Submitted by Don Doman
As a boy I had a cocker spaniel, Cindy (she was as black as cinders), and a collie mix, Pal (had him since he was a few weeks old and he was my pal, my friend, my companion). They would wait by the front gate for me to return from school each day. We roamed the woods, wetlands and tall grass hills overlooking Nalley Valley. My wife Peggy has asthma and her family only had pets until they were advised that she was allergic to feathers, dander, and every thing else in the world (in 6th grade). Our children never grew up with pets.
We live in a residential area of north Tacoma, but are located near green belts and ravines. Point Defiance is only about a mile away. We have wildlife visitors and residents: rabbits, opossums, raccoons, and deer.
I also have a client, Cassandra Barney, who deals with pets. She breeds Labradors. This isn’t an advertisement. Cassie doesn’t have a puppy mill. She and her children have a family of dogs. There are more people asking about current litters than she can fulfill orders. I know people who have lost pets, so I know the loss is just like losing a member of the family or a close friend. As Cassie’s webmaster I see many of the email requests that come in.
People write to replace a pet that has recently passed away. Or they want one as company for an existing pet. Or they want a new member of their family. Parents even have their children write, but the ones I feel most for are the returning soldiers who were forced to give up a pet when they were deployed overseas to Afghanistan or Iraq. “I would love a black lab like my Johnny.”
Pets are people too. They have their own personalities, their own quirks, their own likes and dislikes. We see this with our yard deer. They are not pets, but we feel connected. I give them names and we watch them interact with fellow deer. We don’t approach them, but we keep track of them. Sometimes I roll an apple across the yard to one. I post photos of them on Facebook and watch them grow. When we no longer see them we know automobiles have taken their toll.
I recently had bad news. A friend had passed away. It was a surprise. I was shocked. I was feeling down. That afternoon one of our bucks, perhaps a two year old, Buck L. Myshoe, showed up with scrapes on the left side of his neck, his left rear leg hanging and held up off the ground. He had one antler that looked like he may have lost half of it. If he was hit by a car in his prime, I knew his future on three legs wouldn’t be secure. I rolled a gala apple over to him, which he ate. He then wandered off out of our yard.
A doe, Rose, and her two fawns stopped in next. While Peg and I dined on our deck, Rose groomed her two children. I was still feeling bad about my friend and about Buck L. From our deck I threw three apples down into the yard for Rose and her fawns. The two fawns stayed laying down where Rose had left them. Rose ate all three of the apples and then laid down and chewed cud. I had to laugh. Mama has to come first. The three of them stayed in the yard for hours. I felt better with each minute.
Like good service animals, those three deer perked up my spirits. I still missed my friend, and I knew what was going to happen to Buck L., but the deer family was going to carry on and so were we.