What My Pets Teach Me

By Lori Hartwell

Pets and kidney disease

Lori Hartwell-Renal Support Network-RGBI have an African Grey Parrot named Johnny; he’s all gray with a beautiful red tail. He’s a precise listener who picks up every vocal inflection, and he has an uncanny ability to mimic exactly what he hears. For example, he can imitate perfectly the car alarm, a cat’s meow, and television commercial slogans like “Milk Does a Body Good.”


Sometimes I think I hear the phone ringing, then I realize it’s only Johnny. He follows the ring with an impersonation of me answering (and it really sounds like me!). It goes something like this: “Ringgg. Hello, whatchadoin’? Uh huh… uh huh… yeah… uh huh… Could you hold on for a second? Beep.” (He does call waiting too.) Needless to say, having Johnny around is like tape-recording my entire life.My dogs Max, a black poodle, and Chloe, a cockapoo, provide me with lots of unconditional love. They’re always happy and know how to use their charm to get what they want. Sitting up on their hind legs and looking at me with those big brown eyes is a favorite way to get my attention. They know that you get more bees with honey than with vinegar.

petts and kidney diseaseMy cats Jack and Cali also have their unique lessons to teach. They’re very independent and don’t need much reassurance. They take time to look for and enjoy the little things in life: a small bug walking across the floor, a thread hanging from my jacket, or a spider spinning a web. They know the importance of taking a nap and basking in the sun.


petts and kidney diseaseAll of my animals get along and have fun playing together. In the morning, while I’m sitting at my dining room table drinking coffee and reading the paper, I’m often treated to a game of “catch me if you can.” The cats run, the dogs chase them, and “safe” is in the bathtub. Johnny is the referee and often yells, “You are bad, get outside,” followed by “Go potty.” He’s definitely in charge of this menagerie, often reminding us of it by saying, “I’m the boss.”

petts and kidney diseaseMy pets are an example to me of how to live. They teach me to listen and to be kind and loving no matter what. As I watch them play together and get along even though they’re different, I realize that it’s easier to accept one another if we have a common goal. They also remind me to pay attention to details, to take care of myself, and to live in the moment.

But the most important thing my pets have taught me is to just have fun!

Chronically Yours,
Lori Hartwell
President & Founder of the Renal Support Network


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