“So how many kids do you have?” she asks.
“Oh, we don’t have any just two cats and a horse,” I reply. As soon as the words leave my mouth I grimace internally with disgust. Just two cats and a horse.
No, they aren’t just.
I didn’t realize it at first, my initial responses to that sort of question, an effort to dull the impending wall that would sprout up between me and the querent. That’s not entirely true, I did realize it. I just shrugged it off. That is, until I couldn’t anymore. Until I was thousands and thousands of miles away from them. The ones who got me through a 10 month deployment, living thousands of miles from my friends and family, the moves, the distance, the loneliness.
Those JUST cats have wiped away more tears than I can count. They have helped me do everything from catch huge bugs, to cope with the sadness and loneliness of a deployment and life a thousand miles from home, and give me some sense of family. They slept by me for the days after my ovarian cyst rupture, never leaving my side, and through migraines. They were there when no one else was. They stayed with me when I was scared, comforted me, and love me unconditionally.
Just a horse…
Just a horse got me through a deployment. If it was for him I have no idea what I would have done. I lived to go to the barn and feed him and his friends. I cried on his shoulder when there was no one else there. He never once judged me, he was always there. Kind, caring, loyal. I watched him bloom into a happy & healthy horse.
Some people don’t think pets are family.
How dare we compare our pets to their precious children. How could you even ever do such a terrible, horrible thing?
How could we? Because it’s how we feel. It’s true. We care for them every bit as much as you care for your children. I’d give up anything for them. I regret every single day our decision to leave them with my parents & family. While they are well taken care of (living in cat luxury mind you; a window perch for every cat, ALL the beds to sleep on) and Mud Pony has thrived making friends human, equine, and feline, I can’t escape the guilt of leaving them, even though it was for the best.
There was no way I could have my cats be trapped in their cat carriers for three days as we traveled. The cats hate traveling and would have been entirely too stressed. No way I would let them sit out in their carriers on the loading dock all night because the hotel on base doesn’t allow pets, not even for those PCS’ing and the vet of course is only open so late. Not nearly late enough for those just arriving in country. Only to have them then wait there in quarantine. No way I would ever, EVER, let them ride in the cargo hold of plane out of my sight.
They aren’t just pets.
They are my family.
They are our family. Our family here, without them, is incomplete. Our hearts break every day without them. I made a vow to myself, I would never say they are “just” pets when confronted with the how many kids question. They aren’t. They are family. They are our family and we love them as such.