Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 – 43 BC) once said “if you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” I disagree. I do have a garden that I tend with parental care and take pleasure in on a daily basis. I also have a library that is as necessary to me as air, and like air, it fills all the available space. Both are part of “everything I need”—but not all.
I also need an animal—a fact I learned about myself at six when Tuffy, a terrier mix, followed my brother home from school. During the ten years he lived with us, he taught me that there were creatures on Earth besides my human parents upon whom I could rely to love me unconditionally. After Tuffy came a parade of dogs and cats, each of whom filled, to one extent or another, the void that exists in all of us—the need for reciprocal love.
When we lived in Chicago, Fred and I adopted Beau, a poodle/fox terrier mix who lived (and sailed) with us for thirteen years. Since moving to Savannah, we have offered our home to a succession of rescue cats—Hobie, Bête Noire, Harlequin, Tomochichi, Willow, Calliope, Pie, and Sam—and we have loved them all. Then last August we became petless, a whole new experience.
“Now we can travel,” we said to each other. “Now the house will be fur-free. No more trips to the vet; no more shelf space sacrificed to cat food, cat meds, and cat treats. And won’t it be wonderful to have our whole bed to ourselves?”
As it turned out, not so much.
We couldn’t break the habit of glancing down to avoid stepping on a tail. We missed the warmth of a furry, purring bundle in our lap. We reminisced about Callie’s odd sleeping preferences—an open drawer, a flower pot, a shoe box. We got misty-eyed remembering how Sam raised Pie, the five-week-old kitten he brought home over our high board fence. The house seemed empty with only our own four feet instead of eight or twelve or even sixteen. We discovered that the freedom of not having an animal was way overrated.
Enter, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
Now, instead of ridding the couch of Sam’s orange hair we’re vacuuming up Lucy’s black fuzz. Instead of regaining a foot of kitchen shelf space, we have given over much of the laundry room to food-and-water bowls, bags of kibbles, dog treats, harnesses and leashes, a cold-weather dog jacket, and a collection of plastic pick-up bags. The small, single ball with a bell has been exchanged for a growing collection of stuffed animals and chew toys. The basket that two cats once shared has now been claimed by one smallish, rescue Shih/Poo who digs holes in my garden and piles up our socks in the middle of the living room floor.
Lucy makes us laugh at her antics, distracts us from TV and computer, gets us outside and moving, and reminds us with her own joi de vivre that life is wonderful and fleeting and that we are very, very lucky to be sharing it with her.
Now I have everything I need.