'Tails' of Animal Love
Last year, my colleague Dr. Jennifer Coates published a post with stories of love involving animals for Valentine’s Day. This year, I’ve been asked to lend my own stories to the mix.
Like Jennifer, I’ll start with my own home. Growing up, we always had pets. The first pet I remember was a mixed breed dog named Pepper. Pepper actually came with my mother into my parents' marriage. So, my brother and I grew up with him as a constant companion. Later, Tubby, a black and white cat adopted from a litter of kittens born on my grandparent’s porch, came into our home. Tubby and Pepper immediately became best friends. Some of my earliest memories are of seeing the two of them sleeping curled up together. Pepper actually taught Tubby to growl at the mailman. I’m not sure whether that’s necessarily a good thing, but there it is, just the same.
Tubby and Pepper remained fast friends through the remainder of their lifetime, which was over 20 years for both of them. Our second cat, Midge, adopted a few years after Tubby joined us, became friends with Tubby but never developed the same type of friendship with Pepper, though she did learn to tolerate him.
Tubby, Pepper, and Midge are all long gone now. They were, after all, childhood pets and I’m long past childhood. But I’m still very close with my family. When I go home to Nebraska to visit, one of the things I enjoy doing is spending time with my brother and sister-in-law at the facility where they keep their horses.
When we enter the barn where the horses are stalled, it’s not unusual to find a barn cat curled up on the back of one of the horses. Only certain horses will allow this and not all of the cats are interested in developing this type of relationship. But one of my brother’s horses, Cybil, actually has a cat with which she is quite friendly. I’ve actually watched the cat jump on Cybil’s back, kneading her skin with her front feet and burrowing down into a favored sleeping position with no adverse reaction from Cybil at all, even with those claws digging into her skin. In fact, Cybil seems to enjoy the experience. It makes a unique and quite touching picture, seeing the cat curled up dozing while Cybil doses or grazes on her hay.
In a more public case of love, there was this story of Idgie and Ruth. Idgie and Ruth are a dachshund and a paralyzed cat that were found together on a roadway. It’s not known how they came to be where they were found. But what is clear is that these two have a very special bond. Ruth cannot use her hind legs and Idgie refuses to leave her side. According to their caretakers, they groom one another, cuddle together, sleep together, and protect one another. Idgie even brings toys to Ruth to share. Fortunately, they now also have a good home where they will be able to live out their lives together.
What is your favorite “tail of love”? Please share your stories with us.
Dr. Lorie Huston