They leave hair everywhere, occasionally poop or pee on beloved homemade blankets, and they eat things they really shouldn’t, and they cost a LOT of money.
I’m talking about animals.
Dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, pigs.. and some small children as well.
We invite them into our personal spaces, or pay for their own personal spaces, and make these furry, sometimes gassy, creatures a part of our family.
There are animal people, and there are non-animal people. Those who deem the hair, responsibility and general fuss you agree to when you take in an animal, to be TOO much to warrant the benefits those hairy little beasts may bring.
I suppose I get that in a way. I mean, animals are a real pain in the ass. They can’t be left alone, they require love and attention, and they squirm their hairy little selves right into your heart.
My first dog growing up was a Cairn terrier named Watson. We loved him, I think, but he was kind of an asshole. I was basically afraid of him because whenever I tried to play fetch with him, he would never let me get the dang ball out of his mouth. He had to be put down when I was 8, so I never really got a chance to bond with him like I wish I would have.
Growing up I also had the privilege to be around horses. My grandpa had two horses just outside the city that I got to ride, and my Aunt and Uncle had a Morgan breeding farm where I spent a large majority of the summer. And of course with a farm came not only many horses, but barn cats, the beloved, fierce toy poodle Pierce, and some luxurious Persian house cats. I was in little-Brittany heaven.
You see, after we had to put Watson down, my parents vowed NO MORE PETS.
This did not include a turtle named Michelangelo I had that I would occasionally take in the back yard to let him walk through the grass. BUT for a kid that spent her summers outside at a farm with all sorts of animals, this turtle wasn’t exactly going to cut it. He just scurried away and wasn’t something I wanted to snuggle and kiss.
I decided after his death to make it my mission to bring fur back to the Hunter household.
It started subtlety. You know, the whining, crying breakdown of “IT’S NOT FAIR” that I occasionally brought down on the cruel dictators of the aforementioned household, my mom and dad. This tactic did not work. That’s when I went more subversive.
I started leaving sticky notes all over the house with phone numbers of places selling kittens. If my dad wanted some honey for his toast.. BOOM there was a post-it. You want to put some lotion on after your bath mom, BOOM another one. I even put them in the fridge, to which my dad decided he’d had enough and as clearly as he could, he could he looked me in the eyes and said “YOU WILL NEVER GET A PET. END OF STORY.”
Within a few years I had a kitten AND a horse, which I believe it a testament to the sheer determination of my will, and my ability to be the single most annoying person ever.
Long story short, I have always felt a home is not a home without some fur flying.
We all know about Sophie. If you don’t, HERE is the link to her ballad. A sad tale, indeed.
And then we had poor Sammy. Our Black lab/Golden retriever mutt who was the single most lovely dog ever. He protected us through our years up in Northern Saskatchewan from a few bears, at least one skunk who got him RIGHT in the face, and many, many mangy reserve dogs that came to our fence. He spent his life outside in our giant yard, proudly fending off whoever and whatever he thought needed to F off.
Then when we came to our quiet suburb, Sam just got supper chubby and his particular odour that hadn't been an issue before, caused a stressed-out me to not let him in the house all that much. No matter the amount of baths, Sam’s naturally oily coat could smell up our entire house. He also shed non-stop. It didn’t seem to matter what the time of year was, Sam produced clumps of black hair everywhere. And I’ll admit, this too caused me to throw him outside more than I wished I would have in retrospect.
Sam developed cancer at just 5 years old, right after Grady was born, and we had to send Sammy to doggy heaven. As he laid in our living room, with my husband bent over him giving him love as he passed away, all I could think was how unfair I could be to him sometimes, and how silly it was to let a little hair and a lot of smell keep me from loving him like I wished I would have. Of course, these things never bothered Mike who adored that dog, and he was heartbroken to see his best bud leave this world. I swore then that I would never, ever have another dog in my house. This much pain and sadness is not something I want to do over again.
So we now have a 6 month old Golden Doodle, which apparently means I have the resilience of my father in the ‘no animals’ regard. And, of course, Daisy is the love of our family’s life. She’s sweet and smart and a total goofball. She’s so loving, and so attached to us that ME, the girl who said “no animals on beds” “no animals on the furniture” has been breaking and re-drafting ALL the rules. Sam’s death reminded me that there is so much more to life than hair-free clothes, and impeccable furniture. (That being said.. there is a line. Like, my leather couches better damn as well stay intact or that dog better get a job to pay for the damage.)
So, while she wasn’t supposed to shed, and she does a teeny bit, and she has RANK gas that wakes us up at night, she stays inside for most of her life. And if people come over and don’t like it.. well it’s her house, not theirs.
And of course, the horses. The little girl obsession I never grew out of, or shied (hehe.. a little horse humor there) away from. That they have the trust and the willingness to let a human sit astride them and direct them, and work as a team (well, when it all goes right) and it is really astounding.
The relationship between man and horse has been philosophized by the ancients, used a muse for artists, and the single greatest mystery to people who don’t like horses.
For example, the biggest question I get asked by those non-horsey people is, why? Why spend the money, and the time, and the everything on a four legged animal. It never ceases to amaze people how much money and time and passion goes into anyone dedicated to working with horses. I mean my horse alone has a vet, a dentist, a farrier, a massage therapist, a trainer, a groom, a barn manager… etc. This is CRAZY. For OTHERS.
For horse lovers.. it’s just a part of maintaining a horse properly.
And for the moments when I see my kids interact with these big animals, when they get the bravery, or the patience to work with a horse, my heart nearly bursts because they are learning so much more than the task at hand. The things these horses teach us about confidence, willingness, patience, determination, quietness, and a menagerie of other positive life attributes is amazing. Seeing a little girl lead a horse that doesn’t really like many people, but loves and trusts her, makes all the time and money seem well spent.
But, what I deem the single greatest achievement of the horse is the therapeutic ways in which horses can HEAL people. Just by being what they are naturally. If you’ve ever witnessed a therapeutic horse in action you will agree. And the stories.. an autistic boy who never spoke who uttered his first word ever ‘trot’ on horseback, abused children healing after time spent with horses, adults after accidents regaining muscle tone and control they were told would never come back… its overwhelming.
And while some of us don’t see these therapeutic results as overtly, we subliminally notice other things after coming home from a day spent with horses. We feel a little more relaxed, prouder, a little more confident to go into situations that scared us before.
And if we are really, really lucky to live a life full of fur, we walk in the door at home after being at the barn, and our goofy dog catapults themselves at us and we sit down and get loved and welcomed home in a way like no other.
So yes. I stand here, with my hair possibly smelling like barn, my dress pants with a bit of dog fur on them, and maybe a dog treat or a horse crunchie just fell out of my pocket.
But you know what? My life is so much better for it. Even if my bank account isn’t.