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  • Writer's picturePeggianne Wright

Reflections of a "Fur-Kid" Mom

""For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."" ~ Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Probably the most dreaded day of the year for me is Mother's Day. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED (and still do) my mother more than words could ever express and I MISS her even more! No, I dread this day because of the mix of emotions it has conjured over the years for me personally.

As a teenager, I always imagined the family full of boys I would someday have when I married my prince charming. Then, as a newly wedded 20 year old, I began dreamily envisioning the idyllic scene of Bill and me and our kids. But, as time went along, and all our friends were having kids, we were still childless. And as the years came and went, our parents and others, continued their not-so-subtle hints about what "the hold up" was.

"because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." ~ James 1:3-4 (NIV)

I can honestly say that I was never truly devastated when we realized early on that having kids was very unlikely. In fact, when I really thought about it, I remembered how I really never cared for babysitting and most little kids presented more of a irritation than delight for me.

So, in 1986, when we decided to adopt a 10 week old Cairn Terrier, my true calling was revealed! A puppy from a litter of our friend's little gal, we couldn't have been more excited. For weeks on end, while waiting for him to be old enough to bring home, I agonized over choosing the perfect name. So much so, that I consulted a book of Scottish clans to find it -must be Scottish since he was a Scottish breed, must begin with B because his Mom and Dad were Betsy and Bentley- and low and behold, when I dropped the book on my desk one morning, it opened to the clan Brodie. DONE!

From the beginning of a bright and sunny October Saturday morning, I was launched into motherhood of a different kind. A special kind that some folks would never understand.

Life went along for many years. We cherished our boy, lovingly gave him many nicknames and lived life as his "mom" and "dad" until a brain tumour took him from us the Thursday before Mother's Day in 2002.

Back then, grieving a pet wasn't a well known, understood, or accepted thing. But, my amazing boss at the time was full of compassion and told me to stay home until Monday and even had condolence flowers waiting on my desk the day I returned!

But, Brodie was just a "warm up" for the fur-kid family we would grow over the years.

My heart ached for weeks and months after losing Brodie. Sure, we had a summer free of responsibility allowing us to play as much golf as we wanted, travel when and where we wanted, and even take a trip to Arizona for the very first time. But, the emptiness never subsided. While I wasn't pining for any children of the 2-legged variety, I deeply longed for another fur-kid.

Thomas. Dralion's Thomas Magnum. If ever a dog was pampered and doted on, Thomas was he.

This is where we exploded as full-on pet parents! This is when we knew we had found our family. This boy fired up a life-long desire to love and care for kids of the canine persuasion.

A little red, wire-haired Norfolk Terrier full of love, spunk, and overall joy, Thomas was the catalyst to the expansion of our fur-family. But, he also sparked an obsession as a dog mom in me that exploded and to this day, continues to consume me.

The entire way of life as a pet parent changed with this boy. I researched everything possible to ensure his good health and safety, even going so far as to bake his treats to ensure that he wasn't ingesting the horrible toxic ingredients in store bought biscuits. Thus, my little business, Norfolk Nibbles Treat Boutique was born and for several years, I baked and sold thousands of "delectable treats for dogs".

When his "sister", another sweet Norfolk Terrier (Jaket's Oliver & Co.) we named Teegan, was added to our family, we had really jumped off the deep end. Having 2 dogs was exciting because, other than the breeders from whom we had gotten Thomas and Teegan, we knew of no one who had two. The perfect family. The "millionaire's family" as my mother-in-law once told me a family with a boy and a girl was called. Of course, having two dogs to feed and care for, almost required one to be a millionaire.

In preparation for the future though, God's plan was unfolding in ways I never imagined. When Teegan began displaying some seriously problematic behaviour and suffered trauma from an attack by a Rottweiler, I was immersed into the study of canine psychology and behaviour. Through this, I was able to learn how to manage Teegan in a way that reduced her negative behaviour. Little did I know the use this education would be for me in the future.

The pet rescue trend.

When I learned about pet rescue it was the dawn of the Facebook age where rescue stories abounded. Every day, I followed groups who were executing miraculous rescues of abandoned and injured pups and experiencing the delight and relief of the tail-wagging-happily-ever-after endings. I began longing to some how make a difference too.

"Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near." ~Philippians 4:5 (NIV)

The exciting introduction into fostering came along. It lasted about 2 minutes! I'm what you call a "foster failure". This is the one time being a failure is looked on as being selfless and heroic.

With the paperwork all signed, I went to pick up the little cock-a-poo gal we were to foster. The instant she landed in my arms though, I knew that she was never leaving us. The cast off of a nasty back yard breeding operation, Miss Joee had been subjected to living in a cage and churning out litters of puppies and by the time she was 8, was dumped in a back road exchange as garbage. She had no idea how to be a dog with the simplest things; even drinking from a water bowl was completely foreign to her. With abundant love, plentiful patience, and time she learned and thrived.

As a happy fur-kid family of 5 now, we lived a life full of fun and adventure. Travelling became a way of life for the "brats"; logging more than 100,00 miles each in their lifetimes. Birthdays and "Gotcha Days" became events that I planned weeks in advance, creating themes with all the right props, decorating, and home baked cakes for all of us to enjoy.

Loving big makes losing excruciating!

The first of this trio to leave us for the Rainbow Bridge, at the age of 14, was Thomas. I sat in a closet and cried for 24 hours straight. Within 369 days, his sister Teegan, aged 12, then joined him. With the companionship of these two bubbly pups, Joee joined me in deep mourning.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. ~Romans 8:28 (NIV)

The life of a fur-kid rescue mom is all-consuming. I truly believe it's a calling that God puts on our hearts and a life He has chosen for us to lead. Accepting the responsibility of rescue, rehab, and rehoming is daunting and must never be taken lightly. Many use the phrase, "He's a rescue." as a badge of honour or for bragging rights. In truth, every dog is a rescue in one way or another.

I've wondered sometimes if that's how God has looked down on me. I'm His rescue kid. When grief and sorrow were threatening to consume me, He popped in with a new fur-kid in need.

Two short weeks after Teegan was gone, Jacob-Milo's profile appeared in my email inbox. Described as a Cairn-Norfolk Terrier cross -uh, Brodie was a Cairn and Thomas & Teegan were Norfolks- how could this be anything but God's intervention? Four days later, Joee had a new brother and Jake was saved from a loud and scary shelter where he had landed as a stray.

Life began to brighten as this quirky little fellow settled in. Clearly he'd been loved by someone (he was neutered, potty trained, and followed most commands) but the misfortune of no microchip led to the good fortune for God to bring us together. (I've often felt sad for the family who lost him and imagine how they must have agonized over his disappearance.)

But, rescue has such a constant tug on one's heart. The desire to provide a safe, loving, and happy home for dogs who've been through the ringer weighs so heavy on a heart.

As grief and uncertainty grew due to the loss of both my parents as well as a global pandemic, I experienced a constant feeling that we had more to give. Scrolling through dozens of pictures and videos of homeless pups looking for families became a routine.

But, the scrolling ended when a 5 month old puppy mill reject appeared in my feed. Born with a deformed eye, the evil mid-western Ontario puppy mill breeder had tagged him for euthanasia. When a veterinarian who regularly monitors that mill for disease arrived on that very day, she snatched him away to safety. Hand raised by her mother, Jeffrey became the 6th fur-kid to join our family.

But, he almost didn't.

We walked in the door with a tiny little puppy; a 5 pound ball of fur that day. But, the reception he received from Jake was less than exuberant. He refused to eat and seemed to go into a funk that worried me. So much so that I called the vet to ask if we could bring Jeffrey back for the weekend to monitor Jake's behaviour. That night, I prayed and prayed that these two boys would get along, that Jake would accept Jeffrey, and Jeffrey would be home. The next morning, my prayer was answered as Jake perked up and the two began to posture and play with each other on the bedroom floor. While it was like Jake was a teenager with a toddler sibling (Joee was completely indifferent to the whole situation), I knew full well that God had answered my prayer and the next chapter of being a rescue mom would begin.

But, not without more grief and sadness.

Being a pet owner of any kind, brings challenges as well as joy. Miss Joee, having come to us at age 8, had blossomed into a gentle, loving girl. While she never learned to play with toys, she did love to roll around on the floor with the gang and just generally enjoyed "being" with everyone.

At age 15, a detached retina cost her her right eye. But, she bounced back. In fact, it seemed the whole experience was far more traumatic for us than for her. She adapted quickly and we made all the necessary adjustments to our routines, the house, and her care to ensure her comfort and safety.

A few months after celebrating her 17th birthday, Joee -whom we never imaged having with us this long- succumbed to the infirmities of old age and we were devastated once again.

God decided I could handle a bigger challenge.

The ugly part of pet rescue is the unscrupulousness and downright evil of people who cruelly use living beings to make money. Our Tessa, had clearly lived in deplorable conditions only to crank out puppies in her first 6 years and my deepest respect and admiration goes to the gal whose organization saves hundreds of fur-kids like Tessa every year.

Extremely skittish, deeply fearful, and filled with anxiety, Tessa was a far more complex "case" than our previous three rescues. But, with over 10 years of involvement in the world of pet rescue, I had learned a lot, gained many skills, and had the Lord to rely on when it came to rehabilitating this precious gal.

Thirteen months and 5 days in, Tessa has learned to trust. Not completely yet, but oh, how she's come out of her shell. She's become interested in toys, frolics with her brothers, loves to go on walks around the lake, and best of all -lets us pet her without running away or flinching! I know God's heard all my prayers for Tessa and He's giving me the ability I need to gently transform her into a happy, well-adjusted little pooch.

Is the story over?

I can't honestly say if the story is over. While Bill and I agree that at our age, it's critical to consider the age of any fur-kid we might adopt, we've made provisions in our wills for any we might leave behind. But, that's no guarantee. Only the Lord knows what He has in store for us in our future as fur-kid parents.

In the meantime, I will devote myself to my three darling fur-kids and bask in the honour of being their "Mom". I have learned over time, that the heart of a mother isn't necessarily that which beats for human children, but one that beats for the love of another being. And, those three tiny heartbeats that pound against me in bed every night, make me the mother God wanted me to be.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." ~James 1:17 (NIV)

NOTE: Pet rescue is a vital and seriously important activity in the world today and while I'll refrain from jumping onto my soapbox, I'll just say that everyday, world-wide, thousands of homeless, abused, and abandoned dogs land in shelters where thousands of dedicated people embark on an arduous journey of rehab and rehoming.



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14 de mai.

Thanks for sharing your life story as a pet-mom. God has gifted you in a special way to be and do what most of us could not. I love the scripture references along the way.

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