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The Love You Give is Returned Ten Fold

by Brenda Mahler 3 months ago in humanity

Adoptive families benefit more than the adopted pets

From back to front: Juggernaut, Amy and Roman. Image from author's photo album.

As a child, she looked for the kids that needed friends. She sat by the girl who ate alone at the lunch table. She brought friends home for dinner. So, I should not have been surprised when Kari, our daughter, started fostering cats for the Idaho Humane Society. 

I suppose she also understood that there is a little bit of misfit in all of us, seeking a place to fit and wanting acceptance. However, in Kari's case, she became leader of the misfits and our home became misfit island reminding me of the beloved place in the Christmas cartoon classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, where everyone was accepted. 

We adopted a cat

The first couple litters of kittens grew and found forever families. But Janey was different. She was an older cat wounded and abandoned. A once broken leg had mended after a vet installed a metal rod to provide support. Kari loved Janey, and I felt before I knew the two would become inseparable.

No formal discussion occurred to decide if Janey would join our family, but an event made up our minds. One evening Kari rolled her car. Dusk blurred an object in the road causing her to swerve to avoid a collision. The gravel on the shoulder swallowed her tires, pulled the car into the ditch where it flipped twice and ejected Kari onto the side of the road. After a week in the hospital, she returned home with a metal rod in her left leg.

Roles changed as Janey became rescuer instead of the rescued. The two needed each other. A bond developed and only grew stronger over time. Janey sat on the end of Kari's bed, curled at her side and followed Kari's every move. They were united by the commonality of a metal rod in their legs that saved their lives. 

When Kari moved out of the house, Janey moved with her. When Kari married and moved to South Carolina, Janey made the trip. Three years later, Kari returned to Idaho with her husband, a newborn, and Janey

A reader may think that this is a story is about a cat when in fact it is not. Janey is only one character.

Flash forward 10 years - 2008

Kari earned her teaching degree and found her calling as a Kindergarten teacher. She was a natural hugger, caregiver and educator. However, her passion drew her to the children who needed a little extra love, the girls with messy hair and wrinkled clothes, the boys who threw rocks, the 5-year-old whose mother was in prison, and kids who discovered stories in books for the first time - the misfits.

If time, money, and energy were not in limited quantities, she would have adopted many children into her home, but instead they lived in her heart. However, this is also not a story about the children.

Time evolved- June 2019

Image from author's photo album.

Though Kari's life didn't have room for additional children, her home had room to foster dogs. So, when she heard Amy and Roman needed a place to live until a forever home could be found, she volunteered. One day in June, two St. Bernard's joined her family that already consisted of two daughters and a 180-pound mastiff named Juggernaut, creating a home full of love and dog hair. Living by the slogan, dog hair is simply love you wear on the outside, they were a happy family.

Eliza reading to Roman. Image from author's photo album.

Roman and Amy quickly melded into the family making the idea of them leaving impossible to accept. What seemed like a short-term visit began to be discussed as an adoption possibility. 

September 2019

With the start of a new school year, life was good. Kari's house hummed with activity. She considered herself the mother of five, realistic considering the dogs weighed more than the children. They were one big happy family until Kari's headaches began. They increased over time in frequency and severity, but Kari never slowed down or decreased the love she freely shared. Then one night, the unbearable pain forced her to the ER where she suffered a massive stroke from a brain bleed.

Kari remained in the hospital for 43 days recovering and rehabilitating. In time, the children visited but it was obvious she missed her canine companions. Her husband smuggled Roman into her hospital room providing healing beyond the power of medicine.

Kari with Roman in her hospital bed. Image from author's photo album.

As the attention of the family flowed to Kari, friends stepped up to care for the dogs but as anyone can imagine, three large dogs required a lot of time and dedication. When Kari came home life changed. A noticeable change was the absence of Amy.

Because Amy had special needs and required daily medicine and extra care, having her in the home became difficult. The foster placement removed her to a different environment. The two remaining oversized babies welcomed Kari home, but the absence was noticeable to the family, especially Roman who had never been separated from his sister before.

Roman. Image from author's photo album.

One year later

Kari found acceptance at home. Extended family, friends, and children - both human and canine- provided support. She struggled with her physical limitations but also, losing Amy without being a part of the decision and never having the opportunity to say goodbye left a hole in her heart. But this is not a story about Kari. It is a story with several main characters: Janey, Roman, Amy, Kari, and a huge supporting cast.

A year after Kari's stroke, a representative from the animal adoption agency, contacted Kari's family saying Amy never adjusted to her new home. In fact, several families had found her a misfit in their environment. They needed a temporary home for Amy. A dream became a reality and Kari's family became whole when Amy returned. Without need for discussion, the family chose to adopt and not foster so the family grew by one.

Image from author's photo album.

In reflection, it seemed so natural. Amy walks with a limp because of a disability in her hip reminding me of Janey from all those years ago. I found it unimaginable that other families said Amy was aggressive when in this home she is a bundle of loving fur. 

I observe Kari's household and realize, in society our differences label us misfits but in reality, our differences create a family unit in need of each other. I once believed adoption is an act of kindness for the adoptee but have learned when we open our home and heart, we receive through the selfless act of giving.

"I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver."

 - Maya Angelou, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now

So, this is not a story about Janey, Roman, Amy, or Kari; they are simply characters in the action. This is a story of love and survival that teaches the value of acceptance. Life throws obstacles into the road that cause us to swerve, stumble and fall down. Kari's life experiences remind me that every member of a family, including the pets, help us accept life, stand back up and overcome. 

I enjoy visiting Kari's home because a welcome mat greets me at the front door, grandchildren give hugs when I enter, and I never leave without a little love from one of the dogs slathered on my clothes. The animals in her family benefit by being adopted but in return they give love that makes life meaningful.

Brenda Mahler
Brenda Mahler
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Brenda Mahler

Stories about life that inspire emotions - mostly humor.

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I write therefore, I am.

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