There are many levels of friendship, a friend with whom you share your most inner secrets, a friend you can count on when you need a favour, a helping hand or just a shoulder to cry on, but there are no friends as loyal and faithful as “mans’ best friend”. Dogs immediately come to mind but our pet friends come in many forms including cats, parrots, horses and even pigs. Over the years we have had the pleasure of many furry and feathered best friends we eventually considered part of our family, loved for their companionship and mourned at their passing.
My very first encounter with a non-human family member was with my grandmother’s parrot. Of course he/she was named Polly and so intelligent, the beautifully plumed bird could actually hold a conversation. Grandma would say, “tell the baker two bread today Polly” and then she would go about her business. When the baker arrived Polly obediently conveyed the message, “two bread today baker”.
I believe every boy wants a dog but with my parents raising seven kids there was never any scraps left at the table or money to feed a dog properly so I knew I would have to do without. I was around ten years old when a small dog wandered into the yard and came right to me. I played with the dog and claimed it as my own for a few hours until Dad came home from work and alarmingly declared the dog had mange and shooed it away.
We never entertained the thought of any pets until after I was married and had a family of my own. Our youngest son wanted a cat and my wife knew where one was available, a neighbour’s cat had kittens and we could have the pick of the litter. Driving home the tiny kitten kept crawling up on my shoulder as if to sense it was I who really did not want a cat, the wee feline was for my wife and son not me. Oh but how we all grew to love “Fluffy” for the eleven years we enjoyed his company and returned affection. One of my co-worker’s dog had puppies and we all agreed the German Shepherd/Samoyed mix, flop-eared tiny piece of fur was born just for us. We had a sunken living room one small step down from the dining room and we had so much fun and laughter watching “Duke” literally tumble down and struggle unsuccessfully to climb back up. We lived in the country and he grew to be a strong, beautiful, faithful friend who loved to run and play, dive deep into a snow bank to retrieve the newspaper and even learned how to ring the doorbell to come back into the house.
We showed love and caring for our animal friends and it was obvious they returned that love to us. It was heart wrenching saying goodbye to Fluffy and Duke, they were not only trusted friends, they were family.