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Unconditional Love
by Kent Fletcher

Unquestionably, domesticated pets are given to us by a higher power for many uses. It is written, somewhere, that dogs were initially domesticated to help the hunter get food to eat and to warn him of intruders. For their service, dogs were rewarded with food to eat, water to drink, and a warm, dry spot to sleep. Most of the time, anyway.

The Egyptians adored cats mostly, but also dogs. There have been mummified cats and dogs found around the digs, some of the corpses in elaborate casks. Many more were worshiped as gods, good and bad. In wars, dogs have been utilized as messengers, as guard dogs, as hearing aids.

Not until the middle to late 20th Century did the dogs (and cats, to a point) become big business, money makers for various feed companies. The obvious has bloomed into an unbelievable plethora of diet foods, exercise equipment, even "clothes" we humans think are just so darned cute. My, even "Doggy's Day Out" places exist where I live, you know, where you can drop the pooch (or cat) off for a day while you go shop-till-you-drop.

Veterinarians used to go for the big animals for the money - horses, cattle, farm stock of all sorts. Now the vets are nearly as plentiful as the Baptist churches in Pensacola, Florida - one on the corner of nearbout every other block. I remember when I had my pups neutered back in the '80s, the cost was practically nil. Now? Hah, minimum runs up to $100, if one is lucky, or fortunate to find a vet who is on the cheap. When I had Lil Darlin spayed in 2000, it only cost me around $75; I shudder to think of the costs now. Even the neutering done by the animal shelters probably runs $30-$40. They've got to make money to stay open, too.

Without the veterinarian, however, we all would be in quite a quandary, those of us who reside with dogs and/or cats. We take them to the vet for: yearly shots; nail trimming; dietary foods; surgeries great and small; long-term care; shampoos; blood transfusions; blood work-ups; x-rays; broken bones; flea and tick eradications; seasonal allergies; you name it, the vets have got it or can refer you to someone who does. And ultimately, when all the diagnoses and medications have taken their tolls, when the animals bodies just can't do anymore, there's the euthanasia, which is a blessing in and of itself.

My most trying episode with an animal was my bestest friend, Hercules. After his running pal, Zeke, went over the Rainbow Bridge, Herky went down pretty fast. To make a long story short, and in order not to grieve any more today for my loss in 1994, his kidneys shut down. I said my goodbyes, holding him in my arms. Thank the Good Lord for vets like Dr. Carolyn Wicker in Grand Prairie, Texas. She is an angel in disguise.

So, for all our doling on our companions, our pets, our silent conversationalists, what do we get in return? Oh, should I even ask such a question?

We receive mostly what we give. If what we dole out is meanness and beatings, we'll have an animal that will just as soon bite us, scratch us, piss on our legs as even acknowledge us; however, if we give the dog or cat at least the very minimum of attention, a kind word, a pat on the head, a bowl of water, a bite to eat, a brushing once in a while, the return of unconditional love is as deep as time. They will be waiting at the door when we return from a trip around the block or across town, panting, smiling, wiggling all over, using their bodies to say, "Yea, you're home; what did you bring me, where did you go, why couldn't I go?"

Doggie kisses are the best kisses for me, but even my old Felix cat will at least give me a look to say, "Well, it's about time you got home! Where's my food?" In the winter, Felix is sometimes close by, as he likes to be warm and I have a heated waterbed; otherwise, he's somewhere else

Lil Darlin, however, is my constant companion, all day, every day. She, too, sleeps with me, and in the winter will even get under the cover for a little while. She's lying by my chair as I write this, occasionally looking up with her soft brown eyes, probably wondering, "What the hell's he doing now?" Then she'll give up and lie back down. At least she'll give me this "look" when it's time to go outside. Most of the time, anyway. She does have her accidents; I do not whip or scold her, but just clean it up and move on.

Unconditional Love. Sometimes I wonder if I really deserve what I receive from the animals that live with me.


Kent Fletcher, native Mississippian and retired military, now lives in Texas. Contact Kent at this e-mail address.

Read more of Kentís stories at USADS:

Where is the Delta?
Hotrods and high school
Raisiní Delta cain
Mr. Bob Malone's New Cadillac

Want to leave a comment on Kentís story?
Please write Ye Editor at bethjacks@hotmail.com.


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