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Love is Purrs, Nibbles, and Pecks

Flying goose

By Amy Laundrie

I devote this column to exploring the various ways our pets show their love to each other and to us.

My daughter’s family took in a two-week-old orphaned kitten born on New Year’s Day. Jack Frost needed to be bottle-fed every two hours at first, but soon could drink and eat on his own. Jack, who soon will leave my daughter’s house for his forever home, shows his affection by purring.
Growing up, my family had a cat that would show her love in quite a different way. She would bring us her prize dead mice. She’d present them to us and we’d praise her. When she turned her head, we’d whisk them away into the trash.

Have you ever had a loyal pet, an animal that wanted to be by your side as much as possible? My dog is like that. Every evening when I close the bathroom door to take a bath, my cockapoo Josie stretches out in the hall by the door and waits for the door to open. Her loyalty is remarkable. Once, it even extended to plunging in the lake when she thought I was in trouble. I was skiing behind a boat, and she must have thought I needed help. She jumped in. The only problem was she wasn’t much of a swimmer and when my son spotted her thrashing around in the deep water, he signaled to me. I dropped off so he could whip around and rescue her.

Josie has other ways she shows love or affection. If people she likes to come for a visit, she sits on their feet. Since she doesn’t do it for everyone, those who get their feet warmed feel special.

When Josie wants to be scratched behind her ears or petted, she will nudge my hand. I’ve had horses nudge me, too, and interpreted it as a request for attention. Horses will also nibble or groom each other. I’ve seen them touch noses and blow air into each other’s nostrils. If a horse does this to you, make sure you blow back. It’s their version of a handshake.

Some pets require a major commitment, such as hyper dogs that need a lot of exercise. But some, like guinea pigs, provide affection but don’t demand an enormous time commitment. I have a friend who adores her three guinea pigs. She gives them hay in the morning, lovingly scratching each of their heads. They make their happy guinea pig noises; a perfect start to my friend’s day.

My cousin and her husband adore their sun conure, a type of parrot. Cheeto adores them, too, and gives kisses when they ask. She “throws” kisses by saying mwah, shows affection by preening or grooming their faces, or rubbing her beak on their fingernails. Cheeto also loves to cuddle. When she is ready to go to sleep, my cousin puts a blanket around her shoulders. Cheeto will crawl under the blanket and go to sleep.

Cheeto loves to dance to polka music and Elvis songs. She also sings along. Too bad she only has one note, which is a loud squawk. Cheeto squawks with great enthusiasm, though, and in perfect time to the beat of the music.

Maybe you, too, have connected with an animal that wasn’t the common dog or cat. In my case, I’ve had extraordinary experiences with ducks and geese. My favorite pet duck, Happy Feet, liked to peck at my shoes. I believe she was showing her affection. The Canadian gosling we raised, Gertie, would stretch her head toward us and make soft chirping noises. She would also follow us around, even wanting to get inside our motorboat. We didn’t allow her to do that, so she decided to fly alongside the boat. Seeing her take the point position to cut some of the draft for us, and flying along with us, was one of the most thrilling moments in my life.

Let’s spread our love this February to all creatures—those with two legs, four legs, and wings. We might even get a purr, nibble, or a peck back. MSN

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