I have always known I was an animal lover. As a child, nothing elicited more excitement than knowing it was time for the newest issue of Cat Fancy magazine to arrive. Looking at the pictures of all the beautiful cats and kittens, I believed that as an adult I would own 100 Egyptian Maus.
Our family always had a cat or two, and sometimes a dog. I volunteered at a farm and took horseback riding lessons. My days were filled with imaging my adulthood swimming with dolphins and owning a horse farm (along with my 100 cats, of course).
Life does not usually work the same way as a child’s imagination, but I am not unhappy with the outcome of my life. I own one cat (well, in all fairness, one cat owns me) and I am lucky enough to spend time with new animals (or, at least, animals who are not mine) almost every week.
What I hadn’t realized, up to this point, was just how much of my happiness depends on the presence of animals in my life.
In January, I took a cruise. There were no animals on the ship. (There could have been, I suppose, if someone had brought a proper, certified service animal on board – not that I would have been able to pet it – but no one did.)
I figured, being allergic to cats and dogs, (yes, really, I’m the pet sitter who is quite literally allergic to her job), that having a week off would give my system time to reset, and I thought I would appreciate some time away from all of my sneeze-inducing pals.
What I found instead was that whenever I got off the ship, I sought out animals. I knew that I had booked shore excursions involving animals (horseback riding, for one), but what I didn’t realize was how much I would miss the company of cats and dogs. At one point, I even followed a rooster around for a bit, just so I could be near any kind of animal.
Though one of my childhood dreams did come true – in Cozumel I got to swim with the dolphins – I was still on the lookout for a cat or dog to pat and say hello to.
I took a bus tour on Grand Cayman, and looked out the window forlornly whenever I saw a dog in someone’s yard, knowing there was no way to ask the driver to stop without looking totally insane.
When I arrived to go horseback riding in Jamaica, there were a few dogs and cats wandering about the property. The dogs, I am happy to report, came up to say hello. The cats were less happy to get near. I attempted to buy some fish tacos to share with the reluctant felines, but the proprietors did not have any fish that day, so I had no way to coax them closer.
I was in the Caribbean in the middle of winter and I was less interested in the lovely weather and more interested in seeing if the stray cat that wandered by would stop to sniff my hand.
Upon my return home, my cat was just as excited to see me as I was to see her, and I would say this vacation did exactly what it was supposed to do: remind me of the things that are important to me and to never take them for granted. I will happily spend every day sneezing if it means I get to spend it with a furry friend or two.
(Sarah Caton owns All Paws Pet Sitting, which serves all of Lincoln County.)