Winnie adopted me. She was feral when someone dumped her litter off on my street. Four starving kittens. I already had a pet bird and was not in the market for any felines. But, as is often the case with animals, they pick their humans, and Winnie picked me. The short story was that while I fed her (how could I not?) she remained feral until she had kittens two years later, and today, my fully domesticated and spayed Winnie, and one of her kittens has joined the bird and me in our forever home.
Getting poked (whether by life, a finger or a needle for a vaccination) is never fun. But keeping animals safe and disease-free is important, and it’s one of the best ways humans can show them our love.
Like many cats, Winnie and Lucky do not particularly enjoy car rides or visits to the veterinarian – despite how truly gentle, supportive and nice he and his staff are – despite that these adventures always include food treats at the end of the visit – and despite that each time, after the quick check-up is complete, I cup their little heads in the palm of my hands, stroke them, kiss their noses and give them the hard truth: Sometimes love requires getting poked.
The fact is that loving – a person or an animal – means investing in a living, breathing, changing relationship. And relationships are not always how they appear in static photos on social media. Sometimes they feel amazing. And sometimes they hurt a lot.
When I have a tough day, few things bring the level of comfort that comes with snuggling an animal – a dog, cat, bird or whatever that curls up beside you quietly, looks you eye-to-eye and tilts their head as if to say, “I understand.” Humans come with opinions, questions, ideas, judgments and sometimes unwelcome commentary. Animals come with a need for basic necessities (food, water, shelter) and love.
I wish there was a more enjoyable way that I could keep my pets safe and healthy. I wish the shot didn’t make them whimper and the car ride wasn’t uncomfortable. “We protect responsibly” is the motto at our veterinarian’s office. And because love sometimes requires getting poked, it’s my motto too.