Quadrupeds are great companions, but they are much more than that. These days they are our “fur babies,” and along with the unconditional love they naturally give, they also have a few things to teach us.
Here are some lessons I have learned from the wonderful animals in my life.
n I am happiest when walking. If I absorb my dog’s high energy when we’re out together, it’s a wonder we ever stop. The joy she feels from the moment we leave the house is beyond anything I feel for any of my everyday activities. She reminds me not to lose the moment, to take in the fact that I am outside, in a beautiful setting, and getting the exercise that we both need. What a wonderful thing!
n Separation anxiety is a choice. My wife and I do a lot together, but sometimes she goes on her own adventures, and when she leaves the house, our little dog howls like a teenager who got dumped at the prom. Sometimes she even cries. She has a bed under my desk, but she’d rather wait by the front window, so she can see mommy come home, and then she does her happy dance. I’d spend every waking minute with my wife, but that isn’t possible or practical. When she’s gone, I do things that aren’t really couple orientated, such as writing. Sitting by the window waiting is not a good use of my time. The dog has other ideas.
n Family cuddles are really the best. Every night, my wife, the dog, the cat, and I go up to bed together. Sometimes the animals lead the way. They like their bedtime, and everyone has their spot, so a group cuddle is not just possible but unavoidable. Those are some of the best moments of our lives. I’m usually the first one out of bed in the morning, and I can feel the joy the three of them get as they (very) slowly rise to greet the day.
n Every room in the house is multipurpose. This includes the master bathroom, which the cat has pretty much taken over. She has her own alcove, which works great for all of us, but when she wants attention, she can be pretty demanding with a captive audience. In the past, when I lived alone, my moments of solitude were spent reading. Now the cat wants to be petted, and she won’t take no for an answer. It’s both fun and funny. If I want a little peace, to relax without kitty in my lap, I’ve learned to give her food just beforehand. It’s the only thing that will distract her.
Our pets have given us more than I can express. Life is just better with our animals in it. I have outlived too many pets, and the loss is always a heartbreak. But I get to love them while they are here and will never forget what they’ve taught me.
Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif.