Animals have shown they are good for people’s health. They can increase exercise, lower blood pressure and just make us happy. They also seem to have a very positive effect on children with autism. There have been studies that show a pet can help an autistic child learn to bond with more than just the animal. we have experienced a similar effect.
We have always had pets. I really can’t remember a time when we didn’t have animals. Most of my life we had them. All sorts from cats to horses. I have always loved animals and daydreamed about one day having a farm full of them. Not that I wanted to be a farmer back then because I hated living rural. I always wanted my farm in the middle of a large city. Silly yes, but kids think of silly things.
So my boys have always had pets. They haven’t had the same upbringing as me so their pets have ranged from goldfish to cats and we have usually had a dog. No matter what we do or where we are an animal is usually in the mix.
So by the time River turned 5 we had random cats around and had found this lovely chow/malamute mix Sydney (best dog ever who we said goodbye to last year 😥 ) and River was always cool with them. He had his own cat but never really paid it much attention. River was more into building things and watching Sonic the Hedgehog or Pokemon related things.
When River was 5, we had a fire in our apartment. Luckily we were out at a friends that night and our dog was with us. See our stove at the time had push button controls on the front edge of it. A cat jumped up on the stove and turned an eye on. The eye got hot and caught the wall on fire and the kitchen was a goner.
A neighbor noticed the smoke coming through a wall vent and called 911. The fire was contained to the kitchen but soot and smoke covered everything in the house and sadly our 3 kitties at that time didn’t survive the smoke. We lost some of our stuff but we were ok, so that is what mattered.
River was mostly unfazed by the whole thing except for his worry about the cats. I was so heartbroken and stressed about what had happened I decided to lie to him. I told him that the cats had gotten out and were scared so they ran off. I told him someone had probably taken them home to be with new families. And he was fine with that until a redcross worker we were talking to said they had seen a story about it in the paper. I wasn’t aware it had been in the paper. He said “so you were the fire in the kitchen that killed 3 cats, right?” At which point River lost it and learned mommy had lied. That was not a great moment but we got through it.
3 years later, River is 8 and I am very pregnant with his little brother. My best friend at the time had a very pregnant cat. River would tell us every day that when she had her kittens he wanted the all black one. This cat was a whitish/gray almost Siamese looking cat. I told him sure if it had an all b lack kitten he could have it. So the day before I have Ephraim, the cat has kittens and sure enough one is completely black, not a touch of white on her.
Enter Kairi, the sleekest smartest black cat ever. We did not get along most of the time. She could care less about people. She wanted to lounge when and where she chose, and you better get out of the way. She was the Queen. River adored her and oddly, she adored River. She would stay with him pretty much all day. She slept at the foot of his bed. She lounged on the couch with him as he played video games. And it was his job to take care of her completely.
River never wavered in his care. He cleaned her box. He kept her food and water full. He loved on her all the time. He would be doing school work on the computer and he left hand would be petting the cat sitting on the floor next to his chair. They were an amazing pair.
And she changed him. 8 was the roughest year for River. He was violent and out of control. He could not tolerate the world. Everything had to be routine and safe. We didn’t leave the house much and when we did it had to be scheduled and it had to be a familiar safe place. Honestly, I was scared about bringing a baby into the chaos that was our life.
When Ephraim and I came home from the hospital, it was a new experience and River tolerated it. He actually took to Ephraim straight off. He doted on him and would help me take care of him. Bringing me diapers and blankets and watching everything I did. Ephraim was sick from birth and River tried to be very helpful. I know sometimes it was hard on him especially when Eph had to have surgery and I was away for a week at the hospital with him.
We brought Kairi and her brother Riku home when they were ready and that helped River get through things. He suddenly had his own baby to care for. He would sit and play with the kitten on the floor next to me as I nursed and rocked his baby brother. He was so proud of every little thing his kitty did and she connected with him. She calmed his storm.
Something happened in that year. He was learning to care for his beloved Kairi and helping with his baby brother, and watching how sick Eph was and how much things were changing. He learned to let it go and roll with the punches. He learned that sometimes things have to change and all we can do is let them. He learned to find the storm inside his head and quiet it. The love his cat gave him would make things better. When he would start to fall apart, handing him his best girl put the pieces back together. He truly connected with her in a way he had never connected with anything.
the meltdowns have left Rivers life. He still gets stuck sometimes and needs to step out, but there is no more loss of control. He has battled the storm and come out the other side. There is still a large struggle everyday, but he is winning. We lost Kairi a few months ago. She snuck out the door and we fear a predator got her. River tells himself someone took her into their home and I hope that is true. She is 9 1/2 years old now and has a few good years in her so I hope that it is true. River holds out hope she will come home again and I let him keep his hope. Hope is never a bad thing.
That cat and I never were good friends but I love her more than most any animal I have ever had. She gave me back my son. She was our angel. So I believe that animals can change lives. Ephraim has a kitty now that brings many benefits to his life as well. It hasn’t had the same impact, but it has had a large one. We are thankful for all of our animals and how they have changed our lives.
Now we are sort of starting that farm life. We lie pretty rural. The boys each have a black lab pup, they will be a year old in a month. We have two cats again and 20 chickens. We have plans to add more animals in over time and my kids love it and it has given us a lot of opportunity to grow.
So give you pet some extra love, and if you don;t have one, consider adopting a new friend. Everything can make an impact from a tiny chicken to a full grown horse. Ferrets and kitties and mice and dogs, all give love and need love in return.
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