Unexpected Blessings: How Animals Bring Us Hope

From cats to hummingbirds to zoo animals, our Guideposts staff and contributors share their stories of unexpected creature comforts during this time of crisis.

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A colorful hummingbird.

Bringing the Zoo to Life
Leanne Jackson from Fishers, Indiana

My daughter Katie and her husband Brian live just outside Washington D.C., where Brian is a zookeeper at the National Zoo. Even with the zoo closed to the public due to Covid-19, Brian still feeds the animals there, but he really misses the interactions with the zoo visitors, especially the kids. When Brian and Katie’s group of old college buddies held a get-together on Skype, they learned that all their friends' children were being home-schooled during the pandemic. Although Brian couldn’t let the kids meet the actual zoo animals, he and Katie have some pretty unusual pets themselves, so he came up with a plan.

At the next Skype meeting, Brian surprised the kids with ferrets. Following that, they all got to watch Katie shear her Angora rabbits. The children got to meet and learn about some adorable and unique critters, while Brian and Katie got to share their knowledge of, and passion, for animals. An unexpected win-win for all!

Friendly Neighbors to the Rescue
Linda Neukrug from Walnut Creek, California

There are 400 apartments in my Walnut Creek complex, and even though I’ve lived here for four years, I don’t know many of my neighbors. Now, during the mask-wearing, stay-inside weeks of the pandemic, it would be great to have a socially-distanced chat with a neighbor, but how would I possibly meet any of them? Anyway, at least I had my cat Junior for company. 

Last week, Junior escaped out the open window while I was disinfecting the sill  but I didn’t think too much of it, since he is sometimes gone for an hour or two before he taps the window to be let back in. 

But this time, it had been almost a whole day and Junior hadn’t come back. That never happened, and even though I knew it was ridiculous, I kept worrying he might starve to death. I cooked and sliced a chicken breast—his favorite—and put the dish on the windowsill. Junior would never be able to resist a special treat like that.

But when he returned after more than 25 hours gone, he vaulted over the plate of chicken, ignoring it completely, and went straight to sleep on the rug. That was bizarre. Junior was never not hungry. The next morning the chicken still sat on the plate, untouched. Oh no, was he sick? I was worried, but went about my day, heading down to the mailbox. A note had been slipped inside the box: “I hope it’s okay I fed your cat. I worried that maybe YOU are sick during this pandemic? So I emptied a can of tuna on my patio and he ate the whole thing. If you need anything, just call! Laura, Apt. 232.” 

I was dialing the number scribbled on the bottom of the note to thank her, when there was a knock at my door. I opened it to see a familiar-looking, grey-haired woman, masked and standing the requisite six feet back. “I’m from Apartment 4334,” she said. “Your cat was outside meowing and I thought you might be too sick to feed him, so I chopped up some fish sticks and he wolfed them down. I just came by to see if you need anything.” I thanked her profusely for her kindness and we exchanged numbers.

I picked up Junior and had him “wave” his paw goodbye to her.  How wonderful and unexpected to meet two friendly new neighbors, and all because they were kind enough to think about us. Nevertheless, I’m going to keep Junior on lockdown for the rest of the lockdown. I can’t have him getting fat because of my generous and thoughtful neighbors!

Georgia O’Keeffe the Cat
Kimberly Elkins from Brooklyn, New York

When the Covid-19 crisis started getting bad in New York in mid-March, my roommate Katie decided to stay at her boyfriend’s apartment for the duration of it. With the danger of viral infection from formerly benign objects like doorknobs, she didn’t want to take the subway or even an Uber back and forth between her boyfriend’s place and ours. But there was one problem: Katie has a cat and her boyfriend has a dog and never the twain shall meet.

On the weekends, I was already used to taking care of Georgia O’Keeffe, the beautiful part-Maine Coon named after the artist, but to have her be my sole responsibility for possibly several months? That didn’t sound good, especially when I realized I’d be cleaning the litter box. I liked Georgia fine, but we were more like two ships—one furry, one not—passing in the night than we were close buddies.

But as the lonely days turned into lonely nights, and then lonely weeks, Georgia grew on me. Yes, she can definitely be a little fussbudget when she’s hungry and yes, she does scratch up my precious velvet sofa, but her company has become worth the trouble. She’s only truly happy when she’s in the same room as people, always rolling over to have her belly scratched. She even waits at the door when I come home from one of my ten-minute masked, socially-distanced walks. Georgia O’Keeffe is not my cat, but she is, at least for now, my companion in this time of isolation. An unexpected blessing, even if that blessing sheds.

Hummingbirds Bring Hope
Mary Speck from Richmond, Texas

Last spring, our house in Richmond, Texas, flooded. It was completely ruined and we had to move out, while it was being rebuilt from the studs up. Finally in August, the house was ready and we were all set to move back in. But no—the air conditioners stopped working and the whole system had to be replaced. The front door was warped and wouldn't open. I realized I was reaching my breaking point. I walked out into the backyard, closed my eyes in prayer and told God: I don’t know how much more I can take.

I felt a rush of air around me and opened my eyes to find myself at the center of a swarm of hummingbirds, all blazing color and tiny beating wings. I reached out my hand and a hummingbird landed on my finger. I knew then that God was telling me everything would be all right. We were finally able to move back into our home a few weeks later.

Then in recent months, Covid-19 spread like wildfire across our country and across the world. Our town shut down. Overwhelmed again with worry, I went to the backyard once more to pray. I’m losing myself to fear, I told God. And then there they were: another swarm of hummingbirds, one tiny bird perching on my finger. I couldn’t believe it—and yet I could believe it. Here was God once again letting me know—with a dazzling and unexpected blessing—that everything would be all right.

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