Years ago when my Great Grandma could no longer cope living on her own, my parents found themselves the unwilling adopters of her cat. Being under the care of my deaf and elderly Great Grandma meant it’s formative years had been something of a half-feral existence lived in and around her country cottage. Seemingly no fool, this cat learned early on that meowing to my Great Grandma was a complete waste of time so would instead bite and scratch to communicate with humans. It absolutely refused to be petted and I never heard it purr or make anything other than a hostile sound for the six months that I knew it.
Fast-forward to now and you would not recognise this cat. Showered by my parents with love, care and attention, almost as if it were their third child, this cat flourished from a mangy, angry ginger ball of hiss into a graceful and serene miniature lion; the subject of many admiring comments from neighbours, passers-by and my mum’s friends whenever she posts pictures on Facebook (which is often).
I couldn’t help but think of this story when reflecting on my husband’s early onset Parkinson’s diagnosis 20mths ago. Much like my parents, we had become the unwilling owners of a troublesome, seemingly unlovable, untamable pet. Only in this case it’s called “Parky” and Parky is a dog. Not a nice dog but one of those runty yappy things which always seem to come in pairs or threes (no offense to those who like this breed – generally, I actually love dogs but growing up on my council estate, these scuttling little barking terrors were the bloody worst).
So there we were; the new unhappy owners of Parky. He is aggressive and yappy and keeps getting under our feet and sh*ts everywhere. He chews our shoes and digs up bits of dead animal from outside and brings them into the house. His fur is wirey and in patches, his skin is scabby and unpleasant to touch and he smells really, really bad. His snarl is fierce, his nip is sharp and his constant yap-yap-yapping is like nails down a blackboard. We don’t want him but we’re stuck with Parky and there’s no getting rid of the little sod.
So we made the lifestyle changes required of dog owners. We make sure Parky is walked regularly, fed properly, gets all the right jabs and check-ups. We tend to him with care and attention and make sure we’re always considering Parky in our plans. And having both previously been pet owners, we’re realistic to know that you can give a pet all the care and training in the world, it still has its own mind and there will still be some days where it will sh*t on the carpet or dig up the garden or shake wet mud all over your kitchen and there’s nothing you can do about it.
And when that happens its ok to be angry, to be annoyed, to grumble while you get the mop and disinfectant, maybe even to have a little sob to yourself because you’re knackered and it’s late and you literally just cleaned up and besides which you never even wanted this effing dog!!.. But you also know you have just got to get on with it and remember it’s not all “poo and mud”. You think about the good things that have come about because of Parky.
We’re healthier and we’re happier than we were. Some of the old worries and concerns we had before Parky came to stay seem laughable now, like the weight of responsibility of looking after Parky has made everything else feel so much lighter. It’s bought us closer to our friends and family whose outpouring of love and support has been such a surprising source of strength for both of us. And we are closer to each other than we’ve ever been, were it not for Parky. We’re in it together, for the long haul. And while we may never learn to truly love Parky, we can sure learn to live with him.