Strengthening Relationships with the Help of Animals
By Allen and Linda Anderson
sent to us by one of our readers amused us. Jan told us that a relative of hers
had made “loves dogs” a prerequisite for having a serious relationship with the
next man in her life. Jan’s relative met a suitor through an online dating
service. He seemed to fit the bill, and their match was made in dog heaven. For
those of you who don’t know, dog heaven is otherwise known as dog park. This is
where city dogs run and play like crazy with other dogs while their adoring
humans observe and visit with each other.
The manwhom Jan’s relative fell in love with decided to prove his devotion to dogs by
surprising her with a unique setting for declaring his intentions. He got down
on his knees (in the woodchips?) at the dog park the couple frequented with the
woman’s pooch. There, he proposed marriage and presented her with an engagement
ring. This was done in front of all the dog-loving witnesses at the dog park.
As you can imagine, the woman and her dog immediately accepted his proposal.
online newsletter, Angel Animals Story of the Week, we have often shared other
stories of how the bond between humans and animals helps to strengthen
relationships among people. An especially touching story by P.S. (Paul) Gifford
that we published in the September 23, 2006 issue brought back memories for
many of our readers of “cat ladies” who had filled the neighborhoods of their
childhoods with love of animals.
The Cat Lady
I happily call southern California home now and have done so for almost two
decades, I was born and raised in Great Barr, Birmingham, England. I was born
(literally) in a nice house, in a most respectable town in the mid 1960s. It
was the sort of town where all the neighbors knew everyone else's business,
back doors were never locked, and neighbors often unexpectedly walked into each
was eleven years old, the only family left living in our house was my dad and
I. My siblings, being several years my senior, had left. Some might feel sorry
for me for not having a mother around. But they shouldn't. In actual fact I had
not one but three mother figures. The first mother was my wonderful Aunt Olive
who lived three doors down. She always took time out of her busy day to check
in on me. The second mother was the next-door neighbor, Gwen, who owned the
house between my aunt’s and ours. Gwen made the best apple pie I ever could
wish for. And finally there was my other neighbor, Audrey, who was the
neighborhood cat lady.
quite sure the neighborhood you grew up with had such a lady, as surely every
neighborhood does. She was the one who took it upon herself to take care of as
many strays as possible as well as giving a home to several of her own.
cats were divided into two categories: first, there were the house cats. These
cats, all purebreds, lived within the walls of her home, almost as cat royalty.
They were her pride and joy and boy, didn't they know it! They would strut
around the house with their chests puffed out and noses up high. They allowed
Audrey the pleasure of waiting on them hand and foot. Second, there were
Audrey's outdoor cats. These were of a completely different category all
together. They were the random strays and feline neighborhood misfits. Some
lived there permanently, and others still were just passing through.
an inquisitive young eleven year old with a love of animals, these stray cats
were the ones who caught my curiosity and captured my imagination. I can recall
with vivid clarity one hot summer back in the mid-seventies. I was a boy scout
at the time and rather proud of it. It was bob-a-job week.
explain to those of you who are not familiar with such a thing, this is a term
for a fundraising event. For a few weeks every summer all the boy scouts of
England hit the streets, knocking on doors and asking for a job to do. They
were paid the traditional bob, which is five pence or hopefully a few pennies
was, all proud in my boy scout uniform -- my shorts and green shirt neatly
pressed with merit badges adorning my sleeve, scarf around my neck. I knocked
on Audrey's door with high hopes. In a few moments the door swung open to
reveal Audrey grinning at me from ear to ear. "My goodness,” she declared
while still smiling at me, "aren't you a godsend? I am up to my eyes in
quickly ushered inside, and she securely closed the door behind me. "Where
should we begin?" she said as she bit her bottom lip thoughtfully.
"Ah, I know, you can help me with the dusting!" With that she dashed
off only to return moments later with a pink apron and a feather duster.
could argue, she had me dressing in a pink apron, which naturally had cats on
the front of it, and holding a feather duster. "Follow me,' she commanded.
It was then that I noticed about a dozen eyes studying me with curiosity. These
were some of the most beautiful cats that I had ever seen, and I could not wait
to scratch a few ears, rub a few bellies, and get to know them. It seemed every
direction I turned I discovered another cat looking at me with inquisitiveness.
the next hour dusting away. I dusted on top of wardrobes, bookcase shelves, and
dozens upon dozens of cat ornaments. All the while Audrey's cats watched me
suspiciously. They never once came to me, despite my best efforts, but were
had dusted to the satisfaction of Audrey. After I drank a glass of fizzy
lemonade and ate a slice of pie, she informed me it was now time for the
garden. Cautiously I peered out the window at the army of cats who seemed to be
patrolling the back garden. One black tabby appeared to be the largest cat I
had ever seen. I was convinced that he must have been crossed with a leopard or
something. "Will I be okay?" I nervously inquired.
minutes later, I was outside with the misfits. I have to confess, unlike the
inside cats, whom I could not wait to play with but never had the opportunity,
I was nervous around these cats. But it was the funniest thing. Instead of them
being suspicious of me, they did the exact opposite of their inside
counterparts. Within moments I found myself sitting on the grass and playing
with them. And that big cat, well, he was the friendliest of the lot and
wouldn't quit trying to get me to pet him.
while, Audrey watched on in bemusement. I must have stayed there the entire
afternoon. Before I realized, it was time to go home next-door and have my tea.
I never did get that gardening done for Audrey. But I did get twenty pence and
another slice of pie to take with me. More importantly I went away with a
valuable lesson: You cannot judge a book by the cover, and that goes for
back to play with those cats on a regular basis. I remember weeping a few years
later as the big, black tabby needed to be put to sleep.
make it back to England quite frequently. My older sister and her husband are
living in the house presently. And as for my three mothers? They are all still
alive and plodding along quite nicely! Olive is as sweet as ever. Gwen, who is
in her 90s now, makes the best apple pie in the world. And Audrey, yes, she has
a house and garden full of cats. So I dedicated this story to Pauline Dewberry
-- another cat lady.
animals contributing to the important relationships in your life?