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Coming Home: Learning many lessons from animals

Jessie Veeder

I can’t concentrate.

There’s a kitten climbing up my leg and a puppy scratching and whining at my door.

Even if I wanted to say something profound here there just wouldn’t be a way.

I’m too distracted …

But here’s a tip: Don’t go pants-less in the house when there’s a kitten around.

Because a kitten that likes to climb up pant legs ruins your life when you are pants-less.

Here’s another tip: If you think it’s a good idea to bring a kitten and a puppy home at the same time, two wild baby animals not yet civilized or obedient or trained in any way, and introduce them to each other and a nice rug to pee on, think twice, friend.

Double the cuteness doesn’t always equal double the fun.

But there’s a method to this madness. Out here, we need animals. They have a function. A purpose.

And if you remember correctly, we have issues that this little critter climbing up my leg might be able to get under control.

That is, if she also wasn’t currently the size of a mouse.

And that puppy out there wailing for me to let him in to terrorize my shoes? He’s going to help us get bulls out of the brush and round up the cows someday.

So he’ll get his chance to repay me for dragging the cat poop from the litter box out into the living room for his afternoon snack.

And for those muck boots of mine he’s been chewing on.

Oh, but I’m not really complaining. I mean, I have a history of stocking up on pets, and it’s one I have yet to grow out of. I mean, when your favorite pastime growing up was searching the barnyard with your cousins for new litters of kittens, dubbing your organized team the “Kitten Kaboodle Klub” complete with puffy-painted t-shirts, we were all bound to be some version of crazy cat ladies in our lives.

I won’t even mention the array of pets that followed, the turtles, snakes, fish or the time I went away to bible camp, leaving my pet lizard in my mom’s care, only to return to a replacement.

Mom, I wasn’t fooled.

Mom. You can’t put a lizard in a glass cage out on the deck to get some sun and expect it to go well.

But in your defense, lizards aren’t really a familiar farm animal.

Lesson learned.

That’s the thing about animals. They carry on their furry, scaly and slimy backs an array of these sorts of lessons, my biggest always learned on the backs of horses (well, usually when I was falling off the backs of horses).

Because Pops is a sort of horse whisperer and I grew up being the one charged with putting in the miles after the whispering, which usually led to runaway trips back to the barn, or me and the beast at a standstill in the arena, going nowhere.

Or some version of a kick and a jump followed by a plop and then the tears.

Tears and horses never mix well, so I was raised to wipe them and get back on.

That’s a tip for you. It’s a little more profound than the putting on pants thing.

Because with animals it’s all about patience.

Patience. Calm. Repeat.

And it turns out the whole patience thing doesn’t get much easier when you grow up. So I’m grateful I got to practice on those puppies and kittens, hamsters and lizards, turtles and horses of my childhood. Because the relationships have served me well in my life out here in this wild space full of rodents and cows that keep walking across my freshly planted lawn.

See, I need these little animals to help me out, but first I need to grow them up.

And I’m fine with it. Because, man, they really are adorable when they’re not chewing on things they shouldn’t be chewing on … like my boots … and each other.

Yes, patience, patience, calm, repeat … and then a little scratch behind the puppy’s ears for good measure.

This is my mantra, best used after I step in a puddle of his pee in the garage.

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