Pet Peeves: Thanks, Mom, For all the Pets!

Don Helverson honors his Mother's death with some words about her love of pets, including his weird ones.

Mom just died this past week. We honored her life on Monday with a memorial that included some anecdotes about her love of animals. She wasn't able to keep a dog in her last years, using all her energy to move herself around and keep functioning.

My pug, Chica, became her pug. Mom was consistent (the secret of dog training is consistency, hopefully setting good boundaries and reward systems consistently). My mother was loving, always. She was patient. 

Mom usually chose the path of least resistance. She didn't like confrontations, and abhored violence. But, my cousin recalled at today's memorial service, there was one surprising time that an escaped dog attacked our pug in the front yard. Mom heard the yelps and came running, instinctively carrying her broom with which she'd been sweeping the front steps.

The dog was hacking away at Chica, who was yelping and dodging the attack to the best of her ability, but starting to stagger and drop. The vicious attacker began a plunge for Chica's neck and the death grip. Mom ran right into the attack and swung her broom into the killer, who turned to attack Mom.

Thanks, Mom, for your bravery!

Mom knocked thebrute on its body, knocking him off balance occasionally, keeping it away from Chica. The dog rushed Mom and got a few bites in. But she wielded that broom like a sword. But the monster wouldn't give up its relentless aggression.

I joined in, throwing baseballs with all my might into the mean dog's face. He tried to turn on me, too, but Mom knocked him right in the eye when he looked at me. With that, he ran off; and we could turn our attention to Chica's bites, which were nasty. She had a limp that lasted for months.

Thanks for being a lover and protector of innocent animals, Mom.

I find quite often, lately, that I’ve been wandering aimlessly, talking to her. Sometimes it's like she's in the room, listening. Sometimes it feels like throwing stones into a river—a distant splash barely heard through the rush.

And then there’s nothing. And the nothing is in me, nothing to do with my Mom. It has everything to do with what it feels like to lose my mother. She was such a huge figure in my life.

Photographs have been my shoes to climb over these jagged fragments of loneliness.

I held snapshots of smiles and candid moments together.  I connect with those faces as if I were watching my past through a time machine.

I remember her delight when I brought home some fish from a school fair. Then I remember her despair and disappointment at how fast and thoroughly the guppies filled the entire fish tank with their Malthusian breeding.

I remember her trying to adapt to my menagerie of chamelons, an iguana, an alligator, salamanders... And she even helped dig up the worms we had to feed the alligator. Our cat was a trouble-maker, our cocker spaniel was deaf and blind for a long time. My alligator became a disgusting pet, oozing farts that made my dog run away across the room, and Herman (the alligator) started to resent going for walks at my pace and began chasing me and biting at me sometimes. 

With all of this bizzare activity, Mom applied her love and logic, her wisdom and her patience. And we lived with many animals—normal and odd—thanks to her.

We put her ashes into the rear of the rental car. And there, tucked behind her urn was a little statue of a pug. That was her token Chica, the dog she could no longer take care of, because she used up all her energy caring for herself.

She was ready to go. She asked to end this chapter. She was in a good place spiritually and had no unfinished business. She lived a good example of how to love those close to us. And she left more like a sunset than like a crashing storm.

With every picture, with every memory of Mom, the sun comes up again. And spirits like hers never die. I keep talking to her. And her spirit lives on. Like every other chapter, Mom, this was a great chapter, too. And I’ll go back to the photo albums and look at the story from the beginning again. 

Michele June 21, 2012 at 03:50 AM
What a great story. We only have one mother for better or worse. Your words are wonderful, and heartfelt. For those who still have a mom, go hug them, talk to them, visit them. I know I will go to my mom's nursing home.
Don Helverson June 25, 2012 at 01:43 PM
There are many pet charities in our area, and I'll gladly offer a list of legitimate organizations in an upcoming piece. Stay tuned, and stay generous. Most of the people you see offering help are doing the right footwork.
Don Helverson June 25, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Thanks, Michele!
Jan July 18, 2012 at 06:06 PM
What a beautiful tribute to your mother! I am sorry for your loss.
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