“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France
Anyone that has ever owned a pet knows very well that it is a true affair of the heart! At first, it is the overwhelming cuteness of that little furry face that melts your heart. But progressively, it becomes so much more. A pet fills our basic needs as humans, to love and be loved unconditionally. A pet mends our broken hearts, alleviates our feelings of loneliness, and provides companionship and laughter!
Physically pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure, heart rate, and lower risk of heart disease.1 There are many health benefits to owning pets, kids that have pets tend to have stronger immune systems and adults tend to be in better shape when they have a dog to walk.2 Pet’s explicitly trained for therapeutic use help people with all sorts of mental and physical disabilities. According to an Australian study, cat owners have better psychological health than people without pets. These participants felt happy, more confident, less nervous, slept soundly, and had good focus.3
For most of us, it boils down to the fact that their friendliness, whether cat or dog, makes us happy!
“Animals are such agreeable friends ― they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.” ― George Eliot
Cats and dogs have different ways of expressing that they accept, trust, and love us. They may come running to greet you when you get home, rub against, speak to you through purring, meowing, barking, or whining. A dog practically plows you down with affection, while a cat is a bit more subtle. I think a cat head butting you is a fun way that cats express their love. They are marking you with their scent glands to claim you as part of their family group.4 I guess we cannot blame the dog for being overly enthusiastic, a 2017 study found evidence that early dog-like wolves were genetically disposed to be friendly.5
The Loss of a Pet
Losing a pet is heartbreaking for anyone, but it seems to be particularly hard for children and the elderly. To the elderly, a pet, especially a dog, gives them a sense of purpose, they get more exercise taking them out for a walk, and a dog tends to create more social interactions.6
If you have ever lost a pet, it is at that moment and the days that follow that you realize all the small moments of love and joy they had been continuously giving you while you went about your busy life. Their constant support in the background of your life, providing comfort, friendship, and laughter and loving you whether you live in a big house or small apartment, whether you take them for a ride in your shiny new sports car or your beat-up clunker. You are the most fantastic person to your pet just the way you are; you are good enough.
I experienced a traumatic loss of my dog Casey. He was a rescue brought up on a truck from Alabama to New Hampshire. Casey was on the” lucky truck”; the other truck of puppies was going to be euthanized. (733,000 pets were euthanized in the U.S. last year)7 Casey ran with me every morning, went on all my errands with me on my days off, on adventures in the woods with myself or my children dashing around at lightning speed through the trees, and catching frisbees. But one of the things I remember about Casey the most was that when we would come back from our early morning run.
I would sit on the front steps, take my sneakers off, and Casey would put his two front paws on the first step in front of me and stare up into my eyes as if looking deep into my soul with appreciation. I would bask in that feeling of pure connection for a few moments before starting my day. One morning I let Casey out the front door to do his morning business while I got my sneakers on for our morning run. I stepped out the door to put Casey’s leash on and saw that he was not sitting on the steep as he always was, waiting for me. I began calling his name; it was not like him not to be there. I thought, let me start running, maybe he saw something and is on our road. I began running and calling his name with a terrible feeling in the pit in my stomach, hoping to come across him. When I turned the corner onto the next road, I saw a police car pulled on the side of the road and another vehicle with its flashers. It was still a little dark. The sun was not up yet. I tried to run faster, all the while saying to myself, please no… My legs kept getting weak beneath me, giving out from under me. I saw them looking down at the road. As I approached the police officer, who happened to be a friend of mine, he stopped me and grabbed me in his arms as I started sobbing. He said, “Jodi, do not go over there.”
The days that followed were incredibly painful. I was filled with guilt for letting him out before me, and I had seen a fox in the yard a lot recently, he may have chased it away. I was having nightmares that I was holding him in the road injured, and I felt the enormous empty space he had left in our home. I stopped running for a while, and never ran down that same road again when I resumed running. I became aware of all the special relationships he had formed not only with me but also with my children, my children’s friends, and even our cat Leon. We shared stories of how he touched our lives when we spread his ashes in the river where he loved to play. My cat Leon was heartbroken. He walked around the yard howling for his friend, and at night he would wander through the house doing the same, looking for his friend to curl up and sleep with. I knew how Leon felt…
The Latin root word of “animal” is anima or meaning soul.
Cats and Dogs as Friends
Cats and dogs would not typically be friends in the wild. They would see each other as potential prey.8 But for anyone like myself that has had cats and dogs living together, we know they can become the best of friends!
Humans Best Friends
Many people describe their pets as their best friend or family member. More than ever, humans are choosing these furry companions as their partners to live with. Young professionals are marrying later in life, and many have more than one pet. Pets now outnumber children four to one in America.9
The “Sixth Sense” of Our Pets
Pets seem to have a perceptiveness that most humans do not. There is fascinating research by Rupert Sheldrake that shows how animals can predict when their owner is on their way home, even at unusual times and in unfamiliar vehicles.10 https://www.sheldrake.org/research/animal-powers
Pets Know When We are Sick
Pets make us happy, but they watch over us and comfort us when we are ill or injured. They can detect illnesses due to their acute sense of smell and the changes in our chemistry when we are sick. If a person has a bacteria or virus, our pet can smell it sometimes before we even feel any symptoms.11 I experienced this one summer when I came down with an extremely high fever. I was in bed for five days, and my pet that shares my life now, Melitta, would not leave me. I would sleep for hours to wake up and see her still lying on my chest, staring at me.
My sister would come to the bedroom doorway to help me, Melitta would start barking and growling. She did not want anyone to go near me, and she did not want to leave me to go outside or to eat.
A Bio on Melitta
Melitta is a rescue off the streets of Puerto Rico. She was rescued only months before the deadly category five hurricanes in 2017. A group of teenagers from N.H. went on their yearly rescue mission. There was a limited number of pets they could bring back. When they had their quota of animals, they began to drive away when Melitta, who was not much more significant than someone’s hand, came strolling out in front of the van. They could not bear to leave her. I am glad they did not because I had wished for a small dog to be my new
companion, to help bring a smile back to my face! Now Melitta receives plenty of love, and occasionally has modeling gigs for Vibrant
Health! Anything is possible…
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ― Mahatma Gandhi