Hot Off the Collar | Volume 3
We learn so much from our parents: manners, social norms, language skills, how to behave, how NOT to behave and probably most of all, how to love. Or perhaps more accurately, WHO to love. In my mother’s case, I learned to love family and friends but I also learned to love the animals we share the world with. At five years old, I can vividly recall Mom opening the screen on our front door whenever she cooked spare-ribs. Why? Because a stray black lab she named “Lucky” would come by for leftovers. At 10 years old, I learned a level of patience that belied my age by watching Mom at our cottage on Beaver Lake, wait for hours until the local chipmunk worked up the courage to take a peanut from her hand. I followed her example and sat more still than any 10-year old in the history of 10-year olds, until that same chipmunk – christened “Charlie” by Mom – decided that he could trust the tow-headed little boy. That particular “skill” lasted my entire life. In August on our family holiday at Beaver Lake, Mom and I once again, and sadly, for the last time, enjoyed a special connection while we waited for Charlie’s great-great-great-great-great grandchild to come and take yet another peanut from us. I remember looking at Mom’s hands that day. They carried all the wrinkles and crevices of a life well-lived but they also carried tremendous kindness and compassion. I am convinced that all the animals she cared for with those hands, somehow understood that. From Lucky the neighborhood mooch to Rocky, my childhood border collie to Annie and Clara the two grey tabby cats, to her “grand-dogs” Charlie, Sammy, Barney, Murphy and Sophie. Later, after most of these animals were gone, she volunteered her time at Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre.
Mom had a great smile; a smile that made you feel like you might be missing out on something. It was never brighter than when she was talking about her connection to animals. In April, when I told her that I’d been offered the job of Executive Director for the Kingston Humane Society, I saw that very same smile. A week or two into my tenure, Mom, who by this time, had some pretty serious mobility issues, came into my office. Like most moms, she was proud of whatever I chose to do for a living, but she was particularly happy with my choice to join the KHS.
Mom died on September 6th after a short illness. A couple of days before she passed away, I was sitting with her in the hospital room and we started reminiscing about Charlie the chipmunk and how much we both enjoyed feeding him and his offspring. We laughed at the memories of him stuffing two and sometimes three peanuts into his cheek pouches. After the laughter died down, I told her that I didn’t think I would have gotten to where I was in life, without her. She smiled and assured me she had nothing to do with it.
But she did.
And she always will.