“It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.â€ Mark Twain
When I was growing up my family had a few different pets, but I had only oneÂ that was truly my own, a dog named Snoozy.Â He lived less than a year, and when he died I felt my whole world change.Â This was not just a generic animal to be replaced by another, this was MY dog, a real sweetheart. I remember crying for weeks afterward an night into my pillow.
The place of a pet in a family can be very significant, and some experts say that in an age where people are choosing to have fewer or no children, pets provide an outlet for intimacy within a family not previously known.
I will be ever grateful to a cat named Chip, who was my sonâ€™s companion for several years when he was a young latch key kid.Â Eric loved that cat and would wrap him around his neck like a scarf, the relaxed feline laying there like zen-like for hours.Â Chip made Eric feel less lonely, and gave him someone to care for which was a good lesson in nurturing.
My sister-in-law recently lost a beloved horse that she and her husband had owned for years, and when the horse died she sent out an email obituary.Â That horse had had marked significant years in their lives, and the loss of him was devastating.Â She had trained the horse, taught her city-boy husband how to ride and groom him, and when her husband died a slow death to cancer, it was her horse that remained a steady companion.
There is a lot of disagreement when you talk about animals and what they mean in our lives.Â Some feel that there is a ridiculous tendency toward anthropomorphism that is endemic to our country.Â Iâ€™ll confess, I DO believe that animals have feelings.
How do you account for so many stories of selflessness by animals toward humans?Â There are countless stories of people being out at sea and being aided by dolphins.Â I remember reading a story of an old woman who fell outside on a howling winter night.Â Her two big dogs laid on her all night instead of going into their dog house, their body heat kept her alive till morning.
Remember the little boy in New Jersey who fell into the gorilla enclosure and suffered a fractured skull and other fractures?Â A silverback gorilla named Jambo came to the boyâ€™s aid, protecting him from the other gorillas, stroking the boysâ€™ back gently when he began to cry.Â When the zoo staff came into the enclosure to help the boy, Jambo led the other gorillas away so that he could be carried out to safety.Â These were not the actions of a dumb animal, but they were acts of compassion from an animal that could easily have harmed the boy.
I believe we are connected to our pets in ways that are both complex and intimate.Â Iâ€™ve known both men and women to tear up when discussing the loss of a pet and there is almost a sense of shame attached to this admission of emotion, as if to say â€œHow silly!Â Itâ€™s only an animal!â€
These animals are a part of our daily routine, they accept us unconditionally, and seem to sense when we are upset or ill.Â They add to our lives in ways that is hard to define, but is nonetheless powerful. Â The death of a pet is something that can cause a huge sense of loss and grieving that loss can be a lonely ordeal if others donâ€™t understand.
Is love an emotion only saved for humans?Â Can we love an animal and feel its loss keenly when it dies?Â There are many differing opinions, but I believe that when we invite an animal to be part of our lives, to live with us and be cared for by us, we create a relationship with that being.Â Just like with humans, it depends on the nature of the relationship as to how deeply you grieve the loss, but if you have loved a pet I believe you should be able to say so unabashedly and receive support when they are gone.
R.I.P. my tangled mutt Snoozy, who for a period in my life when I was nine years old, was my confidante, my playmate and my best friend.Â I openly admit that I loved him.