If you are an animal person, you tend to judge other people by whether they are or not.
As you might have figured, I am such a person.
And today was a tragic day for me.
17 years ago when I first moved to Sonoma I wanted to get an animal again. I had been in Santa Monica the past 10 years with Ticketmaster, but the apartment building did not allow dogs, and though I would occasionally sneak in one of Judi’s silky terriers, it was only for a very short time.
My first year in Sonoma Judi gave me this wonderful collie tri-color pup named Vicki (which is the name of the first pet I ever had, a collie named Vicki in Portland Oregon). Six months later when Judi stopped by I Magnin in Union Square when they were closing the store, she came upon a homeless man with two beautiful orange kittens which she bought and then told me about. The were named Fanny and
Lily, after two Pagnol plays. Vicki loved them and became their surrogate mother. They would follow her out of the house onto the 15 acres in the hills and managed to survive in spite of the coyotes, foxes, rattlers and bobcats. Then the following year I bought Larry, the goofy Golden Retriever who became Vicki’s protege. When you would throw the ball for Larry to chase, Vicki would take off after him biting him in the ass to make certain he did a good job. She would come back smiling with a mouth full of hair.
The dogs and cats devised a game to play together. The dogs would chase the cats as fast as they could, the sisters would then run up a tree, and later come down. They would repeat this, then eventually all lie down near each other in the sunshine on the grass.
Since it was a gated property the animals never really saw many other dogs (and no cats), and they were friendly with whomever came by. When we would go for walks up Norrbom Road, I would have the two dogs on the leashes, and the cats would automatically follow about 10 paces behind. If a car came (rarely), I would get the dogs off to the side of the road, but the cats didn’t care, didn’t take orders, and would just saunter. Most of the drivers were amused by their behavior.
About 5 years ago Vicki started failing; she was losing her vision (common in collies) and had organ failure. She died shortly afterwards. Larry immediately went into mourning, or so we thought, and then noticed he definitely wasn’t well. So we took him to our vet who determined he had cancer of the anal gland, operated on him, and removed a tennis-ball- sized tumor. Subsequently Larry had chemo (this was four years ago), and when I moved to the wonderful cul de sac I live on in West Sonoma, he became the hit of the neighborhood kids and would wait until they were home from school or on summer vacation, and he would play with them for hours. When I was invited to the neighbors’ houses for an evening, Larry would go with me and usually stay longer than I did, and then come home when he was ready.
The last two years Larry had trouble walking, and then after that I accidentally ran him over with the Jeep. He recovered nicely from that incident (early last year), but cancer came back again after four years, and he passed away last month. Then two days ago Lily, who is now 15, suddenly became very ill and was put to sleep this morning.
So are animals worth it? They love you without demands, they live too short lives, and they are almost as much trouble as children. But I still have Fanny, and I am sure I will get a rescue dog within the next six months. We often seem to feel a greater amount of empathy with someone who has animals and loses them than with other situations in life.
Joan Weston, the Golden Girl Superstar of Roller Derby, forced us to make an exception in our rules for our road tours. The rules were no animals, but Joan had Malia, a beautiful little cocker, who did travel with her, and we felt it was definitely worth it.
Sometimes we can show and receive affection towards animals that are too difficult in human relationships; no reasons or explanations are required.
Lily, I hope you don’t think it is unfair that both Vicki and Larry are chasing you up a tree.