Saralee Perel

Award-winning columnist, Saralee Perel, can be reached at 

Her novel, Raw Nerves, is now available as a paperback and an e-book on

Why I Married Bob

It seems as if God made a plan: The only creatures that will share their lives with Bob will be very needy ones. This includes four cats, two dogs, one pet duck, one mouse and Grandpa.

Grandpa, our plain old catfish, is a perfect example of why I've been married to Bob for 30 years. We had a blight in our 29-gallon aquarium a decade ago. All the fish died except Grandpa. Bob cried as he took the other members of his brood outside and buried them.

Grandpa is high maintenance. His water needs constant changing and daily testing for impurities and lots of other care.

Since I, too, have been high maintenance for several years, I've wanted to lighten Bob's load. "Sweets," I said, "I can find a good home for Grandpa."

"He already has a home."

Grant, our 19-year-old pet duck, needs a lot of help. In winter, Bob keeps her warm with a heat lamp inside her coop. When the electricity goes out, the lamp won't work, so Grant spends her day in our bathtub. She's very arthritic. Every day, Bob grinds calcium and aspirin into her food and stays outside to make sure she eats it.

"Sweets, I can find a good home for Grant."

"She already has a home."

This season, mice come into our house for warmth. With a Havahart mouse trap that captures them alive, Bob gets a mouse a day. Each morning I hear, "Time to take the mouse out back." I haven't suggested that it's probably the same mouse, who's unquestionably getting an enormous kick out of all this. I bet that after Bob frees him, that mouse does a quick spin and comes right back in, laughing.

Our old cat, Josie, had a prognosis of two years, maximum, to live with treatment. On frigid winter days, Bob made the two-hour drives to a specialist at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. It's been more than three years since her dire prognosis, and she's outlived all expectations and is happily jumping around like a kitten.

When Bob took her to Dr. Tom Burns, our superb local vet, he was so joyous upon seeing her — with all her fur gown back and her nutty personality so fully reblossomed, he rushed out of the exam room with Josie in his arms, needing to show her off to everyone. Even the vet at Tufts was shocked, "That cat's still alive?"

I believe Josie's well-being is not just from treatment, but equally from Bob's love.

And then ... there's me.

Five years ago, I became disabled, leaving Bob as my full-time caregiver and keeper of the house.

Each morning, when he wakes me, he is smiling throughout the routine. After putting slippers on my cold feet, he makes the room cheerful by opening the blinds, sticking a cat in my arms, calling one of the dogs to jump on the bed and putting coffee on my computer table. He helps me (and whichever cat) into my chair. Oh, and of course I get long, loving sloppy kisses — from the dog, and then from Bob.

And so, all of Bob's needy creatures, great and small, live in heaven on earth. But in reality, Bob thinks he's the one who has it better. No matter the time or place, or how busy he is, or how far from home he may be, he feels blessed to come rescue one of us — even if my "Please come home" call for rescue is just to have him hold a very frightened, trembling hand ... or paw.

I think God made a good plan.