True Companions Who Have My Back

My old Friend Charlotte Kooistra wrote something about why rescue animals are so important in our lives. I was so deeply moved by it that I’ve decided to share the letter with the world-at-large. (with Charlotte’s permission)    JB

True Companions Who Have My Back

My oldest nephew Scott, once very allergic to pets, asked me why I had pets, currently a very sick one, when they brought some joy but also so much heartache and grief. This was my response:
Eighty-seven animals…a perpetual kennel with revolving doors….yes that used to be US. Now we have one elderly dog with whom I share age related pains, loss of hearing, and excess weight. And we have one elderly cancer ridden cat who is on her way out with the door closing very slowly behind her….a door stop there for now keeping it open as long as possible. I think you have missed the joy of companion animal ownership though your life has been enriched in so many other ways.


There are no regrets when they pass. You can only grieve in proportion to how much you love them which is why I fall apart upon a death in our sentient creature family. They are my adopted kids, the ones I never had. But they love me no matter what. I could have really messed with the life of a human baby. These just drool and stare at you with wonder and unconditional love. Unlike tactless conversations with humans I regret, judgments that I fight when someone wrongs me or another loved one, these critters just really don’t give a flying crap (pun intended) no matter what I say, do, or think. And they are in touch with my feelings. Say that about all my human contacts….. They choose us as their owners or rather they own us…we rent them for a period of time on their terms…they come into our lives to teach us things and at times have been the only connection I have had to the outside world, joy, compassion, laughter, and healing.

dogs waiting for treat

When I was depressed and anxious, they sensed my anguish. During my darkest days donned in my chenille robe with bed hair I have arisen only to feed one of them which then got me to the shower, to eat a good meal, and to venture out to get the mail. Tales wag as I reentered the house because my dog greeted me like I’ve been gone forever. He is so happy to see me, he squeals.

cat and her kitten

We have a contract with them and they may know the start and end dates before we do. When we have learned enough from them, they pass on only with the promise that we will bring in another rookie dog or cat and save a life. In fact I think they tweak that process too because as they get closer to their passing, I find myself looking more at animal rescue sites or photos of kittens or aged dogs…subliminal or obvious messages sent by those who sleep on or at the foot of our bed. That’s also when they leave. To give more room to the fledgling, the underdogs or under-cats who need us, the young ones from an overabundant breeding year or an old one who stays with us as hospice care and gets a 10” thick pillow for a bed and homemade grass fed hamburger.   Now I ask you who has sat on your bed and worshiped you lately?  Char


About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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