All Creatures Great and Small: The Power of Pets

I missed National Pet Day on April 11 by a few weeks. But if you own a dog like Scotty or a kitty cat named Sophie, every day of the year is pet day.

In 4th grade, I drew a cat and colored it charcoal gray. It appears I was as interested in making the wallpaper pretty as I was in drawing a green-eyed cat with its wee kitten.

KittenArtMarian1947?

In first grade, my teacher Miss Longenecker introduced our class to reading via the phonics method with the drawing of a cat illustrating the hard “c” sound. She probably used the Hay & Wingo textbook entitled Reading with Phonics (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1948).

 Hay & Wingo, Reading with Phonics, J. B. Lippincott, 1948
Julie Hay & Charles Wingo, Reading with Phonics, J. B. Lippincott, 1948

We never had a pet cat, probably because my mother was allergic to cat dander, but several memorable dogs cavorted through our childhood. Sporty, an Airedale Terrier mix leaped and frisked around Grandma’s ankles when I was very young.  Boots, a black and white Smooth Fox Terrier, flushed ground hogs from their holes.

My sister Jean remembers other animals too: Our dad raised Angora rabbits housed in wooden crates in the barn attic and another Smooth Fox Terrier named Minnie, as small as she sounds. Sister Jan says we used to dress her up with doll clothes and send her down over the hill to Grandma’s house.

Our brother Mark’s dog, 3-legged Skippy, butterscotch and cream colored, lost one leg when a truck ran over him. Still, he skipped, ran far, and jumped high with just three legs. You’ll see part of his rear end and his tail in the second picture.

MarkDogMailbox

 

Brother Mark with sled and Skippy in the snow 1961
Brother Mark with sled and Skippy in the snow  1961

 

We all remember Ruthie’s little lamb that felt like mine when I wiggled my fingers digging deep into its wooly coat.

My Aunt Ruthie loved animals all her life, especially dogs. Her last four dogs were Schnauzers, known for their fierce loyalty and protective power. The pure-bred Schnauzuers were all named Fritzie – Fritizie I, II, III, and IV.

In this photo she was probably holding Fritzie III in her lap. The devotion you observe in this photo flowed both ways.

RuthieDogPiano

* * *

Like most children, our kids Crista and Joel wanted a dog. We shopped ads in the Dollar Saver for our dog back then and were taken in by the phrase “loves children.” That’s how we found Me-Too, a kid-loving-mailman-hating dog of questionable pedigree. Still, the children doted on her and adopted her into their play. Here the frame of their baby buggy became a carriage with Me-Too as the pony express.

WondaChairCristaJoel

 

Research

Not surprisingly, research shows that pets promote health, both physical and emotional.

Pets in the household can reduce everyday stress – lift one’s mood and provide physical contact. They provide an outlet for nurturing too: Pet owners have a living thing to care for. And finally, pets keep one active: walking the dog, feeding the cat.

Several of my writing friends admit that a pet dog or cat serves as muse: Kathy Pooler, Merril Smith, and Susan Weidener. Other authors have pets that appear on their blog posts from time to time: Laurie Buchanan, Janet Givens, and Elaine Mansfield. Lord David Prosser observes that his alarm cat Oscar wakens him from slumber every morning. And photographer Lady Fiona’s dogs enliven most of her fabulous photographs. Marylin Warner is training a puppy, but I don’t think she would call Scout her muse yet.

* See note below.

 

Books with animal characters

Books of my childhood:

  • Anne of Green Gables – Dog Monday
  • Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls’ dogs – Jack, the brindle bulldog, and Bandit, the stray, appear in her books
  • Old Yeller by Fred Gipson

Literary works:

In The Odyssey, I recall Homer’s beloved Argos, who patiently waited for him at journey’s end. Maybe you remember this faithful dog too.

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, cats romped in the Bennett household, at least according to author Pamela Jane.

Anton Chekhov wrote a short story entitled The Lady with the Dog, preserved here in statuary forever viewing the Black Sea in Yalta. When we visited in 2011, Crimea was still part of Ukraine.

CrimeaMarian2011

 

In the 1970s James Herriot books were all the rage both here in the States and internationally. Herriot, an English veterinarian, immortalized farm animals, pets, and their owners in his popular series set in the Yorkshire dales and moors. I read many of the titles: All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and The Lord God Made Them All.

 

What pets populated your home or the pages of books you loved? What items can you add to the list of benefits of owning a pet?

Leave a line or two here. You can also include endearing (or not) pet anecdotes.

Incidentally, if I inadvertently missed listing you as an author with a pet muse, please bark at me, so I can rectify the oversight ~ pronto.

 

Daisy with Jenna in pigtails
Daisy with grand-daughter Jenna in pigtails

 

Coming next: Baby Beads and Wooden Blocks: Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

 

 

 

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64 thoughts on “All Creatures Great and Small: The Power of Pets

  1. When Oscar was alive, the only time he really bothered with me was when he wanted something and he always wanted it at the most awkward times. He might lie across my face or slide a paw under the covers near my feet and with claws extended, swipe. Whatever method he chose was certain to get my attention. If I got up to fill his dish I might get a nod of appreciation. Sometimes I think he did it just for the sport. With Ju, he was a little lamb.
    I actually found myself missing him.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good morning, Marian! You always have such wonderful family photos. Love the Skippy the Three Legged Dog.
    Thanks for the shout-out! I grew up with dogs. I wrote about our dog Zipper a long time ago in a post. There’s also an entry on Pets in my World of the American Revolution with a sidebar on Washington’s dogs. There are so many writers who had pets–Dickens, Hemingway, Mark Twain, and others.

    As far as early reading primers–we had Jack and Janet, and I think they had a dog and a cat. Dick and Jane had Spot.

    My husband and I read some of Herriot’s stories to our girls. There was also a TV version that we enjoyed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are an expert on pets, both as pet owner and researcher. Your comment about primers reminds me of the dog and cat, Mac and Muff, in my first grade text. I imagine you now at the computer with your version of Muff close by, either keeping company or interfering.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Marian, I just finished an article for Valley Living on therapy dogs and how they benefit not only their owners, but others as well as they make rounds in nursing homes, schools and libraries. It’s not online yet,

    On my blog, I thought I had told the story of how our dog Fable (who died the month I started this blog in 2013 which was one of my first entries– https://findingharmonyblog.com/2013/01/11/how-do-you-know-when-it-is-time-to-put-down-a-pet/) used to help me choose articles for Valley Living. (But I can’t see that I’ve blogged about it.) She often stayed by me at the computer as I read over manuscripts, and when articles or stories were particularly moving, she could sense my emotional state and if I started sniffing or even just tearing up, she would get up to comfort me by putting her head on my lap or looking at me. Then I knew I had an winning article and the article’s author, a sale! Not that I go for tear jerkers every time, but I often do go for articles that move me emotionally in some way.

    Still miss that dog. Our new Velvet is not quite as sensitive in this way! Thanks for the memories. P.S. I’m not sniffling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This blog entry predates my own blog beginning, which is why I probably did not take note of it. Thank you for posting the link. I hope pet lovers will click on it and empathize with you. Thank God you are not sniffling, Melodie. 😉

      Like

  4. What a great post. Living on a farm we always had pets but they were never allowed in the house. Mom was adamant about that. The best was our pet antelope, Bambi. She was orphaned and the neighbour thought we would like to have her as a pet. I wrote a story about her. My son had a dog and my daughter had a cat while growing up. After the kids left home we still always had a cat or cats until we moved to Spain. Hubby would like a dog but our place is a bit small for a dog I think. We’ll see. They are good companions. Daisy looks like a wonderful cat and your granddaughter is adorable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My mother never allowed pets in the house either. You mentioned Antelope Bambi as your best pet. I imagine it lived with your family on the prairie in Canada. Outside, of course!

      Pets, I’m sure, figure in your children’s books as well. I just ordered Amanda in England for granddaughter Jenna. I suspect she may meet an animal in your story. Yes?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I believe she likes cats, so she will like this book. Rupert, the Maine Coon cat plays a big role. Bambi, the antelope, lived with the chickens. I think she thought she was a chicken for awhile. I´ll send you the story.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so impressed by your 4th grade drawing, Marian. That is wonderful. And the wallpaper…I love it! We don’t have any pets, but one day, I’d love to get a Havanese. Our neighbors own one and it’s the cutest dog. In fact, he made such an impression, he’s in my latest WIP.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Our first dog, Bramble, was the reason why we bought our motorhome, as we didn’t like the thought of leaving him behind on our long summer, Easter and october holidays: he changed the way we travel and we are all the richer for it, as we wouldn’t have seen a fraction of what we have in the last 6 years otherwise. Bramble sadly had to be put down 3 years ago as he had a form of inoperable cancer and I couldn’t stop crying for weeks afterwards. Now we have Beano, of course, and I really hope that nature will be kinder to him and that he’ll be able to travel with us for many years to come. We all love our pets and life without them is just not the same.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I commiserate. We had to put Me-Too down for similar reasons. After he left the vet’s office, Cliff said he felt like a murderer, and I couldn’t walk down the pet aisle for at least 6 months afterwards.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Marian — Oh what a FUN post! There have been, and always will be, pets in my life. I can’t imagine life without a companion animal. I love caring for, and being cared for, by the critters who’ve enriched my journey.

    The internet is chock-full of health benefits of having pets and the benefits of animal-assisted therapy. Studies have also found that:

    – Dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.

    – People with dogs have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. One study even found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months.

    – Playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.

    – Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.

    – Heart attack patients with dogs survive longer than those without.

    – Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow – the research is in and irrefutable apparently.Thank you for posting this detailed list, Laurie.

      I suppose you have heard the maxim variously stated: “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.” The wording changes with the attribution, which some claim Churchill invented; others point to as anonymous. Regardless, it’s wise and true.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Love your fourth grade drawing and the photo of your granddaughter. I have a granddaughter that age who just loves cats but can’t have any because a family member is allergic. She has to go to her cousins’ place to play with the three cats they have in the household. Each of those cats has a very distinct personality. One is very outgoing and acts like a dog, another is quite independent and wants to do her own thing. The third is very shy and usually hides when other people come to the house.
    When I was growing up we had a cat that used to sleep on our bed. We had a chenille bedspread (it had little bumps on it) and that cat would suck on those bumps. It must have been taken from its mother too early!
    In Africa we had an African gray parrot for a pet. We also brought one home and gave it to my sister who lived with our parents. Every night at 10:p.m. my dad would say “Schlope gone” in Low German (Time to go sleep). Long after our dad passed away that parrot would say those same words at the same time in our dad’s voice! Jackoo passed away at the age of 35,
    but they can live much longer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your pet stories are wonderfu, Elfrieda.. I especially enjoyed the anecdote about the parrot who “parroted” your dad’s “Schlope gone” at night. It must have been both haunting and endearing to hear the parrot mimic your dad’s voice.

      Pets are people too, apparently. Thank you!

      Like

  9. Marian, I think Me-Too looks half yellow lab and maybe the other half German Shepherd, My dog, Lily, is a yellow lab . . . a breed I always wanted after reading Old Yeller. Thanks so much for linking my blog post about how dogs boost our writing and more . . . so much of our lives lack intimacy . . . neighbors who don’t speak to neighbors, friends who come and go for a variety of reasons, job losses and so much more . . . and yet a dog is one very true and constant companion. I agree with Merril that the family photographs on your blog are priceless. Beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have an eye for dog breeds, Susan, so I’ll go with your assessment. Cliff thought Me-Too may have some Australian Dingo in her because of her wildness.
      If we got another dog it would definitely be a lab and for all the reasons you list.

      I don’t know if a dog would be a good muse for me now or not. I have my prayer cap, lurid lipstick, and a candle as I read my chapters aloud. Not sure what my next step will be.

      Thanks for encouragement here, Susan.

      Like

  10. My special friend was a tortie cat named mousey. She was a barn cat who wanted to be a house cat! My aunt dropped her in my lap one night when we were visiting and then told my Dad to tell me I couldn’t keep her! 😉 Mouse was always there when I needed her – she’d wait for me in the window to come home, talked non-stop, and loved to kiss and cuddle with her head under my chin. I miss her! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. So, let’s add this all up. Sasha wrote her own post last November. She is featured here with you. And now she is your muse for another post on your blog. Here’s to Sasha and her mistress!

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    1. Hi again. I got so carried away writing about Sasha, I forgot to mention my thoughts on Me-Too’s heritage. What I saw in her was a bit of greyhound. Mostly her long thin muzzle. Was she a fast runner? We called our Merlin “the world’s fastest couch potato.” He loved to race (always in a circle, though a fairly big circle) about once a week, then would plop down on the sofa and be set for many days. Pets have such distinctive personalities, and they make it so easy for us to project onto them what we need to see. I love Laurie’s list of benefits. I keep trying to get my (86-year-old) mom to adopt something, but so far she’s not wanting the commitment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, Me-Too was a fast runner, especially after the ankles of mailmen. I love your phrase it’s “so easy for us to project onto them what we need to see.” About your 86-year-old mom’s pet prospects: She’s probably shying away from the feeding and walking required + all the vet obligations, particularly for a dog. Maybe a goldfish or parrot?

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        1. You forget, Marian, my mother still stacks our wood for us! At the moment she’s caring for starter plants in her windows, so that’ll have to do. (I was just over reading Sasha’s blog post again. I’m reminded I promised her another go. Hmmm.) This has been most fun. Cheers

          Liked by 1 person

  12. Darling and delightful Marian thank you! I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have pets in our household, whether as a child or in my adult married years (that’s a long time). We’ve had rescue dogs, pedigree dogs, cats, also rescue, the current two belonging actually to my son. We have adopted them – my son comes to visit, from afar. There’s something about caring for a pet. Cats are off course pretty standoffish, though the younger of the two gingers is very loving. We keep on talking about getting a dog and I’m sure the time will come. Pets are known to provide a life line to owners …

    Loved the photographs thank you!

    Your drawing of a cat is pretty impressive! My husband has a picture of cat my son drew and coloured when he was four, in his rooms. People always comment …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for adding some pet history of your own here, Susan. I wonder about adding a dog to your menagerie of cats. Maybe certain breeds would be accepting.

      I have never heard of a rescue cat – how intriguing! Many would agree that pet provide a life line to their owners. Even cat drawings, a link to memory.

      Like

  13. I adore animals Marian . I have never been without a dog the whole of my life ,and since being married , I have always had a King Charles Cavalier in my life …love em
    Are we talking animal books here ❓❓ so does Poo bear count ❓😊
    ‘As soon as I saw you I knew an ADVENTURE was going to happen ‘
    ❤️❤️❤️❤️
    Piglet:
    ‘How do you spell love ?’
    Poo:
    ‘You don’t spell it you feel it ‘
    With amazing quotes like that it has to be in the bag .😊😊🐾🐾
    Cherryx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad we have this connection and speak the same language too in more ways than one. I discovered this morning that King Charles Cavalier is a spaniel, playful, cuddly and loves to go on runs, much like his/her mistress.

      Yes, we are talking animal books here too. Your quote is lovely. Thank you, Cherry!

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  14. Oh Marian, I love this post! Pets have played a very active role in my life and I remember them all with great fondness. Tony was our first, a little mutt, I loved RinTinTin and Lassie so for my 9th birthday, my parents bought me a Collie/German Shepard mix, named Cindy. Unfortunately she was hit by a car and had to be put down when she was 4 months old. I will never forget that sense of grief and loss. Mom declared a moratorium on pets so we had a few pet-less years until my brother brought a scraggly, gray cat home. We adopted him and called him Dusty. He used the toilet as his litter box! More pet-less years until a long-haired yellow cat we called Muffin showed up on our doorstep in Missouri. When no one claimed him, we adopted him. He had a special bond with my son Brian and made it into my memoir. He will also show up in memoir #2. In 2001, Wayne and I received a fluffy Golden Retriever puppy as a wedding gift. We had fallen in love with my brother’s Golden, Gabby and my siblings chipped in to buy us “Rosie” from the same line. All our pets hold a special place in our hearts and when we recall them, we recall many stories. In 2010, we got Max, our handsome Golden boy who is our “baby”. Pets bring great joy and are part of the family. I love your drawing and your story would make a great children’s book. Thank you for a wonderful post and for your generous shout out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for letting me join you in your doggie walk down memory lane. I never heard of a dog as a wedding gift, but it sounds like both you and Wayne were delighted. I spotted Grandma’s dog Boots reading my memoir draft out loud this week, so maybe he’ll make it into my story.

      Cliff is more than willing to illustrate another children’s book (he’s illustrated three others). I see that in our crystal ball, but probably not this year.

      I’m always happy to spread the joy, especially with writer friends like you, Kathy.

      Like

  15. We had the same books in our childhood, Marian, and many of the same joys with our pets.
    I’m still smiling at the wallpaper you drew as background in your pet picture. I drew pet pictures to scale on butcher block paper to use as wrapping paper for my Aunt Louise’s presents because she loved our pets; after she died we found all the pet drawings smoothed out and carefully stored in her study.
    I also “designed” wallpaper on plain paper for our little neighbor girls’ doll house their grandfather had built for them.
    Thanks for another fun post that renewed so many memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m agape at these synchronicities in our lives, Marylin. You say you drew pet pictures to scale. I assume that means you drew them life-size. And designed and crafted doll house wallpaper too. How charming!

      I wonder if some day I will see some photos of pet drawings on your blog. Hmm . . .
      I’m always pleased by your comments and often surprised. Thank you!

      Like

  16. Pets are like family to their owners. I never had any because of allergies and phobias, and my younger sister, the dog lover, couldn’t wait for me to leave home so she could have her puppy. I did have a goldfish once though, lol, does that count?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I’m honored to be included, Marion. I’m not sure if Willow cares unless you’ll give her a treat.

    Because it was school break week in Ithaca and there was no last-minute room in the kennel, I took Willow with me to Cambridge. As soon as I arrived, before hustling to the hospital with my sister-in-law, I took Willow for a quick walk. The next day after a quicker walk, I left her at my brother’s house before 8 am with a smallish breakfast and a small bowl of water. At 5 pm, my brother’s friends volunteered to go to the house and feed and walk her. I arrived late that night after my brother’s death. Willow was unusually agitated, but my nephew and his wife took her for a long walk. She was very unsure and nervous the next day. The day after that my niece and I took her for a long walk at a place where there were many dogs and walkers. Willow uncharacteristically lunged at other dogs and even growled at a few, although sometimes she sniffed politely. My niece whose dad had died just two days before said quietly, “Maybe Willow is dealing with difficult feelings.”

    I do not know what dogs pick up, but I know they can smell prostate cancer better than any human made test. I was sure my dog Daisy knew of Vic’s death as soon as I returned home to her because of her odd behavior. I’ll give Willow credit for picking up on our tumultuous feelings and having some difficult feelings of her own, but I hope she’ll tone it down with other dogs again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are among the first who came to mind when I thought of authors with dogs as muses. Besides, the article from On the Verge had just come out.

      I have always believe that dogs are good emotional barometers and can detect disease and impending death. Of course, they can sense jubilation too, and hoot and hop for joy as Willa sometimes does. I see on your posts and Facebooks picts, you are savoring tranquil times in nature, the great healer. Thanks for writing such a detailed response. I was most happy to include you here, Elaine.

      Like

    1. Thank you for visiting my blog, Cristina. As a lover of photography, nature and animals, you’ll feel right at home here. I enjoyed poling around on your website too – I could almost smell the pink hyacinths, a most nostalgic scent for me. Again, thanks for stopping by with a comment.

      Like

    1. That’s the thing with pets, they get into trouble. Aunt Ruthie’s Fritizie III ran out on the road and was run over by (I think) a truck.

      You and Commando probably walk at a brisk pace, probably too fast for a lollygagging dog – ha!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I’ve had dogs and cats…and various other furred and feathered freinds…all my life. My current companion is Ani… who has a fan-base all her own and ousts me on the popularity polls every time she writes 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Hey, Sue, thanks for following me over here. Yes, competing with a pet is an exercise in futility. I clicked on your website and think I’ve meet Ani, featured in your “Back to Black” post.

    Like

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