Pocket Scrapbooking with Project Life

Cultivate a good life and record it.



good life with sarah innerst-peterson

Part of cultivating a good life is taking care of the critters.

At our home we have a lot of companion animals. One of the many lessons I have learned from the experience of caring for all of these furry, feathered, and scaled friends is that when I care for another living thing, my life, in turn, becomes richer. Deeper. More fulfilling.

Hamlet was a Pembroke Welsh Corgi from a rescue agency who stole my heart the very first time I saw him and he became one of my dearest friends. Everyone who knew him knows how close he and I were, but not many people are aware that we were that close from the moment we met. Instead of developing a closeness over time as many people do with their companion animals, Ham and I had an immediate and profound connection that was sustained over time. This connection was a source of great comfort and innumerable life lessons for me.

We met at a corgi rescue facility in Campbell, California. I was looking for a dog, and Debbie, the owner of the facility, had brought out many, many homeless corgis. We had all played and laughed for a long time. For some reason, I asked if there were any others and she said there was one, but I wouldn’t be interested in him because he was untrainable and incorrigible. This, of course, was my Hamlet. 

When they released him from his pen, he raced out the door and stopped, striking a pose that I came to call his “high mountain corgi” look — back straight, feet square, head held high, in profile. He obviously expected to be the focus of great admiration. After he had held that pose for a moment, he charged down the hill, ran a circle around me three times, and did this little dance, all the while grinning ear to ear.

That day Hamlet taught me something about greetings. They can be joyous and big, even between strangers.

Not too long ago and kind of out of the blue, my family became enamored with the idea of raising chickens. I have some experience with this, so I guided my children’s research regarding different breeds and their various abilities and requirements. We decided we would raise a small flock of chickens and we began to plan.

We began by downloading plans for chicken coops, which we then presented to my husband, the architect, who kind of tossed them aside with his look that says, “I think we can do better.” What we ended up with is kind of a (possibly overdesigned) craftsman-style chicken condo that my beloved Erik designed and my children, Stori and Trumann, built with our assistance. We learned to measure and use tools and how to work together as a team. We built a home for our birds and they, in turn, give us delicious eggs and loads of companionship.

And how did we end up with a gecko?

I am not, by nature, a let’s-bring-reptiles-into-the-house-and-keep-them-as-pets kind of person. But my son is like a little Charles Darwin, so of course it was kind of inevitable. At first I said no, but he just kept reading and researching and sneaking little fun facts about reptiles into our conversations. “Did you know,” he’d casually mention over breakfast, “most reptiles lick their own eyeballs? But Leopard Geckos don’t have to. They have eyelids that moisten the eye.” (He was 10 at the time and 10 year olds can sometimes miss the mark when constructing sound arguments for new pets.)

Eventually he wore me down enough for us to take a trip to the local reptile store. “This is only to ask questions,” I stated emphatically, for absolute clarity. And so we met Ray at Amazon Reptiles and I started asking my questions. But poor Ray never got a word out. For every question I asked, Tru SHOUTED out the answer super fast, game show style. For me as a mom, I’ve learned that when my kids bring together passion and enthusiasm in a certain combination, it just hits my yes button. I simply cannot say no. And that is how we brought home Spots, the Leopard Gecko. I have to admit, for a cold-blooded creature, he has a pretty warm little smile, which makes my son smile, which makes me smile.

Sometimes they teach us difficult lessons. On May 6, 2000, Hamlet’s last day with me, I held him and told him how much I loved him. He relaxed in my arms and his eyes seemed to say that yes, it was time to say goodbye. 

That day Hamlet taught me something about goodbyes. They can be gentle and peaceful, even between the dearest of friends.

Nowadays we hang out with 2 corgis (Tally and Arthur), 3 kitties (Josie, DJ, and Evie), 5 chickens (Lucy, Annie, Miss Julia, Aunt Jenny, and Juliet), a conure (Winter), a gecko (Spots), 3 fire-bellied toads (Jumpy, Spaz, and Lionel), and several tanks of fish (I won’t go there).

We take care of them. They take care of us.

We teach them things. They teach us things.

And our lives are better for knowing them.

Sarah Innerst-Peterson is the co-owner of Finders Keepers with Rachel Stelzer. You can find their paper-crafting blog and e-commerce site at Finders Keepers Crafting. She lives in Pomona, California, with her husband Erik, their 2 kids, Stori and Trumann, and a plethora of critters.

Becky Higgins Good Life Pinterest


19 Responses

  1. Suzanne says:

    Beautiful. Companion animals are such an integral part of my and our family’s life. Thank you for your inspiring words today.

  2. Lisa Slevin Pierce says:

    Great post! We’ve certainly learned from ours (and continue now during our hospice period with our 13-yr-old Golden). Love your examples of how our animals enrich us- you have LOADS of enrichment opportunities with your full house!

  3. anne albert says:

    We met Hamlet and Sarah when we moved to Half Moon Bay back in the early ’90’s. To this day, whenever we see a Corgi, he’s instantly named Hamlet! Our pets are our family and Sarah’s heartwarming explanation of how their family grew made me smile and miss her all over again. Thanks for blast from the past! XO

  4. Becky Clark says:

    I love this, Sarah! Absolutely awesome post. You took me back to when we were kids with the chickens, beagles, cats, horses, ducks and more. Thank you for that! Our pets were such a huge part of our lives, and still are.
    You should write a book. Really. I’ll help.

  5. Christy says:

    I’d love to see more photos of your menagerie. Our fids (fur-kids and feathered-kids) include a conure, a red-bellied parrot and two poodle crosses. All of them came to us as re-homes or rescues and what joy they bring to us!

  6. Mandy says:

    What a beautiful post and one that is so dear to my heart. Our little Addie (Jack Russell Terrier) brings so much joy into our lives and home. Your words could not have been more true about how much better our lives are with pets in it!

  7. Whitney says:

    What a great post! Our animals have always been treated like a regular family member. In fact, nearly every school year, my daughter (an only child) will be angry/hurt/frustrated that her teacher or classmates disagree when she says she has a sister (our beloved Papillon that passed away earlier this year) or a brother (our sweet Shichon Poo). Even she says, “Some people just don’t get it, but we do!” She even signed their names on the Father’s Day card she made for my husband. :)

  8. J.Flores says:

    You are so right, Sarah! I never comment on posts, though I enjoy them. I felt compelled to express appreciation for yours, though; I so whole-heartedly agree with your beliefs. Our family has two wiener dogs and they have brought us immeasurable joy! They are the fur babies of the house. Our son loves them like siblings. We cherish the short time we have with them and are grateful for them every day. I believe they make all of us a better version of ourselves. They exemplify the unconditional love, loyalty, and joy of life that the human race should embrace. Our house is more of a home with them in it and I count myself as blessed to share their lives. Thank-you for sharing your lovely thoughts.