There was Lassie and Timmy, Petey and the Little Rascals, Comet and the Full House girls, Socks and Chelsea Clinton – and there was me and Precious, me and Whitey, and me and Bridgette. I’ve never forgotten any of the pets I shared life with when I was a child – nor any since.
Did you have a pet when you were a child? Do you remember your first pet?
Mine was a calico kitten named Precious. She followed me home from a friend’s house one summer day; she was a young kitten at the time, and we spent more than 10 years together. There was also Whitey, a white and liver-spotted German Shorthaired Pointer who didn’t cut it as a hunting dog for my dad, so he became my canine companion when I was 11 years old. After Whitey’s passing (he was a sickly pup due to his mother being bred to her own father and that union producing an unhealthy litter), came Bridgette, a part German Shepherd, part Fox Terrier and Coyote puppy who stole my heart with her tawny-colored, wavy coat and racoon-like facial mask. All three of these animals impacted my life in their own way, and all three were my special friends. Between age 7 and 24, I shared life and adventures with these wonderful creatures.
Precious put up with my childish years. She allowed me to cloak her in dresses and bonnets and push her in a baby buggy. She put up with rides on my bicycle, painted Donny Osmond purple. Precious sat in the white plastic basket with purple flowers woven through the slats that was attached to the swanky purple handlebars. At times, she placed her paws on the side of the basket and watched the world go by as I trekked along neighborhood sidewalks. She rarely cried in protest, but upon reaching home, Precious darted to the house’s second floor to hide in a closet for the remainder of the day.
Whitey never rode shotgun on my bicycle, but he did chase butterflies. Orange and black Monarchs and yellow and black swallowtails sailed across the fields and gardens of our Iowa home – and Whitey’s hunting instinct kicked in enough to follow after them. He and I spent many a warm summer day in the cool of our cedar and hickory woodland, kept native on portions of the 14-acres my parents had purchased when I was 10 years old. Whitey and I explored field and forest, following the butterflies, listening to songbirds, and watching white-tailed deer and cotton-tailed rabbits.
Bridgette came to us as a ten-week old puppy, all wiggly, joyous, and affectionate. As an only child, I loved sharing time with my pets, and Bridgette was filled with enough curiosity to follow me through the woods, sniffing the base of trees, the edges of our 2-acre pond, and the wildflowers growing in the woods. She cocked her head to listen as owls hooted, robins chirped, ducks quacked, and pheasants squawked. As I journaled our nature observations while sitting on a fallen log, she lay at my feet, vigilant to the sights, sounds, and smells around us.
Children and pets – they go together like peanut butter and jelly.
I was a writer and nature observer as a child; both traits have continued to adulthood. Pets were important to me then; they remain so today. I chronicle some of the animals who shared my life, and the lessons I learned from them, in my self-published fall 2016 book Tail Tales: Pets Who Touched My Heart and Impacted My Life, including remembrances of Precious and Bridgette. I share thoughts about my life with a blind dog named Sage and an aging cocker spaniel named Cody, both of whom shared my life as I entered middle-aged adulthood – my reflections about these two special creatures are noted in Sundown’s summer 2016 release Memories from Maple Street USA: Pawprints onMy Heart. Pets do touch hearts and do impact lives, whether we are adults or children, especially when our hearts are open to learning the lessons they quietly teach us.
What pets have touched your life and impacted your heart, whether you were a child or an adult? What lessons have you learned from your companion animals?
Gayle M. Irwin is the author of several inspirational pet books for children and adults. She enjoys sharing about the pet-human bond and the lessons people can learn from animals and nature. She volunteers with various animal rescue groups in the Rocky Mountain region and donates a portion of her book sales to those groups. Learn more about Gayle and her writing at www.gaylemirwin.com.