Loss of a furry family member

It’s hard to know where to begin.

Our sweet, loyal, lovable black Labrador, Harley, died of cancer a couple weeks ago. We’re not sure exactly how old he was, but we’re guessing around 13.

Harley arrived at our family already named and all grown up, having spent his puppy years with a great family who trained him with military precision. When that family got re-stationed, they gave us Harley with the understanding that we would give him a great life doing the things he loved – being outside, playing with other dogs and, most of all, being smothered by children.

I’m proud to report that we gave him all those things.

Harley pile

And in return, Harley gave me another watchful eye over the kids. He gave the kids his protective presence at night, when he would lie at the foot of their beds and keep the bad dreams away. He gave my husband a buddy who was always up for a hike through the woods or a weekend camping trip. And he gave us all what all the best dogs do: constant love and affection.

It’s hard not to feel the absence of that.

I still expect to see his smiling face and wildly wagging tail whenever I come home. I haven’t been able to bring myself to put his food bowl away. But hardest of all is watching my kids grieve his absence.

My oldest is a fierce animal lover who has had Harley by her side for most of her life. She has cried and cried, and told stories about her memories of Harley, and been open with her feelings of loss and sadness. Her friends have been supportive at school and amazingly kind and considerate at home.

My son, however, is a couple years younger and still learning how to express his emotions in healthy ways. He also happens to be very good at suppressing any bad feelings, so while I know he is also grieving, it comes out in bursts of poor choices. We’re working on that.

If I was forced to say one good thing about cancer, it’s that it at least gives you a little time to say goodbye. The kids got a chance to do that – to take Harley for one more camping trip, one more walk to the park, to give him one more spoonful of peanut butter. They got to give him one last hug.

But we’re all still learning how to let go.

Harley

 

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Our furry children and some pet pictures

Two kids, two dogs, two cats. One me.

Sometimes it feels like not a day goes by that I’m not cleaning up somebody’s body fluids. Oh sure, my husband cleans up the cat barf too – but we both know I do a much more thorough job.

Chickadee This is our Chickadee. Don’t let her pose in this picture fool you – she’s fast and she’s a jumper. Given half a chance, she’ll sail right over our fence and run for the hills.

Cat blanketMaybe we need to turn the heat up in our house a little. Whenever I do go sit down, I’m instantly covered with cats.

Kid blanket Or maybe we’re just a family that likes to cuddle. This is Landon laying on Harley, who doesn’t mind it in the slightest. In fact, Harley follows the kids around the house from room to room, constantly nosing their hands for some pets.

I was inspired to post these pics after browsing through the new Missoula dogs slideshow put together by my colleagues at the Missoulian. It just goes to show how much we in Missoula love our dogs. All 45 photos are great, but if I had to pick a favorite, I’d have to go with No. 34. How about you? Which one’s your favorite?

UPDATE: And here’s the new slideshow of cats!

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The Daily Kitten: Big Momma and some great news!

Last but not least, here’s the momma cat!

We’re not sure if her official name is Augustine or Hickory, but true to tradition we’re just calling her Momma Cat. She has the same calico coloring as two of her kittens, but she’s mostly white with soft, short hair.

She’s good to her kittens and good to us. She’s not at all possessive of her babies and just wants some loving for herself once in a while too. She does have an escapist tendency, although with eight kittens to look after who could blame her for needing a break once in a while.

Like seven of her eight babies, momma here is available for adoption through the Humane Society of Western Montana.

But one kitten is no longer up for grabs! That’s right, one of her kittens – Angel – will soon be going home with her new family. It’s a family we know so we’ll be able to visit. Isn’t that great news?

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The Daily Kitten: Jewel

The last of our eight kittens gets two pictures: one so you can see her beautiful markings; the other so you can see her beautiful personality.

Jewel here is a lap cat all right. Inquire with the Western Montana Humane Society if you’d like to cuddle this sweet kitty on your lap.

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The Daily Kitten: Halloween edition with Mister

If you’re wearing a hat, hold onto it – ’cause this kitten will blow. your. mind.

Heeeeeeeeere’s Mister!

Do you see that? Do you SEE that? Look at his little mustache!

Yes, this kitten comes wearing a year-round Halloween outfit (he’s dressed as An Absolute Gentleman, or perhaps someone from The Great Gatsby), which is why he’s Missoula Mom’s featured kitten of the day. That, and he’s awesome.

Seriously, I know we moms aren’t supposed to have favorites but … he’s my favorite. He’s my husband’s favorite too, and the kids’ favorite. He’s the smallest of the litter, but he gives the biggest love. He’s the kitten who, when you walk in the door, will pad right over and sit on your feet, looking up at you adoringly.

How can you stand it?! Tell the Humane Society of Western Montana that you want Mister and you want him now!

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The Daily Kitten: Tootsie

Tootsie is a sweetie with lots of energy. She likes to climb whatever’s handy – curtains, legs, you name it.

She’s not a very big kitten, but she gives big love. Contact the Humane Society of Western Montana if you want her to love you.

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The Daily Kitten: Winkle

Orange cats have a reputation for being mellow, friendly, undemanding felines, and Winkle certainly fits this description.

When the other cats are tumbling all around the room, falling in the water dish or scattering litter everywhere, Winkle can often be found snoozing in a pile of blankets or watching the action upside-down while laying on his back. If he’s feeling particularly participatory, he might raise a paw at something.

He’s a lap cat that purrs if anyone so much as looks at him.

The Humane Society of Western Montana can tell you more about orange cats if you’re interested in making Winkle a part of your family.

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The Daily Kitten: The Gray

The Gray is a beauty. The photo below doesn’t begin to do her justice. She’s a big, sleek kitten with blue eyes, a gray coat and white paws and chest.

This photo does, however, hint at her feisty nature. The Gray likes to attack! She’s a pouncer who stalks and takes down her brothers and sisters with stealth and gusto. She will also go after human hands and feet – but can be soothed into submission with a few firm pets.

Contact the Humane Society of Western Montana if you think you might be the right human for her. And for golly’s sake, do it soon! These kittens aren’t going to be kittens forever.

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The Daily Kitten: Squeaker

Today’s Daily Kitten is Squeaker. I don’t think he’s actually more talkative than the other kittens – he just was on the day we nicknamed him. I love the way he meeps and beeps. And he uses the litter box like a champ. I know because he announces it every time.

And just look at that face:

Ask the Western Montana Humane Society if this kitten could be yours!

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The Daily Kitten: Chief

Say hello to the second kitten in our Daily Kitten series: Chief! He was going to be named Mischief but then we checked to see if he was a boy or a girl and decided to shorten it to just Chief.

Besides being the gorgeous color of a chai latte, he’s one of the “big four” of the eight kittens we’re currently fostering for the Humane Society of Western Montana. He’s large and in charge, with a relatively serious nature for a kitten. He plays, but he plays seriously. He doesn’t get all silly like the other kittens do.

This was actually the best picture we could get of him. In all the others he kept turning his back to the camera.

Love him already? Then get yourself to the Western Montana Humane Society pronto and let them know you’re interested.

 

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