Animal Magic
December 1, 2019 12:59 PM   Subscribe

How My Pet Saved Me. (SLTG) Come for the great stories. Stay for the wonderful pet + owner portraits.

Many of us claim that our non-human companions have improved our lives, but for these folks the difference was life-saving.
posted by kinnakeet (23 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
The only reason I'm not drunk in a ditch somewhere is because somebody has to make sure this dog's OK.

No joke. Recovery is an ongoing process but the dog is what helps keep it present tense.
posted by East14thTaco at 1:32 PM on December 1, 2019 [41 favorites]

I knew some animals could smell cancer cells, but that cat story is nonetheless astonishing. I wonder what would make the cat realize they needed attention brought to them?
posted by jacquilynne at 1:42 PM on December 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Every day I am thankful that Ginger is in my life. I would add a pic, but I'm not sure we do that here. When her predecessor died, I almost came completely unwound, and my wife & I were unsure if we wanted another cat. But we decided to try to foster, and this little one really needed me as a cat whisperer. She's almost normal now, after distinguishing herself as the most fearful cat I'd ever met. I don't know what else to say except that that little cat has more juice with me than anyone other than my wife and daughter. If it's down to you or the cat, you'd better get ready to shift for yourself, because I've already made a choice.
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 2:02 PM on December 1, 2019 [16 favorites]

Awww, these are really sweet -- I love the wide variety of pets too!
posted by Sparky Buttons at 3:17 PM on December 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

I would add a pic, but I'm not sure we do that here.
Surely you jest. Pics pls.
posted by Glinn at 3:18 PM on December 1, 2019 [13 favorites]

We need a flagging option for “pet discussed in comment but no photo provided.”
posted by obfuscation at 3:41 PM on December 1, 2019 [24 favorites]

I can’t imagine how many consecutive days would’ve passed with me not leaving the house (or possibly bed) if not for Sandy’s biological needs but rest assured there were many such days. Fortunately I’m in a better place now but I have no doubt my life will be longer and healthier for having creatures like Dodger and Huxley (new dog alert!) in it.
posted by obfuscation at 3:51 PM on December 1, 2019 [9 favorites]

Yeah, my cats make me sure I will keep coming home. Responsibility bridges a lot of unpalatable gaps.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:02 PM on December 1, 2019 [9 favorites]

I'm alive because of my cats.

I especially liked the iguana story.
posted by Anonymous at 4:14 PM on December 1, 2019

Since you asked, here she is in all her glory: Our girl Ginger.

She is incredibly dense, physically. You know how most cats will come to an unlatched door and slip through it? This one will literally throw the door open wide and saunter in like she owns the place, which (let's be honest here) she does. She's hated being held since the first, and only now, after 18 months, will she let me pick her up to move her when necessary.

She was someone's pet and escaped, I'm sure, from her behavior: fastidious about the box, seems to have been trained not to get on the table and the counters (and almost never does), does NOT want to go outside (and after what happened the last time, why would she?). She lived rough for a while, then got pregnant and had kittens. She was living adjacent to a machine shop when the guys there humane trapped her and her kittens, at which point Animal Aid stepped in and rescued her. We agreed to foster her to prep her for adoption, but she seemed to need me, in particular, and she's gotten a little more normal every day. She's always there to greet me when I get up in the morning, and she's just recently decided that it's perfectly okay to sleep on our bed for at least some of the night.

She's a little thing–maybe nine pounds–with a big presence. And I'm sure she knows just how beautiful she is, as well.
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 4:19 PM on December 1, 2019 [28 favorites]

When our family cat died not long after I left for college, my mom decided to live without cats for the first time in decades so she would be more able to travel for work and pleasure now that she no longer had the day-to-day responsibilities of being a mom. Unfortunately, a year later she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which changed those plans. "I need to get a cat," she told me over the phone. "I need something to keep me from getting completely absorbed in myself. Keep an eye out, okay? You know what I like in a cat. Smart calicos preferred."

Sure, I said, I'd let her know if I came across any cats needing homes (while thinking that it wouldn't come to much, since we lived a 4-hour drive apart). We ended the phone call and I headed out, coincidentally to have dinner with a friend of the family who'd known Mom since before I was born. After dinner we headed back to the friend's house. As we were walking up to the front door, discussing Mom's desire for a cat, we heard a meow. There, sitting on the doormat, was a skinny young calico cat. She didn't seem to have been getting good care recently, but she was extremely friendly and affectionate. As the friend headed into her garage to set up a temporary cat box, I sat on the doorstep petting the cat and picked up the phone. "Hey, Mom? I think I found your cat..."

(Mom lived another six years and Phoebe ruled the house the whole time. After Mom died Phoebe condescended to allow the sweet elderly couple who lived next door to take her in and as far as I know lived many happy years longer.)

[Here's Penny helping me write this comment.]
posted by Lexica at 4:48 PM on December 1, 2019 [36 favorites]

Oh my Ginger really is a beauty!
posted by kinnakeet at 5:48 PM on December 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

There are some days that the only reason I choose to continue living is because Finnegan is so attached to me. He loves me so much, and trusts me so much, that I can't bring myself to leave him. (It sounds callous to say that about my cat instead of my husband, I know, but... Finnegan wouldn't know where I'd gone. He wouldn't understand. He'd be confused and lost.)
posted by sarcasticah at 6:04 PM on December 1, 2019 [7 favorites]

Lexica, that was so, so lovely.
posted by obfuscation at 6:10 PM on December 1, 2019 [4 favorites]

No, Lexica, I'm not crying, it's just allergies. The dust in the room.

Also, kinnakeet, I'll tell her you thought so!
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 6:39 PM on December 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

Awwwwww, Phoebe was also the name of my mom's cat when that mom died of cancer. I took her over and thought her very boring at first, but it turned out she was a dog-cat and was the most loyal creature I've ever known. Once I was sitting in a room with a then-boyfriend at a summer-stock theatre. He said cats were not as good as dogs, that they weren't loyal, that they wouldn't come when you called. This was the kinda place in a national forest where the cats ran the whole joint (I wouldn't do this now, having realized that they just murder everything they can find, but didn't know that then).

Anyway, the cat was outside, somewhere on some mountain in some forest. I yelled "Phoebe?" and said to the boy, "Wait for it." The cat came back (the very same day). I swear that cat was outta breath with how quick she got into that room, mewing and scanning to make sure everything was legit. She got so many pets. I should have bet money on her. Great cat, 15/10.
posted by lauranesson at 7:24 PM on December 1, 2019 [9 favorites]

I travel up to 6 months a year, often in 2-3 month stints. The only thing I ever miss is my dog, Shakedown.

Her sitter once told me that if I were on my deathbed I could die a happy man because I raised an astounding animal. "This creature is absolutely perfect. I don't know how you did it." When I looked at her bemused, she said, "I am 100 percent serious. I don't think I'll ever accomplish anything as extraordinary in my life. Thank you."

As time has passed, I realized she's right. My dog is so good it's unbelievable.
posted by dobbs at 8:00 PM on December 1, 2019 [8 favorites]

So lovely, both the stories in the article and in this thread. Thank you everyone!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:34 PM on December 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yes, lovely stories indeed.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:38 PM on December 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wish I could have a pet, but living in an 8th floor studio with a balcony is just not the right time. A therapist said to me recently she wishes I could get a dog too! I console myself by facetiming with my parent's hectic springer, Bramble.
posted by ellieBOA at 4:45 AM on December 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Pretty sure the best decision I have ever made, or ever will make, is adopting a kitten the year I turned 40. As others have said, if I ever had a day when I couldn't see any reason to continue going I just had to look at her and I had my reason. Caring for Lilah, or Murder Cat as she is somewhat-affectionately known to everyone else, made me a much better person and better able to relate to people. (I'm not claiming to be a great person now, but I think I'm better than I was...)

Kittens do annoying things and have to be taught to not scratch or bite, etc. I couldn't get mad at a kitten for doing what a kitten do, so I learned to not let those things make me angry. And then I started extending that to people. Even if they're nowhere near as cute or fun to watch.

And then Laney demanded that I take her home from the shelter I volunteered at, and has provided all the cuddles a person could want. And then some.

Sometime after that I went full-blown cat person and when I bought a house I ended up taking in two rescue cats, Bubby and Willow. There are times when it's a ton of work. Two of the cats (Bubby & Laney) are senior and diabetic. Every one of them is on a different diet, and it's a lot of litter to scoop and fluff to vacuum. But they give me back way more than I give them.
posted by jzb at 4:47 AM on December 2, 2019 [8 favorites]

Love stories like these. I can't claim that a pet has saved my life, but they sure have made it immeasurably richer. Our girl Stella is turning 15 in two weeks. She is the. best. dog. I have had a lot of dogs in my life - we even bred dogs when I was a kid - but Stella is literally the. best. dog. Now I'm missing her from work! Wish my job let us bring our pups. Would make work SO much better.
posted by widdershins at 7:25 AM on December 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

So I'm currently dogsitting in Vanuatu and befriended a stray who had recently given birth.

I found the puppies but they were far under a porch and I couldn't get to them.

I was really taken with the mother dog -- had a immediate connection with her that I haven't had with an animal since meeting my current dog almost 8 years ago. I immediately named her Flowers and after a few days of feeding her, she led out her puppies and a friend and I boxed them up and took Flowers and all puppies to a local vet who said she would try and re-home them but she was not optimistic.

One of the reasons I was so keen on getting the animals there is that a local who had seen me with the stray had told me that some men had asked her about the animal a few days ago and told her that if the dog did not belong to anyone they were going to catch and eat the animal! I thought she was joking orsomething was lost in translation but it turns out no -- some locals to eat dog, though the government has introduced fines.

I just dropped off the dogs yesterday and am already feeling guilty about not figuring out how to get Flowers back to Canada to live with me. It's so far (took me 3 flights over 28 hours to get here) it just doesn't seem possible. I know you can take an animal on a single flight but even that is not something I'm a fan of.

If any MeFites are in Vanuatu and want who I consider to be an awesome dog, please shoot me a memail. She is really quite wonderful.
posted by dobbs at 8:58 PM on December 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

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