Many of us can mark the passing of time through the pets we’ve loved. Particularly when we’ve provided a stray or rescued pet with a better life, the bonds last forever.

That’s the idea behind the cover story of the winter issue of Madison magazine, which will be available the first week of November.

Growing up on a farm and living in the country most of my adult life, I’ve been fortunate to have enjoyed a parade of pets, many of whom simply showed up on our property. Some have lived outdoors, others indoors. We’ve loved them all.

Here are some of their stories:

Rocky, a little gray-and-black-striped cat, was named after Raquel Welch. But our cat had little in common with her movie star namesake. Rocky was neither radiant nor attractive; she was just very tough. While barn kittens are lucky to reach adulthood, Rocky survived into her teens, supplementing her diet of dry cat food by terrorizing the mice in our feed-room.

Happy, the collie mix, was a nearly constant companion of my three brothers and me when we were young. We adored him for both his steady, bright personality and his athletic feats. He could maintain a 35 mile per hour sprint for 100 yards and would send any rogue dog who dared wander onto our property scampering home, tail between legs.

Luv, our first house cat, had her first litter of kittens under my bed. The tortoise-shell calico entertained us by carrying board game pieces to the top of our stairs, then letting them bounce down the hardwood to the bottom. Over and over again.

Buddy and Willy, little fox terrier mixes, first appeared in our field as flea-bitten tramps. We picked more than 100 ticks off of each, nursed them to health and fed them well. They returned our favors with fierce loyalty and entertained us with their playfulness and sibling bickering.

In recent years, Belle and Jasmine, a pair of sweet lab-chow mixes, provided friendship and companionship for our children, and Tank the gray-and-white tom cat stole our hearts despite his aloof nature. All have passed away. But Shia, a Russian blue rescue cat, has in six short months captured our love with his curious and affectionate disposition.

The winter issue of Madison will warm your soul with stories of pet redemption through human kindness, and it will likely bring memories of your favorite animals to the surface. The magazine will be available free of charge in November at The Herald Bulletin and retail outlets and service offices across Madison County.

Editor Scott Underwood’s column is published Mondays in The Herald Bulletin. Contact him at scott.underwood@heraldbulletin.com.

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