Four Legged Caregivers
When I was growing up, we didn't have many pets. We moved a lot and I'm sure that was part of why we didn't, plus I'm not sure my parents could have handled one more living thing to take care of outside the six (6) of us! When my sister and I were in high school (she's the second kiddo in the line of six (6) and I'm the first), we were finally allowed to get some cats. We had two, the only ones in their litter. Katie (my tabby) and Cherie Shehor Dusky (my sister's midnight black cat) were inseparable. They were outside cats who only occasionally submitted to petting or human attention and they were fearless, attacking skunks, a gigantic Canadian goose, blue jays, and 60 lb dogs. When we left Ohio the day I graduated from high school, we left the two cats with a dairy farm and never saw them again. Sometimes I like to think that they are still there, dominating the other cats and stealing lots of milk.
When I went to law school and was alone quite a bit studying, I got a cat of my own. When Angel died soon after I met my now husband, it was devastating because it was literally the first animal I'd ever had that died. I don't know if it would have been easier to have weathered the loss of a pet when I was a child, but I do know that it was so very hard as a new professional after Angel had been with me all the way through law school. We had two more cats, Samantha and Jasper, who both lived to a ripe old age before passing away, before we got Maya. Maya is now approximately 2 years old and she's been the perfect companion for me in the throes of my illness.
More time at home
We're home much more right now because of the pandemic and that means Maya is seeing a whole lot more of us than she usually does. I've noted that she does seem to get a little "peopled out" at times and she just disappears for some alone time. Otherwise, she is right in the thick of things, laying on computer screens, pawing at cords, sleeping on tables and chairs and couches, wherever is closest to a person. Maya isn't super happy about my four (4) year old deciding that he needs to pick her up all the time and I find that she tends to gravitate towards my husband during school time. He's much quieter than the boys and doesn't bother her too much.
Calming and comfort
And yet, wherever Maya is, the moment I lay down to rest, she is right there. She has certain blankets she likes but always must be touching me as much as possible. Maya always seems to know when I've had a bad day and she does her cuddling thing and head butting to be petted. She doesn't purr as loud as Sam did (she sounded like a motor!) but when she begins to purr, that vibration is the most calming thing there is.
It is super important to have caregivers that can talk and have thumbs when one is ill and accessing our health care system; however, furry four-legged caregivers are also vital. Furry caregivers don't care what you are wearing or what you smell like or if you have the energy to talk or engage. Furry caregivers only care about giving more love and we can all use more love in our lives.
Editor’s note: This article was published on May 20, 2020. Further developments in what we know about COVID-19 are continuously emerging. For more information about COVID-19 and strategies for coping, visit Advanced Breast Cancer and COVID-19.
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