When I was a little girl, I used to crawl around in my mother’s backyard garden in West Texas. She grew the best cherry tomatoes! I would pick them right off the vine; popping them straight into my mouth. I wasn’t the only one who loved her garden. I found toads and tortoises, beetles and bugs out there in that 10 by 10 foot patch of Heaven.
The garden lay along an old, slotted, wooden fence. The rickety boards with intermittent gaps did little to keep me in, or to keep anything out. Along that fence is where I started my journey learning about animals and even wildlife.
“MOM! Can we keep it?!” was a regular cry around our house. Between me, my four older brothers, and sister, someone always brought a vulnerable, wide-eyed, critter home. “Oh Mom! It will just DIE if we don’t keep it! Can we? Pleeeeassssee?!”
Mom and Dad were both huge animal lovers, so we usually did keep the orphans that wandered through the fence slats, or the ones we had follow us home from school. Sometimes, my parents were the ones to bring home “new” family members for us to love. We had dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits, toads, parrots, hamsters, and even mice.
I remember the first time we went to the local animal shelter to adopt a dog. I was about to start Kindergarten. Like a bad episode of The Brady Bunch; all eight of us climbed into our 1975, green stripe, Dodge Maxi van, and headed to downtown Abilene. The chatter was flying around inside like pop rocks. Everyone was talking about what kind of dog they wanted, who was going to get to do what to care for it, and who was going to pick its name.
I sat right behind Dad’s seat. He always drove, so Mom could keep us in line. The warm summer wind was blowing in through my square, vent window. I could hardly sit still while we drove the agonizingly, torturous….. 10 minute drive.
My brothers, sister, and I, all exploded out of the van’s side door; running to the shelter entrance. We were all still talking at the same time. It was going to have to be a very special dog to put up with all of us!
I really don’t remember seeing any other dogs in the shelter, but her. She was a timid little Lhaso Apso mix. What a mess; all muddied and matted, sitting in the back corner of the cold, concrete stall.
We attached all 60 of our little fingers to every part of that chain linked gate and squealed. There was no way my parents could say no. “That’s the one! That little, white one with the big eyes! Can we have her?!” Katy came home that day. She blessed our lives for many years.
Strangely, Katy never tried to leave the yard. She never went past the curb out front, either. And Katy, unlike me, never slipped through those gaps in the backyard fence, looking for adventures. I guess she was content to stay home. She had found her little piece of Heaven, too.
I, on the other hand, regularly traveled to other worlds through that fence. Just beyond the yard, I discovered a whole world of animals.