Right Where We Belong

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Written By Barbara O’Brien

Sometimes we get lucky in life and end up right where we belong.
It all began in early spring of 2002. I, my husband Kevin, and our four sons had been living in my hometown of South St. Paul, Minnesota, for the previous ten years. We both had our work and the kids were more or less happy in school. We had moved there from our small farm in Hastings, Minnesota to be closer to Kevin’s job and our extended family. I loved our little rambler in town but as the traffic grew on our suburban street and it became unsafe for my youngest to play in the front yard, I began to yearn for a place in the country to call our own.
And then there were the horses. One free horse grew into five. The older boys were showing in 4H and we were paying a large bill to the boarding stable each month. It occurred to us that the cost of our current house payment and the boarding of five horses really added up. Perhaps we could afford a place in the country.
Thus began my obsession with finding the right farm for us. I became familiar with the Multiple Listing Service ads, and I pestered all the local real estate agents for their latest hot listings. We wanted to stay within driving distance to Kevin’s job, but far enough out to really be in the country.
We soon learned that any plot of land (no matter how small) in the seven county area surrounding Minneapolis/St. Paul was completely out of our range. Even five-acre homesteads were priced way too high for us.
It was not long after that, when a friend’s father (a longtime farmer) suggested we look across the river at western Wisconsin. “Wisconsin?” we said, “that is too far away and we don’t know anyone in Wisconsin.” “There is still good land there,” he insisted. “And the prices are not too bad, either.”
And so I began my quest anew. I scoured the Internet and asked on the online horse forums I belonged to, if anyone knew of any farms for sale. We even looked at a few places. One was right on the road and not safe for children or animals. The other was a cute little house set on 10 acres that we liked. But in the neighboring yard, not more than 300 feet away, there was a large circular concrete pit of liquid manure, which belonged to the neighboring farm.
In early April, after I had just about given up all hope, a small quiet voice said to me, “Go to Prescott and pick up the Shopper.” The Shopper is a little local ad paper that covers Pierce County, Wisconsin and the surrounding area. I loaded my youngest child up in the van and drove across the river to get the paper. I brought him a treat and he ate it while I glanced at the ads.
There was a new listing for a 40-acre For-Sale-by-Owner farm with a house and outbuildings. It was over an hour away from our home, but at this point, we were willing to give anything a try.
I called the number on the ad, and talked to a nice fellow named John Larson. He told me he had inherited the house from his aunt. She had died the previous fall, and now that the estate was settled, he was putting the place up for sale. I made arrangements to take a look at it that weekend, and I eagerly called Kevin to tell him the news.
He suggested that we drive there after work. “Just to take a quick look at it,” he said. “That way, if it’s no good, we won’t be wasting anyone’s time.”
The farm had a long driveway that led to a house flanked by a few large, but ramshackle, barns. Faded yellow paint and a cracked window or two belied the house’s real beauty. From what we could see, the walls were still square and it had a new roof.
I couldn’t help feeling that there was something sad about the place. The house reminded me of a shy young woman at a dance who was waiting for just the right man to come along and take her hand.
Kevin and I walked around, peeking into the barn and outbuildings. The large granary still held the remains of an oat crop from years ago. The barn walls were tipping dangerously to one side and full of hay that must’ve been baled in the 70’s. We saw that many generations of raccoon families had lived there and there were numerous holes in the tin roof from long-ago shotgun blasts.
Sunlight streamed in the cracks of the century old barn boards and I was struck by its beauty. Even now, all these years later, when I think of the farmers who came before us — their lives, their hopes, their dreams, what it was like for them to be here — it feels like a sacred place to me.
The paddock fences were overgrown with weeds and the fields were lined with old barbwire that would have to be pulled, but we knew that with a little hard work (ok, a lot of hard work) our horses would be happy here.
We surveyed the house by peeking in the windows, and our excitement began to grow. I knew in my heart that this was it; this was meant to be our home.
“We have to find John…before it gets too dark,” I said, as I dashed off to the car. A bemused Kevin followed. “We can’t bug him,” he protested. “He doesn’t even know we are here.” I started the car and said, “I know where he lives, he won’t mind.”
A few minutes later we pulled into John’s old home place. I knew I would find him in the barn, as it was chore time. I quickly swung the milk house door open and as John likes to tell it, “And in walked Barbara” I introduced myself to a startled John and his son, Randy, and John agreed to show us the house.
As we toured the house, John showed us the oak floors, the beautiful china hutch and untouched woodwork. The house, with the exception of the kitchen, was just as it was in 1931 when it was built. The light fixtures, the floors, the windows, everything was original. Even the walls retained their original paint and wallpaper.
I grabbed Kevin’s arm, trying to hide my eagerness from John as I whispered, “I want this house. Please, God, help us get this house.”
We went outside and John pointed out the boundaries of the 40 acres that the house rested on. While he was doing this, the wind picked up and I covered my ears with my hands, as they were getting cold. Without a word, Kevin removed the warm winter hat from his head and placed it on mine. Little did I know that this little act of love and care would make all the difference.
We told John we wanted the farm and to given us a day or two to make an offer. John agreed and told us that although he had several different people who wanted to see it that weekend, he would hold off until he had our offer. Within a few days we came to an agreement and the farm was ours. Within 45 days, we had sold our house in town and moved out to the farm. I have never felt more a part of a community than I do here. All of our neighbors, including the Larsons, have turned into good friends and there is no place that we would rather be.
In the weeks that followed, I found out from a neighbor that John had been offered much more for the farm than we had settled on. When I asked him why he chose our offer over theirs, he smiled and said, “When I watched Kevin give you his hat, I knew that you were the right people. Any man who takes such good care of his wife, will surely take good care of his farm.”

And I am happy to say that John was right.

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The Animal Connection: How it All Began

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 Written By Barbara O’Brien

I had seven (count them, seven!) jobs in one year before I started my own business, the Animal Connection.
Ok, I was young. Twenty-one to be exact. Kevin and I had been married for three years and we had moved at least that many times. We were now renting an old farmhouse on the outskirts of Woodbury, Minnesota.
We met in college and eloped the beginning of our junior year. We soon discovered that we both needed to work full time, and then some, to make ends meet. Something had to give and, sadly, it was school.
So began the year of many jobs.
Even though we were in the middle of recession, low paying jobs were still easy to find and I was quickly hired as a waitress at a hotel restaurant. I enjoyed meeting the business people and families that were traveling but I hated the lack of hours and even more, the lack of tips.
My sister hosted a Tupperware party and as I watched the demonstrator, I thought, “I could do that”. I talked to her after the party and within weeks I had immersed myself into the world of party selling.
The first few months were great. My friends and families hosted parties for me and sales were good. But it didn’t take long before everyone I knew had purchased all the Tupperware they could possibly use. Finding new customers was really hard so I even tried what they called a fundraising party. I took my little sales pitch a meeting of my local high school band backers meeting. They were polite at first as I explained how they would get 10 percent of the sales from their party but after a few minutes they began to get irritated with me and pertly much booed me from the podium. I was devastated. I was just trying to help them and they thought I was a joke. Maybe I was a joke. 

“What a loser! I can’t even sell Tupperware.” I was crying so hard I could barely see the road.

I started to cry as I was driving home. “What a loser! I can’t even sell Tupperware.” I was crying so hard I could barely see the road. What I did see was a police car flash his lights, signaling for me to pull over. I did and the police officer came to my window. I rolled it down, and choked out the words, “Yes…what did I do?”   He shined his flashlight at me and into the car and asked, “ Have you been drinking tonight?”
“No…no…!” I sobbed. “I am a Tupperware lady and I had a really bad night.” He must’ve pitied me because after of few minutes of making sure I wasn’t a danger to others he let me go. Thus ended my career as a Tupperware lady.
I answered an ad in a newspaper for a survey taker that paid five dollars per completed survey. It was a fun job. All I had to do was go into small main street type businesses and ask them to fill out a questionnaire about their insurance needs. The people in the small towns I visited were kind and most of them took the time to answer my questions. I liked seeing what they were doing and they seemed happy be running their own business. I liked the job and completed over 30 surveys in the first two days. On day three when I went to pick up more surveys the doors were locked and the company gone. I found out later that the Minnesota Attorney General booted them out of the state for fraudulent business practices. Apparently you couldn’t use false surveys to generate insurance leads.
I then talked my way into a desk job at the Minnesota Humane Society. It was not a shelter but more of a legislative and enforcement agency. I did paperwork and accompanied the humane investigator when she went out on calls. It was a great job but after a few months a new director came and, “in with the new and out with the old.” I was part of the old.
After that I tried to make a living as an artist and sold some of my animal designs to stationery companies but that wasn’t moving fast enough to pay the bills. I took another restaurant job but, again, not enough tips and hours. I tried to work as a fitness instructor but I have to tell you, I almost died. How do those people do that?
It was then that I was hired as a receptionist at a one-man construction company.  The company built waste treatment plants. And since the company only built one plant at a time there wasn’t much to do except answer the phone and water the plants. The owner was rarely in, so I entertained myself by reading whatever magazines came in the mail.

“It was full of local-boy-makes-good stories and small companies that were making it even during tough times.”

My favorite was the Minnesota Business Journal. It was full of local-boy-makes-good stories and small companies that were making it even during tough times. I was inspired by these articles. If someone else started a business and succeeded why couldn’t I? I certainly wasn’t going anywhere sitting in an office and just wishing it was so.
One day as I paged through the new business section, I spotted a piece about a modeling agency that had just opened in Minneapolis. It said they represented adults, children and most importantly to me, animals.
Animals as models. That was something that I had never thought of. I have a dog, I mused. She is relatively well trained and of course, really cute. She could be a model.
I picked up the phone and dialed the number. A young voice answered and I said, “Hi. I am Barbara O’Brien and I have a dog that could be a model.” “Ok,” the voice said. “Send us a picture and we will call you if something comes up.” I thanked her and hung up as I leaned back in my chair.
I sat there a moment and then suddenly it occurred to me, I know lots of animals. Through my years of showing in 4H, my stint at the Humane Society and selling my animal art, I had developed a list of animal people contacts. I knew where everybody was and if I didn’t, I knew how to find them.
I picked up the phone and dialed the number again.
“Hello, it’s Barbara O’Brien again. I was the one with the Airedale. I was just thinking. I know lots of animals. I can help you find whatever your clients need.”
There was a pause and then the voice said. “Ok, why don’t you give me your number?”
A few days later there was a message on the answering machine from Sue Wehamn, the owner. She was wondering if I could provide a kitten for a photo shoot the next day. I called her back and told her I could. She told me the studio’s name and the time they needed me and when it was all done, I thought to myself, I just booked my first assignment.
I called a friend of mine that worked at a vet and asked her if she knew of any kittens. She did and put me in touch with the owner. I called the owner and asked her if she would like to bring her kitten to Minneapolis for a photo shoot. She agreed even though she didn’t know me, but she knew my friend and that was good enough for her.
Since I was still working for the construction company, I couldn’t go to the studio myself but from all accounts the kitten performed beautifully and soon was on the package of Purina Tender Vittles Cat Food.
A few weeks after the kitten shoot the agency called and wanted to know if I could get my hands on a bunch of rabbits for a major department store chain called Daytons.
I quickly located seven white rabbits and sent the owner to the shoot. The session went well and, as agreed, the agency sent me a small finder’s fee for my efforts.   This was really cool but still not enough to live on. It was then I decided I should run my own animal modeling agency.

“To this day, whenever I am stumped by a business problem, I ask the smartest man I know—my Dad.”

I called Sue and asked her how she felt about me starting my own agency just for animals and she said, sure. She was focusing on people and didn’t really want to bother with animals anyway.
Now that I had Sue’s blessings I figured there was only more thing I needed before I could start my business—a name.
To this day, whenever I am stumped by a business problem, I ask the smartest man I know—my Dad.
I told him about my plans and that I had booked a few first shoots already and what should I name my company. He smiled and said, “Start it with an A. You will be first in the phone book.”

I laughed at first but the thought, why not? And it only made sense to have the word animal in the name. My job was to bring people and animals together and that is how, in 1984, the Animal Connection was born.

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How A Big German Shepherd, An Anxious Siberian Husky And A Rogue Collie Helped Me Get My First Dog

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Written By Barbara O’Brien
Now I am only going to tell you once. If you happen to be the parent to a horse crazy, dog crazy or cat crazy kid and you try to keep them from having a pet they will do everything their power to find animals on their own. Once they leave you and start their own lives, they may end up with a houseful of stray cats and dogs a barn full of horses and chickens and sheep and an always empty pocket just make up for lost time.Or at least that was the way it was with me. If you remember from my last column, my parents were not keen on the idea of letting me have a pet so it became my mission to be around animals no matter what.I remember being only about eight or nine when I began searching the neighborhood for houses that had dogs. There was a dog a block or so away that I could only catch glimpses of between the boards of their 6 foot privacy fence. From the pieces of it I did see, I could tell it was big and yellow.It would run to the fence and try to press his nose through the boards while I lay on the ground and reached under the fence to touch him. He would comply by lying on his back so I stroke his soft belly fur. I could only reach with the tips of my fingers. It was awful to be so close yet not be able to really see or play with him.When I was a little older I began to approach people out walking their dogs and beg to pet them. Pretty soon I became known as that kid who was crazy about dogs and that I would be happy to take them for walks when their owners didn’t have time.

By the age of 12 I had a pretty tidy little business going. I would take a dog for a walk for the princely sum of 50 cents. Word spread and soon I had up to 6 clients a week. Everything from a nosy Beagle to a high strung Siberian Huskie that could pull me on my bike like the wind. One of my favorite dogs was a big male German Shepherd that acted like he owned the world but would never hurt anyone. Because of him, I have always tried to have a German Shepherd in my life.

About this same time I joined 4H. I was to participate in the horse project and the dog project. I had the horse thing figured out, I had begun to lease a horse from a local barn but the dog project required I find a suitable dog to train. I signed up for the free dog obedience classes offered by the county extension office on the hope my parents would see that I just had to have a dog of my own.Again I pleaded with my parents to let me get a dog but again I was told, NO PETS.It was clear that my parents were not going to give in. No matter how many tears and promise of extra chores it just wasn’t going to happen. Family allergies and a hectic lifestyle made that perfectly clear.So I had to settle for the next best thing, one of my dog walking customers had a beautiful sable collie and they agreed that I could take the dog to classes and show him at the county fair. His name was Cheetah and he was to become my partner for the summer.And so began my first taste of real dog training. Every Tuesday night for the next eight weeks our 4H leader would load us up with our dogs and haul us to a school grounds in a nearby town where we fell under the watchful eye of the 4H Dog Obedience Instructor. She dutifully taught us how to work with our dogs and make it fun for them while they learned to sit and stay and prepare for the big show at the county fair.

Cheetah was a quick learner and worked hard at understanding what I wanted from him. He seemed to know when I was down and would rest his head on my lap while I petted him. He was a good dog and I loved him but it always made me sad when I gave him back to his real family he seemed to forget me the minute I let go of the leash.

We went to the fair and we did well at the show. Cheetah and I earned a blue ribbon. My parents were pleased that I seemed to filling my dog needs and I was happy to have at least one dog to love, even if he wasn’t mine.

Things probably could’ve gone on for some time like this. My parents were happy, Cheetah and his owners were happy, and I was as happy as I could be with a borrowed dog.

The fair was over and we were still meeting on Tuesday nights preparing for the state 4H Dog Show when Cheetah and the dog next to him decided to get into a fight. It was a good sized shepherd mix and I grabbed at Cheetah’s collar to separate them. Cheetah reared back still fighting and bit me in the face. I fell back, pulling Cheetah away as the dogs owner, a teenage boy got control of his dog.

Blood begin to drip from the puncture wound on my cheek as I fought back tears.How could Cheetah bite me? The Instructor came to me and handed Cheetah to my friend to hold while she gently took me inside and washed my face. The bite didn’t hurt so much as the fact that Cheetah had turned on me. I was devastated. The dog leader tried to explain to me dogs act out of instinct and Cheetah’s aggression wasn’t directed at me.We went outside and I took Cheetah back. He wagged his tail and licked my hand as if nothing had happened. I petted his head and tried to forgive him, but I was still hurt.When we dropped him off and the owners saw what had happened they told me that perhaps it was better I didn’t walk Cheetah anymore. And although they weren’t blaming me for the incident, they didn’t want to see me get hurt again.Not only had I been bitten by a dog I loved, but now he was being taken away from me.

I held back my pain the rest of the way home, but when I opened the door and found my parents watching TV in the living room I burst into tears. They held me close as I told them what had happened and how not only did I get bit, but also that they (Cheetah’s owners) had told me I couldn’t see Cheetah anymore. It just wasn’t fair!

And then it happened. Something changed and my Dad looked at my Mom and said that enough was enough. They couldn’t have me getting bit like this. I had to have my own dog. My mother began to object but one look at my anguished face convinced her that maybe the time had come after all.

I could not believe my ears. Did my dad say I could get a dog? A real dog! Visions of collies and shepherds and goldens and mutts began to dance in my head. A dog! A dog! My own dog!I began to jump up and down wanting to shout this to the world when my mother suddenly laid out her conditions. It would have to be a Wire Haired Fox Terrier and nothing else. Her sister in Idaho had one and they didn’t shed. It had to be a male and to top it off it had to be $50.00 or less.My heart sank. She may as well have told me to find a needle in a haystack and I would have better luck. Fox Terriers were a rare bred in our area and even common breeds of purebred dogs didn’t go for less $200.Even though it was fairly late, I found the paper and quickly scanned the want ads, Beagles, Cockers, English Setters, Lab puppies and then I saw it, an ad for Fox Terriers. In all my years of scanning the ads for dogs I wished I could have, I had never seen an ad Wire Haired Fox Terriers. I joyfully showed the ad to my parents. They were surprised that I had found some so quickly and my dad said, call them up. I picked up the phone and a man answered. Breathless, I asked if he still had any puppies. I have one left, the man said. It’s a little male with a black patch on his eye. My heart leapt in my throat. What does he cost? I asked. Waiting for bad news, I said a prayer under my breath, please please, please…Well, he is the last one, the man said. You can have him for 50 bucks. Miracle of miracles! I turned to my parents and said, 50 bucks, he wants 50 bucks! My dad seeing how close he was to having a dog said, tell him you only have $40. I only have $40, I said and he said ok, you can have him.

I was stunned. It was really happening! I handed the phone to my dad and he got the address and arranged to get the puppy the next day. I hugged my parents and jumped around and danced around the room, it was finally happening!

My mom began to cry when she saw how happy I was. Maybe she never realized how important to me having a dog was. She smiled and told me I better go clean my room if I ever to hope the find the puppy again in all that mess once I brought him home.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, God! I was happy as a child could be.

The next morning my dad and I drove to St. Paul and picked up the eight week old Fox Terrier puppy from the breeder. We didn’t have a crate so I held him in my arms all the way home.

He licked my face and I knew that even though he wasn’t a shepherd or a collie or a lab at least he was mine.

That was many years ago and much to my chagrin my parents have always had a dog ever since.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

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My First…not Really, but Wishing He Was…Pet Cat

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Written By Barbara O’Brien

Some people just know. They know right from the start that life without animals is just not possible.
Oh my parents tried all right. They refused all of my requests for a cat or dog or most of all, a horse. They explained over an over again, in patient quiet tones that my older brother was allergic to fur and having a horse in the city of South St. Paul Minnesota was not only against city ordinances but also not very practical. What would it eat? Where would you keep it?This made no sense at all to my five-year-old mind. Couldn’t I keep a cat confined to my room? Surely I could keep my nosy siblings out. And even though our back yard was small, couldn’t we fence it and let the horse graze, as long as it stayed out of the garden? And as for my brother’s allergies to hair and fur, couldn’t he just not breathe if the dog was around?
So it began, my childish attempts at secret pet ownership and my parents half-hearted attempts to appease me with trips to the zoo and visits to my uncle’s farm. The zoo was okay but I couldn’t touch the animals and I didn’t want any of them for a pet. I loved my Uncle’s farm but we only got to visit him once a year since he lived so far away and for an animal-crazy kid, that was not near enough.It wasn’t until a few years later, on that one glorious day, when a stray cat ventured into my yard and began rubbing against my legs, that I thought all of my wishes had come true. I bent down to pet this wonder, a friendly well-behaved cat, who stayed right at my feet and was letting me pet him. Amazing! The cats on my Uncle’s farm were skittish and ran away at the sight of us and they also scratched and bit, which I had learned the hard way, when cornered. But this cat, with his handsome gray tabby striped coat and white chest and paws seemed to truly like me. His whole body vibrated with his throaty purr and he arched his back and raised his tail as I stroked him.I asked him his name and when he didn’t say I decided to name him Jerry after the clever mouse from the Tom and Jerry cartoon. I asked him if he wanted to be my cat forever and ever and he completely agreed. I scanned the street and side yards making sure there was no one looking for him and then tucked him into my jacket and snuck him into my room.
I stashed him in my closet and quickly closed the bedroom door behind me as I headed to the kitchen to find him some food. One of my older sisters eyed me suspiciously for a moment and then went back to her portable hi-fi, turning up “Hey Jude” even louder than before.I climbed onto the counter opened the cupboard door and looked at the possibilities. Cheerios, noodles, cake mix. None of these looked like things a cat would eat. And….. definitely not Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. Even I wouldn’t eat that. Then I spied it. It’s bright red label with the long silver fish leaping from a mountain stream shone like a beacon in the dark recess of the cupboard. Salmon! All cats like fish, especially premium red sockeye salmon from wild Alaskan streams.I would have to be careful. We all knew the salmon was off limits. It was my mother’s special treat that she would occasionally have for lunch with slices of lemon and saltine crackers. She would always share it with me since we were the only ones who liked it. It was our special little thing together in a house full of brothers and sisters vying for her attention.
I stuck the can of salmon under my shirt and grabbed a can opener out of the drawer, along with two small bowls from the dish rack. It was then my other older sister came in the door and saw me sliding off the counter to the floor.She demanded to know what was I doing. I quickly turned to hide the evidence and darted out, pretending not to hear. Thankfully she didn’t come after me as I ran down the hallway and into my room.I waited for my heart to stop pounding and listened to make sure the coast was clear. My dad was at work and I could see my two brothers out in the yard, both of my older sisters were now in the kitchen singing along to the “Beatles” and my Mom was hanging clothes out on the line. Relieved that no one would bother me for a while, I opened the can and scooped some salmon into one of the bowls. I had forgotten a spoon so I used my fingers and licked them clean to cover my crime.Jerry began to meow and started to scratch the closet door. He jumped out when I slid the door open and made a beeline to the salmon. He began to gulp it down like he hadn’t eaten in days and only stopped for moment when I left to get him some water. I filled the other bowl in the bathroom sink and pushed both bowls and Jerry under my bed in case someone decided to come in.

After Jerry had eaten his dinner I tucked him back in to the closet for safekeeping. Not wanting to draw attention I went out to play with my brothers and didn’t go back to my room until it was time for bed.Jerry was catnapping when I opened the closet and happily leaped onto my bed like he belonged there. I turned out my light and brought him under the covers close to my chest. He rumbled with pleasure and as I petted him. I caressed his silky ears and scratched him under his chin. He rolled over on his back as I massaged his belly and ran my fingers through his thick velvety fur.How heavenly to have a cat for my very own. Someone to tell my secrets to, someone who would understand how difficult it was to be me. I fell asleep to the sound of Jerry’s purrs and comforting warmth.The next morning I stuffed Jerry back in the closet and was getting dressed for school when my mother stepped into my room. She greeted me cheerfully as was her way when suddenly her nose twisted and she turned her head to take in what could only be the result of an indoor cat without a litter box.

She began to sniff the air as I vainly tried to distract her with small talk and questions about breakfast. She ignored me as she continued her search for the source of the SMELL. I positioned myself between her and the closet door as she picked through dirty clothes and scattered toys. She saw me by the closet door, my eyes wide with feigned innocence and asked me to please move away. I did as told and held my breath as she slid the door open.

What she was expecting to find, I do not know, but I do know she did not expect a gray furry creature to leap out like a shot and scurry under the bed. She shrieked in surprise but quickly composed herself after I told her that it was just Jerry, my new pet cat.My brothers and sister, tuning into the strange noise coming from my room, all seemed to burst through my door at once, excitedly crowding around my mother wondering what terrible thing had happened to cause me to cry out No! No! No! My mother quickly told them of the cat contraband hiding under my bed and what happened next is the only possible thing that could have happened when five exited children and one harried, overworked mother try to catch a determined cat in a small one-level rambler.Cat runs under the bed, children try to reach cat by poking at it with a broomstick. Cat tears out of bedroom door between the legs of the youngest child and finds refuge under the large queen-sized bed in the master bedroom.Loud, highly excited children swarm into the room and the cat darts out and down the hall into the living room, where it finds refuge behind the large blue Lazyboy chair.

When my mother had finally had enough, she called for silence and for everyone to stop. She calmly told me to retrieve the cat and in spite of my tears and that I would just die if she got rid of my only pet, she calmly took Jerry from my arms and handed him off to my older brother who gleefully took Jerry to the back door and without ceremony dumped him onto the back step.

I wailed and rushed to the door but my mother gently took me in her arms and explained once again that we could not have cats and Jerry most likely belonged to a neighbor who was probably at this very moment out looking for him.

It just wasn’t fair. Why did I have to be born in a family that couldn’t have pets? Didn’t they understand I just didn’t want a cat I needed one to live. My mother reminded me that I was still breathing and we all had to get out the door to school. She hugged me and wiped my face and left to go clean up the mess that Jerry had deposited on my closet floor.

I was feeling pretty peevish when I finally left for school and even though I called for Jerry and searched for him as I walked, I never saw him again. I imagined a joyful reunion with an elderly owner who was grateful that some anonymous 9 year old had kept Jerry safe for the night.

And as I type this with one of my many cats nestled in my lap, I do remember getting some satisfaction out of the fact that my older brother’s face swelled up and his eyes watered uncontrollably due to the cat dander and that he was miserable for days.

Thank you, Jerry, wherever you are.
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