Category Archives: animals and pets

The power of bear-love!

Joe sitting on the verandaI was given my first two teddy bears when I was an infant. I guess my mother named them Fred and Bill, or maybe I named them myself when I got older…I don’t remember. My sister Bertie also had two bears named Fred and Bill. Hers were bigger than mine, because she was the firstborn and nearly two years older. Both Freds were white and made of real sheepskin, and both Bills were furry brown cloth.

Bertie and I kept our bears throughout our lives—through all our moves, changes, traumas, victories, and disappointments. My Fred finally disintegrated in 2006, but Bertie’s remained intact. Her Bill fell apart a couple of years later.

Bertie became a bear collector. She must have had at least 100 bears in her home in Connecticut, along with another 100 other stuffed animals and dolls of all sizes and shapes. I wasn’t a collector—I made teddy bears instead. I had a little business, sewing the bears on my sturdy Viking sewing machine and selling them via mail order in shoe boxes.

About a decade ago, Bertie gave me a bear for Christmas. He was fair-furred, not too big, and could sit up by himself. He could even do a somersault (if you pushed him) and end up in a sitting position. I loved this bear from the start, more than any bear I’d ever had—even more than Fred and Bill. Bertie and I were very close, and I know she’d put a lot of love and thought into picking out this particular bear for me. I named him Joe.

I took Joe with me whenever I traveled. I was living in Brazil, and I went back to the states for a year in 2007. When I returned, I couldn’t seem to find a space in my jam-packed suitcase to squeeze Joe in. Bertie said not to worry, she’d mail him to me.Joe climbing a tree

Well, I got back home to Rio and I waited. And waited. And waited, Months went by, and no sign of Joe. After still more time had gone by I started to think Joe was lost forever. Then one day I went down to the lobby to get my mail, and there it was…a badly crushed shoebox, with Joe inside! I checked all the postal labels on the box, and apparently he had spent several months in Peru, of all places! I was so happy to have him back. I wished he could talk so he could have told me about his adventures!

Time went by and I lost contact with most of my family, except for Bertie. Then she died. I was sorry I couldn’t be there with her at the end, but we spoke on the phone nearly every day. She told me she was convinced that life doesn’t end, and she said she wasn’t afraid. She had asked to be cremated, and she insisted on taking her bear Fred with her! I guess you’d have to be a teddy bear lover to understand, but I found that to be very touching.

So there I was, living by myself, except for Joe. Sometimes I swear, as crazy as it sounds, that he seemed almost alive to me. He’d sit there on his little folding stool all day, watching me. Once in a while I’d take him with me to sit on my bed or the couch, but as time went on I found that I was ignoring him more and more. Then one day I looked at him. He was just sitting there, looking rather forlorn—and very dirty. I suddenly felt guilty. I picked him up and said, “I’m sorry Joe, I’ve been thinking too much about myself and ignoring you.” I got a brush and brushed his fur. He looked a lot cleaner. Since then I keep him close to me when I can, and often talk to him. Such a good listener, my little buddy Joe! So non-judgmental! Really, it’s great to have real live friends, and I have some very, very close ones, but a teddy bear can be a great companion, too—never underestimate the power of bear-love!

Joe playing the piano

 

Joe hanging out to dry

Joe having breakfast

 

Bear sleepover

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Who’s better? Animals or people?

If I see one more person post on Facebook that dogs (or animals in general) are “better than people” I just might . . . OK, I won’t go there.

I don’t know what it is or when it started, but I’ve been on the planet for a long time and I don’t remember all this animal worship going on when I was younger. People had pets, sure, and they loved their pets, but I never heard anyone say they were better than people. And the pet owners who dressed up their dogs or cats or had them buried in pet cemeteries were considered, well, just weird.

Don’t get me wrong—I look at cute kitty and puppy photos online just like everybody else. But I don’t worship animals any more than I worship people. Worshiping is for God, a greater power, the Eternal, or whatever you might want to call the creator of the universe.pet_collage

I admit that I’m not a pet person. I’ve had pets in the past—quite a few, in fact. But I was never really a pet person. When I was a kid, it was my mother’s idea to get a dog. He turned out to be totally neurotic and his favorite pastime was killing our cats (we had a bunch of cats). I’m not saying all dogs are as weird as he was, but for me, who didn’t really want a dog in the first place, he was pretty strange.

Later on, after I had kids, they wanted a cat, so we got one. The cat would run up on the roof and meow until we had to call the fire department. Then we got birds. I actually liked the birds, even though one of them shredded my paycheck to make a nest.

To me there’s a big difference between an animal and a person. I’ve seen people on Facebook attributing all kinds of human qualities to animals. For instance, they think that their dogs smile. Dogs don’t smile—they just look like they’re smiling.

I live alone, and several friends have suggested that I get a dog or a cat. My reply is: been there, done that. Having a pet is like having a kid (done that, too)—it’s a huge responsibility, and one that I simply don’t want to take on at this point in my life. Why is that so hard for some people to understand?

Anyway, I’m convinced that something has changed over the years. People really didn’t worship their pets or think they were better than people when I was growing up, unless I missed something. And I have to admit that I cringe when I see photos of very small babies snuggling up with dogs. Fine, as long as you’re there with the camera, watching. But there have been too many cases of dogs just flipping out and attacking children for me to feel comfortable with that. And it’s not always the owner’s fault—we’re talking about animals, here, folks. They’re animals, and they have animal instincts. These may not become apparent at all with certain pets, who have gentle personalities. On the other hand, I’ve read about cases where the owner swore that the dog was sweet and harmless, but suddenly attacked someone out of the blue.

I’m just talking common sense here, but I think when it comes to pets, some people are losing their common sense and refuse to believe that their cat or dog is anything but perfect. What I find completely ironic is that a lot of these same people don’t give a second thought to sitting down to a steak dinner. I’m not judging them for eating meat, because I’m a failed vegan myself, but it somehow just doesn’t add up. Love your pets, but please don’t think they’re better than people—they’re not. And if you think they are, maybe you’ve been hanging out with the wrong people!

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Filed under animals and pets