My siblings and I converged on the house recently to do some last minute fix-ups and cleaning (with the vital help of our very able spouses). As I was cleaning shutters and vacuuming the new carpet, I reflected back on the many years spent under the same roof with animals and all the lessons learned along the way. They taught me about responsibility and compassion. They taught me about humor and joy and the value of living in the moment. They taught me about acceptance and tolerance. They taught me about sharing and selflessness. And yes, they taught me about loss and death.
At the same time the animals were teaching me lessons, our parents were doing the same. All of our companion animals were either adopted or rescued. I didn’t even know that commercial dog or cat breeding and sales existed for decades; I just assumed everyone who had pets had rescued them or adopted them. Mom was helping free roaming community cats long before those descriptions became common. She helped a free roaming cat she called “Elvis” for years, as well as a cat she simply called "E.C." (for Extra Cat). When a bonded pair of ducks came to spend time in our little suburban yard year after year (Bob and Marlene, of course) we were taught the value of letting wild animals just be and allowing them to live in peace without our interference. Our parents’ love of all animals extended far beyond the walls of our childhood home to the vast spaces of the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park (which is essentially a breeding facility for wild and endangered species). They were benefactors for the lion exhibit at the park and a plaque outside the exhibit bears their names. Each acacia tree at the facility has its roots in the seeds smuggled into the country thanks to what amounted to a “ covert op” schemed by mom to get acacia seeds from South Africa with the help of her boss on one of his mission trips with his church. Dad was a huge fan of the California Wolf Center in Julian which not only houses wolves but works to introduce them back into the wild while working with ranchers to develop cooperative relationships to protect both livestock and wolves.
Our first open house was this past weekend. As is the case in many places in southern California, the house was in demand because of the area and the schools. We have decided to sell the house to a single mom who is relocating to be closer to her parents who can help with her young son.
It is only fitting that our buyer is a veterinarian who has an older dog and two cats. I think mom and dad would be thrilled. Let the memory making and lessons to be learned begin.
Life is fleeting and precious.