she felt like she needed a chaplain there and I’m like, you As if there should be chaplains in ER in emergency vet waiting rooms because it is so hard. It’s so traumatic. But I just wanted to read a couple things here. She said maybe the grief we feel when we lose a pet touches the grief we feel for not being loved in the way we needed to be by the humans in our lives. I mean, our pets love us in ways humans never can. And in turn, we love our pets in a way we never, we can never love other humans. There is something pure about these beasties. And then she said it’s a grief uncomplicated by the ambiguity that accompanies the loss of humans back to that idea that our human relationships are just way more complicated, which is fine. That’s the way God created us. But there is something just so pure, and I really resonated with that. And you know what it reminded me of? Do you remember the the movie? Homeward Bound? Mm hmm. Okay, my Anne Marie used to call that the two puppies when kitty movie I want to see the two puppies when kitty movie and you know, I’ve seen it I probably dozens of times and I still cannot watch the ending. In fact, I’m going to try not to choke up just thinking about the ending. You know, of course the the old the the younger dog makes it home and then you know, you’re watching the hill did the older dog make it? And just that, that the way you’re our hearts well up with joy. When you see Yeah, the older dog made it to that that incredible reunion scene. I just feel like that is such a visceral anticipation of the day that our lives will be nothing but Welcome home. And things will be just the way you described that we will be in communion with the animals and things will be restored to the way that they are supposed to be. The way God always created us and intended for things to be
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