It all started 38 years ago when my husband and I (pre-kids) went to the SPCA to “get a pet”. We immediately fell in love with a little female puppy who was a cross between a German Shepherd and a Border Collie. She was in a cage with her “litter mates” and she was the only one who approached us. We signed on the dotted line, became “owners” and headed for home with our little “purchase”. We named her Bertha and she was our faithful “pet” for fifteen years.
I must say that Bertha’s nose was a little out of joint when our son came into our life. We had two rocking chairs in the living room of our home. I would sit in one, with the baby on my lap and my husband would sit in the other, with our dog on his lap. But Bertha got over that fairly quickly and from then on, her love for us was a constant. She was a gem and we loved her.
Bertha would walk beside the baby buggy or sled, looking from side to side with an expression of authority on her face. I have no doubt that she would have protected our little ones with her life. When our daughter was a toddler and testing out new found language, I would sometimes walk into the living room to find our little girl trying out her new vocabulary on our diggety-dog. Bertha would sit patiently, blinking her eye as our daughter would poke at it saying over and over again, “Eye, Eye”.
And Bertha was talented. She could jump over a park bench, balance a cookie on her nose, and walk gently, never pulling on the leash. She was also annoying at times. She would leave great gobs of hair all over the floor and the furniture and she would chew stuff she wasn’t supposed to chew. Bertha also got into the garbage whenever she had the opportunity and once broke into a Xmas gift when we were out. She ate the delicious chocolates, box and all, that she found under the wrapping paper. This escapade ended up ruining two brand new carpets ( I am sure you get my drift) that bore the stains of Bertha’s shame, until I finally threw them out. Sometimes we would affectionately call her “Barfa”.
But time passed and Bertha got old. At the age of eleven, she developed a serious abdominal infection. She needed surgery, an expensive surgery to give her a chance to recover. Of course, our kids were young and there wasn’t a lot of extra money, but for us there was no question about trying to save her life. I remember going to the vet and sitting in the cage where she was recovering. It was large enough for me to crawl right in. I would sit beside Bertha and she would put her head in my lap and I would sing to her and tell her that everything would be okay. And it was.
We enjoyed her company and her love for another four years until the arthritis in her legs just made it impossible for her to get around. It was obvious that she was in a lot of pain. She could no longer jump onto a bed or even the sofa. I was so afraid that she might fall down the stairs while I was not there. And so, the difficult decision had to be made. That is the first time in my life, but not the last, that I have had to make such a decision and it pains me to this day. We had our Bertha “put to sleep”. We grieved for her..
To this day we have nonhumans in our life. We have three rescue cats who grace our home and our lives with their unique personalities. When I became vegan, I started to reevaluate the language I use to describe my relationship with these beings. I don’t say that I own pets , but rather that they live with us and are companions in our life. Litter mates are now brothers and sisters. All beings are he and she, never it. And when the end comes, they are not put to sleep or put down, they are euthanized.
Do we have the right to buy domesticated nonhumans, to keep them in our home, to make medical decisions for them and to choose when is the right time to die? Many people will say no, that we don’t. And I guess this is true. But dogs and cats have been domesticated for centuries and there are a lot of them out there who do need good homes and our protection. It goes without saying, that breeding them for sale needs to stop immediately.
Annie’s Vegan View
I will honor the moral status and value that is inherently theirs.
I will continue to respect their individuality while protecting them and taking care of their needs.
It is the least I can do in return for all the love and respect they have given me over the years.
I am a kinder, more compassionate person because of their love and I respectfully thank all of them (Bertha, Elfie, Mac, Lucy, Bella, Chimpy, and Rosie) for that.
May all beings be happy and free.
7 thoughts on “This Vegan’s Beloved Companions”
This is a beautiful post. Both for the walk down memory lane with some non-human animals I loved dearly, and for the sentiment.
…yes, dearly loved they were. It was a tough post to write (lots of blubbering going on here, as you can imagine!) but it was also good to connect with the good old days and to remember how much fun we had when our doggies were still here.
Yes, Anne, you did write an excellent summary of so many years of companionship with these pets. Even though it was so hard to let them go, I really enjoyed them and they gave us many good years of affection.
Many thanks. They are always in my heart and I love how everyone is smiling and laughing when we talk about the good times and the antics of life with our companions,
Beautiful post. I had a “Lucy” in my life….she was from the pound and quickly became “my girl”. The only of all our rescues who loved me more than my husband (lol). She died in my arms of a massive heart attack many years ago and I still miss her every day.
Hi Judy,Thanks for sharing. We do seem to miss them forever, so I understand how you feel. There is something special about the Lucys in our life. They have their own particular kind of spunk and way of approaching life. I love it when someone loves me best.Anne
When I was growing up we had a rescue dog called Lucy too! It must have been a popular name. She was a crossbreed and was all white, apart from her head that was brown. It looked like her head didn’t match her body. She used to follow me everywhere and sleep on my bed with me and my tabby cat Candy. I loved my animal friends when I was little and used to tell them everything. I still do!
I have 3 cats now. I don’t like to say I own any of them, like you. I have a 5 year old ginger female cat called Bobo who decided she wanted to move in with us when we lived in York. She most definitely chose us! I have another 16 yr old tabby cat. He is called Trouser and he came from a shelter. I have been with him longer than I have been with my partner, Stewart. Trouser sleeps under the covers with me when the weather is cold and gives me the best cuddles. He has just started doing it again now the weather is getting cold again. We also have a male black and white cat called Panda Bear who is feral. He sleeps in a little house that I made him on the deck and he comes to the patio doors for his food but he won’t let me near him. He lets me play with him sometimes with a fish toy on the end of a long stick but he easily gets spooked and runs off. Maybe one day he will let me stroke him but it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t. I just feel so blessed to have him in my life as I do all my animal friends, both past and present.
Thank you for sharing your story with me about your animal friends too Anne! We are so lucky to have them.