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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Furry Friends and Their Place In Our Hearts

Some call them critters, most call them pets, but many call them family. Some are fluffy and furry, some are hoofed, and some can run in a wheel all damn night long. There are those which are house-trained, and some fail to be no matter how hard we try. No matter how big or small, they are the animals in our lives that leave their footprints on our hearts (and sometimes even on the carpet.)

They helplessly rely on us to feed and care for them, while providing us with companionship and unconditional love. With their presence, they brighten our days, put smiles on our faces, and add a sense of purpose without even trying. As tried and true friends, they often look up to us. And in return they're the ones in our lives who will never look down on us, even when we do something wrong.

I have many pets as I live on a 100-acre farm and each one is very special to me. But this week, we've had to say goodbye to one. His name is Coconut, a stray cat that we brought home about nine years ago and he's sunk his claws into my family's heart from the get go.

In the beginning, my husband and I were not typical cat people, thinking we'd never get close to this feline addition to our house. In truth, we only agreed to keep him for rodent control. Things soon changed as he behaved more like an eager-to-be-around-people "dog" than a disinterested I'd-rather-not-come-near-you "cat." He came when called, he never shied from loud noises (and this was important with two active young girls) and he talked back to you when you happened to strike up a conversation. Needless to say, we fell head over heels for this cat.

Of course, so did my girls. And it's been so hard watching my youngest grieve for him these past few days. He was an indoor cat and she has since told me that she can barely go into a room without seeing Coconut. I completely understood her struggles because this cat was her buddy. When she was in the office, he'd jump up into her lap as she played on the computer. When she was in her room, he'd jump on her bed and take a nap as she'd play. When she was downstairs watching TV, he'd curl up next to her as if he enjoyed watching the Disney Channel as much as she did. If she was in the house at all, he was there with her. I've never known a cat to be that into a person. Like I'd said before, he was more like a dog than a cat.

As you can imagine, it's been a tough couple of days. The house has an emptiness inside that we are all trying to deal with in our own little way. Coconut may have started out as just a pet, but he ended up being loved as one of the family and we miss him very much.

I hope I didn't bring anyone's spirits down with this post. To be honest, it's difficult to write about anything else when you are consumed with loss.

So in order to lift the mood here a little bit, I'll share an excerpt from one of my books where I feature a happy-go-lucky Chocolate Lab with the protagonists as they deal with a sudden conflict from the very beginning of the story. I hope you enjoy. (And remember to hug your pets today. Give them a hug for me too, if you don't mind.)

The Fall of Rain
By Renee Vincent

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Patrick stepped into the kitchen and slid the door closed behind him, the house eerily quiet and still. By now, his rowdy Chocolate Lab should have been clumsily traipsing down the hall, all tongue and legs, trying to get to him before he could take one step off the welcome mat. “Rain?” he called tentatively. “You in here?”

“I’m fine, Patrick. Leave me alone,” Lorraine’s voice emitted from the back room. He kicked off his dusty cowboy boots and hung his hat on the hook by the door before walking toward her bedroom. As he expected, her door was shut. And when he gripped the handle, it was locked.

He leaned against the frame. “Rain, open the door.”

“I said I’m fine.”

There was anger in her voice, but through the forced gruffness of it Patrick heard it crack. His heart melted. “Rain…talk to me.”

“I don’t feel like talking. I just want to be left alone.”

Patrick rolled his eyes. No woman who’s ever said those words has ever meant it. In his experience, ‘leave me alone’ typically means ‘be more convincing so I’ll feel better about spilling my guts.’

“Fine,” he allotted, backing away from the door. “I’ll just sit out here and wait ‘til you’re ready to talk. I’ve got all day.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be horseback riding with Beth this afternoon?”

“No, we changed plans.”

“She changed plans or you did?”

“What does it matter?” Patrick asked, impatient at talking through the door.

“Dammit, Patrick, you can’t keep doing that. You can’t continue to rearrange your life with her because of me. She already hates me as it is.”

Patrick tried the door handle again, to no avail. “Beth doesn’t hate you. She just doesn’t understand my relationship with you. Give her time…she’ll learn.”

“She’ll learn to hate you, Patrick. No woman wants to be second, and with me living here, you’ll always put me first.”

There was a slight stress on ‘with me living here’ and Patrick caught it. As he heard her footsteps cross the hardwood floor of the room, he was relieved, thinking she was finally going to open the door and let him in. But then he heard the closet door slide across its tracks and the sound of her dragging something from inside.

He pressed his ear against the door, listening. A furious zipper opened and then a drawer from her dresser. “What are you doing in there? Are you packing?”

She ignored him.

“Rain,” he demanded, his voice taking on an urgent tone. “Open this door right now.”

Again, she didn’t oblige and the longer he waited, the madder he got. If he knew one thing about her, it was that she was a determined woman. If she got something in her head, no matter how idiotic it was, she was going to see it through. And if she decided to move out, then nothing would stop her.

He couldn’t let her. He cared too much to let her walk out of his life. The only place she could go was Jack’s house in Indian Hill—the Beverly Hills of Ohio—and that was the last place he’d want her to run to.

“All right, that’s it,” he warned. “I’m coming in.”

He didn’t know why he even gave a warning. It was his house and he had a right to open any damn door he wanted. Trying to cool his jets, he spun around and reached above the bedroom door and snatched the pin key. In haste, he drove it in the tiny hole and burst into the room, finding Lorraine with an armful of clothes, making her way to the edge of the bed where a heap of unfolded clothes already lay in her suitcase.

Immediately, his dog, Captain, jumped off the bed and ran to greet him, paws and all. Correcting the dog, he pushed the animal aside and ran to Lorraine. “What are you doing?”

“Patrick, it’s bad enough that I’m ruining my relationship with Jack. I’m not going to ruin yours too.”

She tried to walk around him, but he stepped in front of her and clasped her face in his hands. “See? This is the shit I’m talking about. Jack has brainwashed you into thinking the reason your relationship is on the rocks is because of you. Do you know how absurd that is? Rain, it has never been your fault. Can’t you see that? He doesn’t deserve you.”

“But Beth deserves you and I’m not going to stand in your way anymore.”

He grabbed her shoulders. “You are not in my way. You’re my best friend and I’m not letting you leave.”

He watched as tears welled up in her green eyes. Her bottom lip quivered and her jaw clenched. Unable to bear losing his childhood friend, he pulled her in his arms and held her.

“What happened?” he whispered sympathetically in her hair.

He felt her body tremble and the jerk of quiet sobs in her shoulders. He walked into her, leading her toward the bed so they could sit down. Captain followed and lay down at their feet, his head on his paws as if he, too, were saddened by Lorraine’s crying.

When Patrick took her hands in his, he noticed that her left one was absent the three-carat diamond solitaire, the only impressive thing Jack had ever offered her. But then again, Patrick never thought for one second that he forked out his own money for it. He’d bet his life that Jack’s parents paid for the engagement ring simply because they didn’t want their son to let a good thing slip through his hands.

He lifted her hand. “Where’s your ring?”

Lorraine’s lips puckered, trying to hold back her emotions. “I gave it back to him.”

Though her words were music to his ears, he restrained his joy. “Why?”

Lorraine looked up at the ceiling, blowing out a tremendous sigh. Anger laced her words now. “Because I walked in on him with another woman.”

Patrick’s heart nearly stopped. His mouth fell open, but he shut it right away so as not to say anything too rash. He chose his words carefully. “With another woman…doing what?”

Lorraine glared at him for his naivety. “What do you think, Patrick? They were in bed together, our bed—”

Her tears ran like a faucet now, her pain at a height even he couldn’t fathom. “Okay, okay...” he consoled, pulling her against him. “I get it. It’s okay. Shh…you don’t have to say another word. I’m here.”

He didn’t expect her to say anything more, but it was as if his words sparked a need to rant. “You know what Jack did when I turned to run out of the house?”

Patrick didn’t want to try to guess. He could only imagine what that scumbag did in the heat of Lorraine finding him screwing another woman.

“He chased me down the sidewalk with a sheet around his waist, saying he could explain. When I continued to run for my car, he actually grabbed me by the arm and said if I gave him just five minutes, he could be ready for our picnic.” Lorraine began to laugh hysterically. “Can you believe that? He said he just forgot about our picnic and double booked. Like I’m a flippant appointment he forgot to pencil in and scheduled a necessary fornication session in place of it.”

Patrick was dumbfounded. “Rain, I am so sorry. I—I.”

Lorraine looked up at him from the pocket of his shoulder. “Oh, don’t act so surprised,” she snapped, standing up to pace the room. “You probably already made bets with Andy that this would happen.”

He felt the pang of that knife right away. “I’d never do that to you.”

Lorraine wilted. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that. I’m just mad. And hurt. And…”

Patrick jumped up to embrace her again. “I know you can’t begin to see it now, but it is better this way. You don’t have to waste anymore time on Jack. You’re free to find the man of your dreams, the right man of your dreams.”

“I don’t think he’s out there.”

“Sure he is,” Patrick contended, stroking her long dark hair. “He already visits you in your dreams every night.”

Lorraine drew back to look at him. “Did Mr. Pride kick you while you were shoeing him?”

“Of course not.”

“Then I think you’ve just fallen off the crazy train, Patrick.”

She tried to slip from his arms, but he held her in her place. “Aren’t you still dreaming about some tall blond, blue-eyed guy in medieval garb with a sword or something like that?”

Lorraine stared and nodded her head slowly. “Yep, you’ve lost it.”

“I’m serious.”

“So am I, Patrick. Listen to yourself. You’re talking about this guy, this ridiculous figment of my imagination, mind you, as if he’s real.”

“Your words, not mine. Think about it, Rain. How many times have you awakened, gasping in the night, telling me you could feel this man’s lips on yours as real as if he were right in bed with you? You’ve had this dream ever since I’ve known you, so how do you explain it?”

“It’s called a pathetic girl’s wish for her cliché knight in shining armor.”

At that, Lorraine’s cell phone rang. She froze, a blank look invading her face. When it rang again, she scurried past him and frantically searched her purse on the bed. Pulling it out, she stared at the display.

She didn’t have to read the name to Patrick. By the look of her sad eyes, he already knew it was Jack. Holding back his growing infuriation, he grabbed the cell and threw it out of the room against the hall wall, the phone shattering in pieces. Before she could race out the door to salvage the pieces, Patrick taunted his dog. “You want it? Go get it. Go get it, boy.”

Instantly, Captain jumped to his feet and ran to the plastic fragments lying haphazardly on the floor. Without even sniffing, he chose the biggest scrap and ran away with it in his mouth.

Patrick laughed. But when he turned around to face Lorraine, she wasn’t as pleased as he was with his dog’s obedience. “What?”

“That was my cell phone. You broke it.”

Patrick couldn’t help but smile as she laid out the obvious. “I’ll buy you a new one. With a different number,” he added, pointing soundly at her. “Besides, you have nothing more to say to him.”

“Says who?”

“Says me. Now start packing.”

As Patrick walked out of her bedroom, he knew she had to be staring at him like he had three heads. He didn’t care. Suddenly, her idea of leaving was the best thing she had ever come up with. He was going to make damn sure Jack couldn’t find her.

“Pack you bags, Rain. You’re going on a trip.”

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Tina Donahue said...

Aw, what a cute picture of your kitty. I love cats. Adore them. We adopted a stray - LKB (Little Kitty Baby) - or rather she adopted us, showing up at the back door one day, cold and hungry. I swear she was more like a dog than a cat. Followed me around the house. I kept tripping over her, not knowing she was there. :)

Renee Vincent / Gracie Lee Rose said...

Same here, Tina. Our cat was also a stray and more like a dog too! We definitely have special cats!

PatriciaRasey said...

Bless you, Renee. Furbabys are hard to lose. :-) We celebrate the time we have with them. Love the pic of your furbaby! XXOO

Sarah Hoss said...

I am so sorry sweetie to hear about your loss. He was beautiful.
6 yrs. ago we lost our dog. Hit by a car and we were so sad. We were lucky enough to get one of his puppies born two days after his death and Maddie is her daddy's twin. I just picked her up today from getting spayed and I worried about her and called to check on her, just like I would do if she was a human. We love her.

I hope your littest one is able to move on soon. It seems to be even harder for the children.

Hugs to you Renee!

Renee Vincent / Gracie Lee Rose said...

Thanks Patricia. He was such a beautiful cat as he had blue eyes. Crazy though, when he looked straight at you, he was cross-eyed. It always made me laugh that his eyes were crossed and he could still catch mice. haha

Renee Vincent / Gracie Lee Rose said...

Thank you Sarah. And I am sorry for your loss too. We lost a dog ( full grown Chocolate lab) in that same way - being hit by a car and they never even stopped. I couldn't believe someone could be that cruel to not stop after hitting him.

I'm glad that you were able to get one of his pups. I'm sure that helped the healing process and it's nice to know the dog is from a dog you owned. Very cool!

Virginia C said...

Very sorry for your loss. I understand it all too well.

Renee Vincent / Gracie Lee Rose said...

Thanks Virginia, I know you know all too well this sense of loss. And my sympathies go out to you as well.

Thanks for visiting with me. Seeing your feline avatar with your lovely name put a smile on my face today. Thank you for that.

Taryn Raye said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Renee. We've had our cat, Miscellaneous, since I was pregnant with my daughter, so Miz will be 10 sometime around July/August I believe before my daughter turns 10 in December.

She's definitely not your average cat either and has a tendency to do the dog thing. She used to chase my husband through the living room, smacking at his heels and she drags her water bowl out in the middle of the kitchen floor when it's empty and we haven't noticed yet. Tripping over a water bowl will definitely get your attention.

And she tends to dig her own toys out of her basket to play with them, especially the catnip pouch I made her that she loves to roll on. I've never seen a cat get toys out on their own. LOL

I'm sending you {{{hugs}}} and prayers for your and your family. Beloved pets are never forgotten and always close in heart.

Sandy said...

Aaaah, Renee, I understand all too well your loss. We weren't cat people, but one icy February my hubby brought a little stray black cat home to get him out of the cold for a few days. We ended up naming him Maximillian and took him to the vet to have him checked. He followed hubby around like a dog and was his constant companion until he died. We loved Maxie so much we got two more only girls this time. One follows me and the other follows hubby. lol

Great post. Loved your excerpt, too.

Maeve said...

I'm so sorry, Renee. My heart goes out to you.

Melissa said...

I'm so sorry. I will miss him too. I liked when we watched movies and he curled up between us on the couch. It's so hard to lose a friend like that. Give the girls a hug for me. Love you all.

Krista said...

awe...what a great post Renee....i'm sure any pet lover can sympathize. We found our kitty outside huddled under our dryer vent and my husband just couldn't say no:) I know my kids would be the same as yours....there are so many strays at the shelter needing a home, maybe a new kitty would help ease their hurt. My mom never liked that idea but it's just not fair an animal's life isn't as long as a human's. You're in our thoughts and my kitties are sending their love your way!

Melissa said...

I'm so sorry. I will miss him too. I liked when we watched movies and he curled up between us on the couch. It's so hard to lose a friend like that. Give the girls a hug for me. Love you all.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Your daughters are adorable, Renee. I am sorry they are having to grieve like this. It reminds me of when our younger daughter was in third grade. Our dog Sadie was very old and sickly. We had to have her put down. When Kristen came home I handed her Sadie's collar. She seemed to take it okay, hammered a nail into her bedstead and hung the collar. A week later I got a call from her teacher. She suggested we get her another dog. She'd taken the collar to show and tell, held it up and said, "Sadie is dead, that's that." Started to cry and the entire class cried with her dramatic presentation. You just never know how children are going to react and if they are holding it inside. Glad yours are talking. We did take Kristen to the pound and she picked out a puppy that we had until Kristen was into her twenties.

jean hart stewart said...

We once had a favorite cat who was attached to my young daughter. One day we went out to the patio and found a baby rattlesnake with it's head bitten off. Candy disappeared for three days and when she came back she was pitifiably thin. Our vet said sometimes (but rarely) cats will do something like that to save a loved one. Wonderful excerpt!!!!

Gerri Bowen said...

I'm so sorry, Renee. Pets climb into your heart and make it bigger. It hurts when they leave us.

Samantha MacDouglas said...

Oh, Renee. I'm so sorry for your family's loss. We have to dogs that we all love more than just about anything. Our first, Bella, we found. She raced across a busy street to greet us. She's the most wonderful dog. Anytime I come home and they are off on an adventure, the house feels so empty. It's awful. A student of mine lost both her dogs this past year. Now when I come to her home it feels so empty. My heart goes out to your family and especially your daughter. Those constant reminders of loss are so painful. I think of the Rainbow Poem and that helps some

Gabriella Edwards said...

Aw, Bella, I'm so sorry to hear about Coconut! I have 3 cats, one of whom is an old fusser. He's deteriorating quickly, as old critters do, but I really hate to see him waste away.
He's been with us for 18 years and we're lucky to have him...

Hugs, babe!

Renee Vincent / Gracie Lee Rose said...

Taryn I really enjoyed that story of your cat and I loved his name. How cute. Thank you for sharing your story with me. It definitely helped to put a smile on my face. You are a sweetie for visiting with me.

Sandy I love your cat's name too! Maximillian is a great name for a black cat. I'm glad you liked the excerpt. I was hoping someone would read it and enjoy it. And yes that Chocolate Lab is just like the lab we have at our house. Happy go lucky, all tongue and legs.
Thanks for stopping by with me.

Maeve Thanks, darlin. It is greatly appreciated that so many of you have come to see me.

Melissa I know! What are we gonna do when we watch movies now? Who's gonna purr and keep us warm while we watch our Swords & Muscle Men? I will definitely give the girls a hug from you. They will like that. Miss you so much!!!!

Krista found a stray too? Wow, there are far too many of them in this world. If I could give them all a home (without my house stinking, I would) haha
Thank you for being here with me.

Paisley Oh heart wrenching! I bet you wanted to cry right along with her. I'm not sure what we are doing. I'd really like to steer clear of another cat as I typically do not like indoor animals, but who knows...I thought I'd never have a cat either.
Thanks for being with me, Paisley. Your smile and uplifting nature help so much.

Jean Oh my goodness...what a story! It amazes me what animals will do for humans. And thank you so much for reading my excerpt. I love that part in the book and so glad someone read it.
Thanks again for being with me today.

Gerri You are so right. Thanks for stopping by and reading my post.

Samantha Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. And you are so right. When they are gone from the home, even for a few hours, it feels so empty. I'm still getting used to not having a cat in the house. It's weird. I still think...I gotta close that door or the cat will get out.

Gabriella Aww....thanks Gabby. What a great surprise to see you here. I appreciate you coming. I so wish I could be with you, cause I know you'd be giving me the biggest, most tightest hug. I love your hugs.
Miss you so much too!

Janice Seagraves said...

We had to put our old dog Mitzi to sleep a few years ago, she as twenty. It nearly did both my husband and me in.

I kept seeing her and heard her whimper at night.

Losing a pet is losing a part of your family.


B.C. Brown said...

I am sorry for your family's loss. And, don't worry. I don't believe anyone was "downed" by the story. Myself, it warmed my heart.

After moving into my new place, a stray cat showed up on my doorstep. Sweet, playful, and very intelligent. I named him Rimbaud after the poet, since they both seemed to share a similar wanderlust. Sadly, he has not returned to visit me lately. I look for him often and feel like something is missing. In my heart, I hope he is well with some new family to make smile.

I wish your family healing. I am gladdened to know that one stray animal had a family as wonderful as yours to call his own. There are so few who do.

(P.S. I'm adopting a new furbaby tomorrow. A German Sheppard without a home. I'm so excited!)

BC Brown ~ Paranormal, Mystery, Romance, Fantasy
"Because Weird is Good."

Cara Marsi said...

Renee, I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm a cat lover myself and had my share of beloved cats leave me for cat heaven. I share your grief. Coconut was so beautiful. My husband grew up without pets because his mother was a clean freak and wouldn't allow pets in the house. Now my husband is as big a cat lover as I am. Thanks for your moving post.

Suzanne Lilly said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Coconut. He reminds me of our cat, Jazz. He had so much fur, when he was a baby, we thought he was a girl and named him Jasmine. When we realized he was a boy, he became Jazz. Long gone, but not forgotten! I'm glad you have some nice pics of your furry friend. Thanks for sharing.

Renee Vincent / Gracie Lee Rose said...

Janice Indeed, losing a pet is like losing family. I am so sorry you had to put Mitzi down and I know what you mean about hearing them. I actually dreamed last night that he came into the room. I had to touch him to see if he was real. Of course, in the dream he was real and I swooped him up in my arms and yelled for the kids! Crazy huh?

BC Brown Oh wow, that is so exciting. I love German Shepherds. I think that is wonderful what you are doing. Do you have a name in mind?

Cara You say thanks for the moving post, but actually I am saying thanks for listening to me. It helps to share your feelings with others and sharing this with all of you really helped me to heal. Thanks for keeping me company.

Suzanne I have lots of pics of Coconut...but these were some that I had on my computer. I love the name of your cat and how you changed it to Jazz. Great story and very funny. Thanks for making me smile.


B.C. Brown said...

She is named Kali already. Not a name I love, but she knows it and we'll stick with it. :)

BC Brown
"Because Weird is Good."

Renee Vincent / Gracie Lee Rose said...

Kali is a good name and I'm sure she'll have a great home. What you are doing is wonderful, BC!

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