As a child of about 6 or 7-years-old, I sat outside on the porch to have conversations with Happy.
Happy was a cat. She had almond-shaped bright green eyes with golden fleck and a fluffy golden beige coat with a white tummy. I cannot recall if she was ‘our’ cat, but I certainly felt like she was ‘my’ cat when she hobbled over me to stick her tiny pink tongue to lick my hands when I fed her American cheese. Happy had a special place in my heart because she had physical limitations just like me. Her right hind leg was shorter than all her other legs and so limped when she walked. Yet, she was the happiest kitty cat that let me stroke her soft fur, give her a neck nuzzle, and let my fingers traipse on her rounded and roly poly body.
Happy was lovable and listened very well. After my first kidney transplant and before my parents divorced, I remember Conversations with Happy where she would crawl into my lap and let me pet her and talk to her about anything and everything. Then, she would look up at me with her understanding green eyes and stick her tongue out to gently lick my fingers as if to say, “Hey, it’s ok, I’m here for you.” I would bury my face in her fur and say, “I love you, Happy.”
I do not remember what happened to Happy, but I remember over the years that I had aquatic pets after Happy. I had a pet turtle that brought me peace of mind as it swam serenely in the water and would march slowly and steadily when out of the water. I had two goldfish in my time: Bubbles and Hugo. Bubbles death was very traumatic to me as he was burying himself under the pebbles before he died on Christmas day. I was in tears when I sputtered to my Dad, “Bubbles is dead.” My longest lasting and most memorable fish for a whopping almost three years was a beta fighting fish by the name of Sushi. He had fancy and flared red and blue fins, and he moved in with me in its portable blue covered tank into my very first apartment. When all my fish died, people said to me: “Why are you so upset? They are only fish.” Needless to say, words hurt and my response is: “Every life –human, animal, plant, etc.,--is precious and serves a purpose.”
Now, I am volunteering at an animal rescue shelter in the cat care program where I socialize and play with the kitty cats. This idea came to me in a dream and after a conversation with my transplant nephrologist who said to me that I could have a pet cat, but just had to be extra careful by wearing gloves and a mask when cleaning kitty litter due to me being immunosuppressed. These cats’ stories are all too familiar that I feel fully and I am sure that all of us can relate to in human form: abandoned and anti-social, anxious and misunderstood, depressed and withdrawn, unloved and love deprived, and unadoptable or disregarded due to old age or health issues. To me, it was a win=win situation for me to familiarize myself with the cat world as well as for them to have human contact and some extra and needed loving. Don’t we all need some loving anyhow?
In all my minimal experiences with pets from a cat named Happy to a fish named Sushi and now at the animal shelter, I see and understand why humans love animals because animals are genuinely happy with the littlest things: food, water, some play time, a roof over their head, and a place to go to the bathroom. I see and understand how humans can have conversations with animals that are essentially “Conversations with Happy.” You give them a little bit of loving and just the basics of life and they give you unconditional love. How often do we experience unconditional love? Or, love without any expectations and only hopes?
Animals and pets bring us therapy, joy, happiness, and peace during the most troubling and challenging of times. Their unconditional love and enthusiasm for the simplest as basic as food, water, and a pet on the head or a neck nuzzle bring us a smile, a chuckle, and loud laugh. Have you ever had a pet and who/what was your first pet? Do you not like pets and why? When have you had ‘conversations with Happy’ and have you ever experienced that unconditional love?
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,