Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The importance of pets

Are any of you subscribers to StepMom Magazine?  I'm a new subscriber myself, but already a devoted one.  In the current issue, there's an article called "Stepmom's Best Friend" that really spoke to me.  It's about how pets can be the glue that holds a new stepfamily together as everyone figures out their roles and settles into the new family dynamic.  The article was written specifically about dogs, but I'm here to attest to the fact that cats can be just as loyal, therapeutic and instrumental in bringing a family together.

One thing I didn't mention in my update yesterday is that Frida, our beloved family cat, passed away a year ago this month.  Frida started out as just my cat - I found her in 2002 at a last-chance shelter on St. Patrick's Day (her green eyes never let me forget that).  I was still at university then and she became my "college roommate."  She moved with me from apartment to apartment during my nomadic twenties and then when I moved to Scotland to begin this current chapter of my life with my husband and stepsons, of course Frida came with me.  I didn't know how she would adjust to family life and I'll now admit that moving an older cat halfway across the world to live a completely different life was a HUGE gamble, but somehow or another, I knew she was up to it.  Just like I was...

Sure enough, as Frida settled into her new surroundings, she showed us that she could be a legendary family cat.  Though she was an older girl and slowing down a bit, she dazzled my stepsons with her good humor and tolerance.  Frida was the guys' first four-legged pet, and as such she was a great introduction to the world of house pets and the great sense of companionship they can bring.  All four of us bonded over Frida in our joint duty as her guardians.  The boys fed her in the mornings, we all helped groom her and...well, I think you can guess who landed the duty of litter box cleanup!  But taking care of her was a joy.  And when the end of her life drew near, we all grieved over her passing together.

Pets are often more in tune to our needs than we realize.  They can bring out a playfulness that helps break the ice in a tense situation, or if we need cheering up, they usually know and offer their quiet, unquestioning companionship.  It's moments like these, when pets really show their intuition and empathy, that make all the vet visits and litter box cleanings worthwhile.

When Frida passed in March of last year, the boys were shocked that she wouldn't live forever and they swore that they would never want to get another cat, but I had a feeling they might change their minds in time.  We all grieved throughout the spring and learned not to expect a fuzzy face at the door when we came home from work or school.  But by late summer, the guys were starting to feel ready for new cat friends - they were even picking out names!  So when we found our new five-month-old kittens in November, we all knew it was the right time to bring them home.  Our hearts had healed and we were ready for a fresh start with two energetic new companions.

So with this post, I say goodbye to our dear Frida, who left us almost a year ago...

And give a belated welcome to Alvin and Theo, our new feline friends who joined us in November of last year...

If you don't already have a pet and nothing is preventing you from getting one (allergies, tenant policies, etc.), I would strongly urge you to consider it.  Yes, they're a lot of work, but they can do so much for a family that may need a little "push" to come together.  They are something that everyone can bond over and enjoy, and they also teach valuable lessons about responsibility and loss.  Though we were so sad to say goodbye to our Frida last year, we bid her farewell as a family, a title we had not yet achieved when she first came to live with us.  Now that I have turned all the guys into dedicated cat lovers, I don't think our home could ever be complete without at least one feline friend.

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