Today I am thankful for my pets.

September 11, 2001, is a day that I will never forget. Aside from the obvious reason, it’s also the day we brought our dog Jack home from the Humane League. I had taken off from work for the morning so that I could go with Jen and Grace to pick him up (we had chosen him the prior Saturday), but with the attacks, I ended up taking off the whole day. We took him home and gave him a much needed bath, but not before he tried to run away for the first of countless times.

Despite his (now dormant) tendencies to attempt to escape, I’m very fond of Jack. He provides us with nearly endless entertainment and companionship, he warns us of intruders, even if they’re just other family members returning home, and he keeps my feet warm at night.

And then there was his act of valor. Grace would be be furious with me if I didn’t mention it. One night, in our old house, Jack repeatedly kept waking up and barking hysterically. He seemed to be beckoning us to follow him, like he had found Timmy down in the well or something, so eventually, tired of being awakened over and over, we followed him. He led us down to the basement, to the unfinished part where the gas furnace stood. Every few minutes, the furnace was belching flames into the open air. Not just a spark, but dragon-like bursts of fire. We immediately shut it down and when the repairmen came to replace it, they said we were lucky it hadn’t exploded. Because of that, Jack gets a free pass on all sorts of antisocial behavior.

He is not, however, as antisocial as my cats.

The older cat, Jill, came to us at church one Sunday morning. A member of our congregation had brought in a litter of kittens from the outdoor cats that hung around his home in the hopes of finding new homes for them. Despite my allergies and Grace’s allergies, she and Jen somehow convinced me to allow this cat to come home with us. I gave them two conditions. First, since the dog’s name is Jack, the cat must be named Jill, Diane, or Beanstalk. Second, I will not change the kitty litter.

Nobody seems to remember the second condition except for me.

Jill is a very pretty cat, and she can be quite loving. Too loving, sometimes, bordering on creepy. Her relationship with me is unhealthily codependent. There are times when she won’t let anyone but me touch her. She can bite one of the kids, and then turn to me, purring and making eyes at me. Very creepy. But when she’s in a good mood, she can be very friendly. The good moods just don’t happen very often.

The younger cat, Maddie, just showed up one day. My kids were outside with the neighbor kids and Maddie just wandered up. The neighbor kids’ dad stood stronger than I did, and Maddie ended up in our home. Part time, at least. She wants to spend most of her time outside, only stopping in occasionally for a meal, to crash on the couch for a bit, to use the litterbox, and maybe check her mail or something.

It’s a struggle to keep Maddie inside. She has actually hidden under the dog and snuck outside when we let Jack out. Many is the morning I open the sliding door to find Maddie waiting to come inside, having been who knows where all night. I know that lots of cats do things like that, but I worry about her getting stuck somewhere or picking a fight with the wrong wild animal, because I’m a softy like that. But as Jen likes to say, “You can’t take the wild out of a stray.”

So that’s our menagerie as it currently stands. The children have been informed that if they want any more pets, it’s a “one in, one out” arrangement from here on out.

But despite their quirks and, in Jill’s case, stalker-ish tendencies, it’s always nice to have another creature in the house that we can share our love with.

I am thankful for my pets.

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