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What makes a family?

According to the dictionary, a family consists of people who are probably, but not necessarily, related.

I think of a family as a cohesive unit of living things that balance each other well and provide a comfortable and safe place to be…even amid the occasional hissy fit.

In my home, my family consists of me and four felines – Dickens and his three sisters Pippen, Molly and Star. I would do anything for these precious kitties. If any of them were missing it would leave a huge hole in my heart. Each brings me their own brand of kitty magic, along with the occasional hairball…and mole.

Then there are the two outside kitties. Sammy showed up six summers ago, a product of that year’s kitten season. He has been coming ever since. Creamsicle is a fairly new arrival. He actually lives down the road, but shows up regularly for (as the Hobbits would say) “second breakfast,” and some badly needed affection.

One of the things families should do is stick up for each other. I never realized how much that meant to me until I lost my dog, Jake. OK, being part German Shepherd Dog and part Border Collie did give him some very strong protective instincts. The thing is, though, I loved it…and I really miss it.

Over the years Jake and I took thousands of walks through the woods by my home. The trail opens onto a golf course. Jake always took point, ready to tell me if something seemed off.

One day, in his later years, we came onto the golf course and Jake suddenly stopped. All the fur on his back stood up and a low growl came out of his mouth. He kept his eyes on the object of his concern, and then led me back to the path. For as long as I live I will never forget how bravely my knight in shining armor protected me from that dangerous, plaid golf bag!

I am also blessed beyond words by all the wonderful, loving people who are also in my “family.” It’s odd that some of the ones I feel closest to I rarely see…and some I have never actually met. That’s ok – the heart has a way of maintaining a love connection through time and space. Face-to-face time, while lovely, is optional.

Some people are surrounded by friends and relatives, yet they feel very alone. As I look around my home on this rainy summer day, and look at my furry friends curled up in their favorite places, I feel very fortunate to be safely tucked in the arms…ah, paws…of my loving family.

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