Beds and porches have been on my mind a lot lately, and I just realized why. Both involve something I am or am not giving my animals, and both involve a lot of emotion for me. (Of course, I may be more emotional than 99 percent of the population.)
Here’s how porches and beds came to be at the front of my mind these days.
When I’m driving in the country, many times I notice homes where there’s a dog lying faithfully on a porch in front of a front door. I don’t know if this is an ingrained dog trait to guard the house, or if it’s an accident, but it seems that dogs, porches, and front doors go together.
I’ve written recently about Corona, our old 17 year old Lab mix, on Dogster. Corona has a tumor in her leg that, if treated, would require amputation, chemotherapy, or palliative radiation. We opted for none of this, choosing instead to try and make her most comfortable with pain medication while she’s still interested in life, eating, and drinking. (Crazily enough, I still have second thoughts about actually pursuing the amputation — she’s a strong and willful dog — but it would be extremely risky and take from her quality of life; plus, it’s out of reach financially.)
Corona’s walks have gotten shorter and slower. She starts out with a lot of will and drive, and then she runs out of gas. But she has always loved being outside, so we take her out whenever she’s interested so that she can sniff the grass and feel the air.
Corona has definite ideas about where she wants to go on her walks, and she gets stubborn and won’t budge. We often come around the house, and she has gotten the strong idea that she really wants to be on the porch. Is there some ancestral memory of guarding the entry to an abode? Or is it just a new and different place she hasn’t spent a lot of time on?
I had resisted letting her get on the porch — it’s a huge step up for a dog with a bad leg and we were worried about the somewhat slippery surface. But one day recently when I took Corona out, I gave into her desire. She might not have a lot of time left, I reasoned — why not give her this joy? I helped her up onto the porch, and something gave. She cried out — and I had not heard her cry out in the entire progression of her disease.
Of course, I was really shaken, wondering if this was the beginning of the end. I sat with her for some time. I got her in the house and into the room where she’s been hanging out. She rested for a while. True to Corona form, she soon wanted to go out again. Again we went around the house. Again, she stared stubbornly at the porch. My heart raced, but slowly and more carefully, I helped her on the porch. This time it was fine.
I don’t know how much time Corona has. She is still eating and drinking, and she still wants to go outside. Part of me wishes I could do the amputation and damn the consequences. Part of me believes she’d blaze right through it. She has a drive to live and has stellar blood work for a dog her age. And, she does have two other tumors. I feel terrible that she hurt herself on the porch, but I feel good that she got to enjoy the porch.
We’ve gone back and forth about cats on the beds in our household. We’ve gone through periods where we didn’t let cats in the bedroom so that we slept better. We’ve gone through periods where we relented and let special (or all) cats in the bedroom (say, if one cat was near the end of her life).
I’m honestly on the fence about this one. I love their joy at being on the bed. I also love the ease of keeping the bedroom clean when the cats aren’t in it. Selfishly, I enjoy the fact that I don’t have to go to the laundromat as much for the bedding when the cats are not spending time in the bedroom.
Some might think I’m less of a cat lover because of this. I don’t think I’m less of a cat lover, but I hate denying the cats this pleasure, just as much as I love their joy in snuggling on the bed. So, I see this one both ways. I suspect, in time, we’ll let one or two cats at a time in the bedroom, especially the ones who seem to desire it the most. Some cats almost seem to need time on the bed for their own mental sanity.
I know I will pull out all the stops for an ill or terminal cat, even if it means sleeping on the floor. I think there’s probably a compromise here. When our house guest leaves in a few days, I’m going to put the ratty old quilt back on the bed and the cats can have at it. Besides, Jackson Galaxy says not to keep your cats from the bed, and offers tips on how to train them not to wake you up.
When my dog is gone, I will wish to imagine her happily sprawled on the porch, sniffing the things in the air that make a dog’s life rich. When my cats are gone, I don’t want to regret that I didn’t spend enough time cuddling with them, on the bed or otherwise.
Porches and beds trigger thoughts about our human-animal bond for me. What triggers them for you? Let us know in the comments.
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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr (cat fantasy novel out June 1), the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.