I believe in the human-animal connection. I believe in wet noses, long whiskers, and longing, intuitive eyes. I believe in pets.
In my 30 years, I’ve scarcely been without a pet. Growing up, my family consisted of a mom and a dad, an older brother, and a lunk-headed golden retriever. Later, we added a brilliant and loyal cow dog. As an adult, I share a home with a mischievous black and white tuxedo cat. Regardless of species or breed or pedigree, pets bring to humans opportunities to learn, soften, and to love and to be loved unconditionally.
Dusty, the golden retriever, taught my brother and me much about living. He taught us responsibility—he had to be fed and watered and run everyday. Not to mention cleaned up after. He successfully taught us the importance of discipline while we feebly attempted basic obedience with him. He taught us how to appreciate a good meal and to be satisfied with a mediocre one. He showed us the sheer joy of running in the rain with tongues lolling out of our mouths. He aptly demonstrated that there’s a time and place for rule-breaking.
The puppy I begged for and finally received as a 16th birthday present showed me what it means to be loyal. Only a black and white freckled mutt would spend the day lying by my side, getting up only to accompany me to the bathroom every hour during a nasty bout of the stomach flu. She also taught me that work can be fun. It can be your passion, though I never did share her love for hauling firewood with my dad and gardening with my mom.
My cat has taught me that a little self-confidence and persistence can help you achieve just about anything, whether it’s successfully hunting a house fly or jumping three times your height to grasp something previous out of reach. Oh, and drinking from the bathroom sink is perfectly acceptable behavior and enormously satisfying and convenient.
But while I value responsibility, loyalty, self-confidence, and pursuing a career that I love—these life lessons taught to me by my pets—it’s, the more subtle, intangible philosophies that have impacted me more. It’s the honest emotional nakedness that my pets have shown me that I want to adopt as a person. To love being just myself and to love those around me for just being themselves has sometimes eluded me, but my pets have practiced it effortlessly everyday of their lives. To look someone in the eye and show only my soul is immensely frightening, but each one of my pets has done it fearlessly.
Perhaps I’ve been fooled by big, brown puppy-dog eyes and the soothing purr of a cat. Perhaps they really are just the stuff of a good greeting card. But I don’t think so. I believe they represent a simple and pure philosophy for living and loving. That’s why I believe in pets.
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