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Letters from Home: Saturday Night Kitchen Trials (Part II)

by Patricia Heffernan

Dear Patricia:

Thank you for your most recent letter. Your communications are always so welcome. It is funny how a pleasant evening of joviality and recollections can so suddenly turn sour. Unfortunately I think most of us are at least mildly pleased to know it happens in other families and not just our own.

Doesn’t have to be about pets either; could be anything, a simple statement by Aunt Martha (for instance) that perhaps she’s put on a few pounds since the last gathering and then too many heads nodding in agreement can turn things quickly around. Or a casual remark that perhaps Uncle Charlie have a nap before dinner instead of another cocktail can do it also. The possibilities are endless in that regard and we’ll explore them another time.

Getting back to the pets though, it is true that they do have a different life on a farm. Dogs spend most of their time outside, except in inclement weather, as they are needed to help round up the livestock for feeding and milking and also to alert the farmer to any unwelcome wolves, coyotes or foxes lurking around. There are usually a half dozen or more cats whose main purpose in life is to keep the mouse population down, with the reward of warm nectar from the cows at supper time. Truly a life ‘of mice and milk’. That is not to say that these animals don’t become much loved members of their farm families as they surely do.

So there is that difference between the farm and town animals. Would you not agree Patricia that most of the cats in your village wouldn’t know a mouse if they tripped over one and would certainly not need one for food with their ever present dish of Fancy Feast awaiting them? As you mentioned, the biggest need they have most of the time is another nap. I have sometimes seen women in the pet aisle at the grocery store perusing the choices and scrutinizing the labels and I just shake my head and move on. Having said that I must confess that we did have one cat who would eat nothing but a certain kind of cat chow and not even a can of the best tuna would he touch in an emergency.

We have certainly had our share of animals in my family with good and bad experiences. One of the best was your cousin Chris finding the puppy tied to a fence post near his home in freezing -25 winter weather with a note around his neck saying “Hi, my name is Benjamin.” He was shivering and very cold when Chris took him in to the house and warmed him up and fed him and they spent the next l5 years together. The affection in his eyes when he looked at Chris was a beautiful thing to see.

Your cousin Jan recently lost one of the most resilient cats we’d ever had, surviving the coyotes in the country and the train tracks in the city. Clyde was with us for l6 years until he rolled over on the living room floor near Jan one day and was gone.

Therefore the only one with us now is Chris’ black lab, Dexter, who occupies a place of honor in his Cookstown home. His love of my cool kitchen floor to stretch out on has almost caused the holiday turkey to go flying out the kitchen window on more than one occasion. We sometimes slip him down the hall and into a bedroom for safety’s sake until Chris notices his absence and brings him out for more “family time.” His picture hangs on the fridge with the grandchildrens’.

I would definitely agree that we must be careful what we say about other’s pets; even family members as they become very precious additions to a family and are mourned long after they’re gone.

I do agree with the profound quote by Anatole France regarding animals. I heard a song on the radio today performed by Willie Nelson and thought that Anatole would have said it a bit differently, so forgive me Trish, while I give you these two verses with the odd word changed.

‘To all the pets I’ve loved before

Who travelled in and out my door

I’m glad they came along

I dedicate this song

To all the pets I’ve loved before.’

‘To all the pets I once caressed

And may I say I’ve held the best

For helping me to grow

I owe a lot I know

To all the pets I’ve loved before.’

I’m sorry about the hurt feelings that arose at your last Saturday kitchen gathering. It will all be forgotten by now I’m sure but when next together have a toast to all the animals past and present in your family and comfort yourself with the fact that you (all) made them feel safe, happy and content during their time with you.

Hoping to see you all soon,

Much love,

Aunt Linda (Leonard) Pearson

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