Pet Friendly

I am not a patient person and yet, somehow I find the patience, for her.

Maybe it’s because she needs no words to show me what she wants, just a tilt of the head to the left or the right. Her gold and grey swirls of fur glisten when she sees me, a smile lights her face accompanied by the back and forth velocity of her wagging tail. I understand she gets all the colors of me, the sliding scale blacks, blinding whites, kaleidoscope greens, envious purples, indigo blues, muddy yellow, envious green, sherbet pop orange and the griege in between.

Some days I don’t want to make the trek in the heat, the rain, the bitter freeze, walk the same block after block, be pulled and yanked in this direction or that chasing some unfortunate cat across the way. Some days I’d rather not walk at all, too tired of the monotone. I do it anyway, in spite of myself. In sub-freezing temperatures, sweltering unbearable heat, in all climates because she is my responsibility.

I’m grateful I didn’t have kids. I fear I would’ve been an inadequate parent and grave disappointment, too quick to lose my temper, too consumed with worry, too selfish probably.

Truth be told I don’t particularly get most humans, but she does. They expect too much, disappoint too much, ask too much, or maybe it’s me. Maybe I do. We are the rare breed of misfits and misunderstood.

My girl, my spirit animal loves everyone. She does not discriminate, so I let her stop and say hello. Sometimes, I surprise myself with a smile and hello; the corners of my lips curling upwards like an emoji before I realize it. Sometimes the smile turns upside down when she sees a cat pulling my arm out of the socket. Sometimes I’d like to strangle her, she can be stubborn and doesn’t always listen, come to think of it neither do I.

She knows I’m not always 100 percent, and she couldn’t care less. She loves me anyway. Maybe that’s the beauty of mutual pet-friendly understanding.

If only people were so kind.

When she snuggles in between the crook of my legs for an afternoon nap, and I feel my breathing slow I understand what selfless love means. Her heartbeat calms the storms, the anxiety, and my forever-impatient soul. I’m a better person in that singular moment when she’s sound asleep without a care in the world.

The house is too quiet when she is not around. I missed the pitter-patter of paws the umpteenth days I did not see her. She could not visit. All the days I was committed, locked in a hospital ward with no air. I’d press my forehead to the glass trying to teleport myself the two blocks between her, me and my family. Two impossible tiny blocks from home, and later sixty miles farther away, but it would not matter. No matter how hard I tried, I could not escape the locked windows and doors. Walking out wasn’t an option.

At the least, the night sky still sang for me, and the stars shined brilliant the same for her and I. Lighting the way back to my humans, the ones who love me unconditionally, waiting on the other side of pane. The precious ones, who made sure she was fed, cuddled and loved while I was absent. I drew a map with a sharpie on the window in my room, so I wouldn’t forget my way or lose my mind deep inside the blacks and greys come morning. I wasn’t supposed to; I couldn’t give two shits. Eventually, they took all my pens away, my weapon of choice. Talk about writer’s block and cold, cruel punishment. Someone handed me colored pencils as if I was a five-year-old playing outside on the sidewalk. Give me a break, life is complicated and chaos lives outside the lines in a coloring book.

So what if I’d gone a little insane? I missed her warmth inside the cold, cruel sterile environment. The scratchy sheets inside the empty room where she was not allowed to visit. Too bad, she would’ve brightened everyone’s day. It was not a warm place, dog-friendly or inviting. It was indifferent. Twenty plus days is a really, really long time to miss being outdoors, oxygen, and the daily routine of a quiet life.

The simple task of walking the dog.

I’m home now, passing the grotesque, uninviting, terrifying inhospitable building, pausing short of breath questioning was it real or was it all a bad dream? I steady my footing, let out an amen and a great big “FUCK YOU, fuck the whole lot of you” under my breath while speeding up my gait.

My girl, pet-friendly crooks her neck way back, and her eyes tell me all that I need to know. I am less selfish, less mad, and more me than yesterday.

Photo: © Jacqueline Cioffa All Rights Reserved

  1. My girl Willow and I took a hike in the afternoon sun. II thought of you and your girl as I watched the colors.. I hope you were outside, too. It makes me weep to know you were you locked up in an inhumane gray world without a pen or fresh air. Paper, pen, and paints should be part of any healing plan. Your writing always shines with bright color.

  2. Jackie, I’m always blown away by your prose. Thank you for sharing your story once again. So glad you are better now. Our psychiatric care needs an overhaul. There is no reason for psych hospitals to be inhospitable. My parents’ memory care facilities have pets as residents for therapeutic purposes. We’d do well to emulate that model for psychiatric care. Their facilities are built around gardens, and include other therapeutic animals, including cats, rabbits, guinnea pigs, and birds.

  3. Thank you, Nicole for the well wishes, and I am sorry that you understand how awful wards can be for the mentally ill. When I was writing this, I thought of your beautiful fur boy and the love he envelops you with from afar – sending you and him rainbows of serenity. XX Animals love us unconditionally, teaching so many simple, vital lessons about humanity and ourselves.

    I love you, Kindred and wish you a lifetime of happiness and serenity.

  4. I feel so blessed to know you and call you friend, and fellow amazing writer human. You have also endured much pain, thank you for inspiring me daily and yes, we are stronger than yesterday. Our fur babies bring so much comfort…thank you, Stephanie for your support…more Lupita videos to come! 🙂

  5. Jackie, you’re such an inspiration. I’m sorry for all the pain you had to endure, but you are here now, with us! I love watching your videos with Lupita, isn’t it wonderful how much love our furry babies give to us? more lupita videos please!

  6. Love her, love you XOX This is so beautiful, “If only people were so kind.
    When she snuggles in between the crook of my legs for an afternoon nap, and I feel my breathing slow I understand what selfless love means. Her heartbeat calms the storms, the anxiety, and my forever-impatient soul. I’m a better person in that singular moment when she’s sound asleep without a care in the world.”

    I am truly sorry for all you endured in there, truly I am. I love you.

    N xo

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