|Abbey, Connor, and Natasha on a recent morning.|
Animal welfare, especially cat welfare, is a passion for me. But it took a while for me to realize it.
If you had told me when I was a young woman that I would become a happy cat woman, I would have had serious doubts about you.
One of my first memories of animals is of me running through the yard of our farmhouse, trying to outrun the puppies chasing me. I was afraid they would scratch me.
But as soon as I was inside the storm door, I looked back out. They would be outside the door, looking at me. They had sad looks on their faces, I thought. So I tried to make them feel better by talking to them through the door, telling them what good dogs they were and how sweet they were.
I had a heart for animals, but they weren’t a real part of my life.
I was raised on a farm. When I was very young, we had milk cows, beef cows, chickens, and pigs, in addition to several dogs and some cats. None of the animals were allowed in the house. Ever. My parents believed they belonged outside, though old pictures showed that my oldest brother used to be able to bring his dog inside sometimes.
|A view of the farmhouse I lived in until I was 10 years old. |
The house is the white building in the center.
I don’t remember ever playing with the dogs other than running with them. But I do remember feeling sorry for them because I was leaving them alone when I went inside, and because they had to stay outside when they so clearly wanted to be with us.
And I hated to hear them cry. When my mother bought a boxer puppy, she was kept on the back porch. It was enclosed but not a real part of the house. Boots was by herself behind a barrier fashioned from a fireplace screen. When I heard her cry—probably from loneliness—I would sit on the concrete floor by the screen and sing to her. Sometimes I’d pull the church hymnal from the piano and sing hymns to her. She wouldn’t cry as long as I did that.
The cats were even more in the background. At the farmhouse I lived in until I was 10 years old, the only thing I remember about the cats on the farm was when my mother called us over to a bush, where a cat was giving birth under it.
So even though I lived on a farm with many animals, they seemed separate from me. That’s why it still surprises me—but delights me—that I’m an advocate for animal welfare today. But I’m sad at all the missed opportunities that I had as a young person to realize the true value of animals.
There’s a lot more to this story, more than you would want to read in one blog post. As time goes on, I’ll share more of how I became the cat woman.
What are your first memories of animals?