Everyone remembers the first day that they came "home."
I remember walking up the steps to the house and putting the key into the lock on the front door of our house the day after we closed on it. It was empty, but I felt as if its timbers and bricks were welcoming me in, whispering to me. Yeah, I'm a fruitcake that way. But I knew that I was home.
Do you remember the day that your pet came home for the first time? Did they know that they were home, or were they just frightened of their new surroundings at first? How long did it take them to come around?
Charlotte was furious with us when she came home. I'm not sure that she realized that she was home yet. I think she was angry about being in the shelter for a week and a half, angry about the car ride to the house, angry about the fact that we had the nerve to bring a kitten home with her, and then angry that we let her out of her carrier and expected her to god forbid interact with us. I write all of this with a faint smile on my face, because I think that this is how I, many times, react to change as well. Even change that eventually turns out good for me. Charlotte knows that she is home now, and is very content. But that first week was spent hiding under the largest pieces of furniture that she could find, and hissing and spitting at us if we interfered with her much.
Annie didn't know that she was home yet either, when we brought her home. She paced the floor that first night like a wild animal. She tried to claw out one of the window screens to escape. She had been found stray by Animal Control, though she was not feral. My guess is that she was accustomed to the outdoors, and felt terribly confined in this house of strange people and cats. So definitely not home. I'm not sure that she felt like she was home for a full year. That was when she stopped running away from us, anyway. I sometimes fear that she still doesn't feel like she is completely home. She is a very anxious cat, and the way that she "sucks up" to me, I sometimes wonder if she's trying to convince me to let her stay.
Bit never questioned the fact that she belonged here. It was home for her from the time we first let her out of her carrier. She was a kitten, four months old, though. All she wanted to do was play, and be adored, and explore all of the nooks and crannies of her new home. The things that kittens do best. She never questions it, but sometimes I also feel like she doesn't appreciate it either. (Isn't that just like a kid?) She takes for granted that I don't mind that she literally sleeps on top of my legs every night, that she is going to be fed, that she is going to be cuddled and crooned to and treated pleasantly. And you know, that's okay. I'd rather have her that way, than to be afraid.
Argos immediately knew he was home. I remember Jeff unlocking the door as I urged Argos through the doorway. He looked up at me at first incredulously, then with joy. It's absolutely amazing that a greyhound that had never seen someone's home before, having only known the track, knew that he was home. Maera was nearly the same way - but having a different personality than Argos, her reaction was more one of curiosity than gratitude. She wanted to explore ALL of the things, jumped up on ALL of the furniture to see what would be the most comfortable. Taste ALL of the food. But she too knew that she was home.
And that's what I think this animal rescue thing is all about. Not just saving animals from certain death - either from euthanasia or the many unhappy endings that await them outdoors - though of course that is part of it. But giving them a place that they KNOW is their home. A place to belong. Not just a house or apartment, but a place where they are part of the family.
If you've done that, even for just one of these animals, then you are a hero, no mistake about it.
What brought on this post? I think that it's reading everyone's blogs, and thinking about how incredibly lucky their pets are to be in such caring, GOOD homes. (And of course how lucky the HUMANS are to have such lovely animals in their lives.) I count myself among the fortunate that I have been allowed to get to know you lovely pet bloggers, and that I can see just how much good is being done on behalf of animals.
Happy holidays to all of you. I wish you joy and peace and warm snugglies with your favorite furry friends.