To be accurate, he was our first baby. We adored him, spent plenty of money on him (hello, $2900 hip replacement surgery), even let him sleep in our bed.
Lily's first Christmas, 2002
Jake was so great with Lily. He let her climb all over him. In fact, I'm pretty sure she thought he was a horse.
Sadly, we lost Jake, literally, in December 2003. I let him out to go to the bathroom and forgot about him for 30 minutes or so. I'd done that before, but he was always just down the street snooping around the neighborhood. Not this time. We searched all over, posted flyers, and called the animal shelters every couple of days for about two months.
But Jake was gone. We were all pretty heart broken. About two months went by and I found myself with entirely too much time on my hands since I wasn't vacuuming dog hair all day long, so we started looking for another dog through a Labrador rescue program. We found Hank, only six months old but HUGE, and brought him home.
Lily and Hank were great pals but it was such a pain to have a puppy again! Hank loved to chew and we still have several toddler toys that have Hank's teeth marks in them.
Hank's 1st Birthday, September 2004
Hank got his fair share of spoiling (what dog doesn't love wearing a birthday hat?) but when we discovered that he had not one, but three bad hips, we had to make a difficult decision. We were no longer in a financial position to pay for hip replacement surgeries. We knew that Hank could probably have a couple of decent years, but then he would be in so much pain that he wouldn't have a very good quality of life. But by then Lily would be so attached to him that it would break her heart to have to put Hank down. So we made the very hard decision to go ahead and send Hank to Heaven. He was only 15 months old. Lily still talks about the reunion in Heaven when she'll get to see all her dogs.
Now, a very strange thing happened after Hank was gone. Our house had been dog free for about six months and my friend Cami brought her dog Roxi over. After wrestling with Roxi for awhile, Lily started to sneeze. Shortly after that her eyes got red and itchy. What the...? This pattern repeated itself on a few different occasions until it dawned on us, Lily had developed pet allergies! It was confirmed when we had her allergy tested at age 4 that she is indeed allergic to dogs, cats, horses, hay, cashews and pistachios. What a rip-off!
So for several years we have been a petless family. We looked into dog breeds that shed very little and are ideal for people with allergies (our favorite was a Labradoodle) but our housing situation over the next few years did not allow for a big dog. We considered a couple different things, a sugar glider, a rabbit, but it just never seemed right. Lily has missed having a pet so much. She and Amelia have asked for a pet with increasing longing over the last few years.
Now, let me rewind a little. Or a lot. I grew up with cats.
Becky and Girl Kitty, Me and Boy Kitty, Germany 1986
We always had at least one kitty as long as I can remember.
napping with Girl Kitty, Monterey, CA 1990
We never had dogs and I thought they were big and slobbery and annoying. It was a big switch for me when we got Jake. But I fell in love with him. And eventually I decided that cats were annoying. They pee'd and pooped in your house. They were kind of snobby and only came when they felt like it. They made all the furniture hairy (TOTALLY unlike a dog) and it was irritating the way they always rubbed on your leg, leaving a trail of hair behind.
Dan doesn't care for cats either (did you see how much fun he had trying to shove them in a pumpkin?). Getting a cat was never on our list of pet possibilities. Lily's only interaction with cats was with old decrepit Girl Kitty at Grammie's house, and she mostly hid from little kids unless there was fresh food out.
2003, Lily and Girl Kitty 18 years old
So one evening in early October a stray kitty started hanging around our house. Lily had been having a hard time, feeling lonely because she doesn't feel like she has a best friend here in Cokeville. She was so excited about the cat, it perked her little spirit up so much that I told her she could feed him.
The next morning the kitty was back and all the kids came out to pet him.
He was such a good natured kitty and I'm such a sucker, so I told the kids that if he kept hanging around they could call him their outdoor cat. I mean, no big deal, right? We can feed him and the kids can play with him outside and he can fend for himself otherwise.
Later that afternoon Lily and Amelia came in and declared that if he stayed, they would call him Pumpkin.
Lily made a little bed for him on the porch. A couple days later it was raining, so she put her umbrella out so Pumpkin would have a dry place to eat. By this point we'd bought real kitty food instead of just feeding him hot dogs (I'm sure he was a little disappointed in the change.)
Next we made Pumpkin a place inside the kids' play house. A bed and a place to keep the food dry.
Then we did the responsible thing and posted a flyer around town to make sure Pumpkin didn't belong to someone else.
We left it up for a couple weeks and thankfully no one called because Pumpkin seemed happy with us and the kids were delighted to finally have a pet.
You know how if you feed one stray, the whole neighborhood shows up looking for a handout? Sure enough, we had a kitten show up just a few days after Pumpkin. I figured one more, no big deal. They can keep each other warm in the winter.
This kitty, who we called Jackie, for Jack-o-lantern to go with Pumpkin, would sit still on Amelia's lap
and let the kids cradle her like a baby, so they were in love.
Pumpkin, not so much. He didn't appreciate the competition and retreated to a sunny spot under the lilac tree.
And that's only half the story...