When I was a kid, when my mom got frustrated with all of us, she used to say, “If I could, I would trade you all in for dogs.”
I still chuckle when I think of her saying this for a couple of reasons. One, I truly believe she would have, and two, being an adult now, I understand those days.
In all seriousness, however, our pets have this amazing ability that most humans do not tap into: empathy and the ability to love unconditionally. When we walk in the door from work or wherever we’ve been throughout the day, we are greeted with wagging tails, puppy kisses, and excitement.
Our cats meow, wiggle their little tails, and follow us all around. When we are sad or lonely, there is endless amounts of cuddles and, oftentimes, right on our chests where we feel the weight of their bodies and heartbeat with ours. The purring of my cat against my chest is one of the best feelings in life and often helps me decompress after a rough day.
CDC.Gov published an article on Healthy Pets, Healthy People and reported people see decreased blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, feelings of loneliness, and depression by giving us companionship and stress. They also saw increased opportunities for exercise, outdoor activities, and socialization. I, for one, will say owning my pets certainly has brought me some of these benefits.
My first dog was my first true love. He was a chocolate lab named Charlie aka Chuck. Although he belonged to my boyfriend (now my husband), he was my baby. We instantly bonded. He knew when I was happy, sad, sick, or lonely—I knew the same about him.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, Grace, I had placenta previa, so there were lots of urgent trips into the doctor or ER for bleeding. On the days where we’d make that trip, I began to notice that Charlie would be quite protective of me. If Pete tried to give me a hug, he would interject and not let him get close to me, or he would lay by my side, follow me everywhere, and not leave (not even for a moment).
It was crazy that he could sense we were in for that hospital trip. We lost Charlie several years ago, and I remember that day like it was yesterday. Losing him was my first real interaction with a higher level of grief. I had lost my best friend. It was crazy to me that this naughty, little dog who would get into my garbage, drag me down hills to chase a bunny or squirrel had brought me to my knees with this much sadness.
I had never taken the opportunity to pause and realize just how much he meant to me and how much I loved him. Of course, I subliminally knew it, but I haven’t ever slowed down enough to truly soak it all in or to tell him. I hope he knew that in the final day we spent together.
I encourage anyone who is a pet owner, when you log off work and get home, slow down and soak it in. Feel all that amazing kitty, puppy, bunny, horse (whatever your pet of choice is) love, stop, and thank them for being one of your best friends. They need to hear it as much as we do.
Celebrate them as much as they celebrate us.