Over the last few weeks, our Shih Tzu, Starburst, is happy to see me every time I come home. She runs to the door, trips around my feet, jumps back in an attack pose, leaps forward again, and then dances back. “Oh, my gosh,” I laugh as I watch her, “you’re full of piss and vinegar today!” And I swear she smiles at me as she wags her long, furry tail so hard that her hindquarters actually bounce off the ground several times.
After this greeting, Starburst usually runs ahead of me down the hallway. She knows my routine. She waits for me by my bedroom as she continues to run around in circles. When I open the door, she runs inside the room and stays with me for the rest of the afternoon. In fact, she doesn’t leave my side for hours. On Monday and Tuesday afternoons, we sit together, snacking on cheese crackers, while watching American Idol on Hulu. (She is rooting for Gabby; I’m cheering on Cade.) She only leaves me when the show ends, the Cheese Nips are gone, and she wants to go back into the living room to her bed for a while.
Later in the evening, she scratches on my closed door and waits for me to let her into my room again. She stretches out on the floor by my feet while I work on the computer. Later, she will slap at my legs with her shaggy, blond paws until I finally pick her up and cuddle her close. She stays snuggled on my lap for the rest of the evening. “Time for bed,” I’ll whisper to her as I try to pry her up off my lap. But Starburst will suddenly become very heavy for such a small dog. Her resistance to leaving me is apparent as she lets her body go limp and sluggish as she tries to oppose my efforts to remove her from my lap. I finally stand up and carry her across the room. I sit her down in the hallway and she stands outside my bedroom staring at me while I wish her a good night and close the door. I wonder about her behavior as I lie down in bed. I’m not sure why Starburst has become so attached to me, but it ‘s not just the Shih Tzu. Lately, the cat has been acting strangely, too.
Zoey, my sister-in-law’s cat, has never liked me since the day I moved in three years ago. She did not hesitate to let me know that this was her house, and I was invading her space. She would nip at me, scratch me, or totally ignore me. All of my efforts to make friends had failed miserably. But over the last several weeks, Zoey stays in the same room with me. She sits next to me on the couch. She lets me scratch her shiny black head. She lets me run my fingers down her long sleek back. I can’t help but wonder why the cat is suddenly nice to me.
At first, I thought that the animals’ behavior was cute. Now, I am worried that it is one of those “pets know when their owners are about to die” kind of things. I tell myself that technically these animals are not my pets (they belong to my sister-in-law), and yet I am still overwhelmed by their kindness, especially right now when I can use unconditional love the most.
My health has become my biggest concern. Tumors and cysts are common in my family, so I haven’t been surprised that tumors have been diagnosed throughout my body lately. I have had this problem before. Over the years, I have had ruptured ovarian cysts, breast cysts, fibroid and benign tumors in my uterus, an enlarged right ovary, precancerous tumors and polyps in my digestive track. And now, just a few weeks ago, my dentist discovered a bloody tumor in one of my teeth. Over the last few weeks, I have been stressed, exhausted, and overwhelmed. Yet, every time, I come home, there’s Starburst bouncing around happy to see me, and Zoey allowing me to be in the same room with her. And I know, I just know, everything is going to be okay. Pets just instinctively seem to know when there is a problem and can offer amazing unconditional love and kindness, which, of course, is always the best medicine!