Knowing what we know about owning a pet, why do we own them? We form these intense attachments, give them our all—fall in love even—all the while knowing that they will leave us much sooner than we would like them to. Much sooner. Dogs…we’re lucky if we get 15 years out of them. Cats, a little less. Of course if you own a turtle or a snake you’ll get a bit more mileage out of them, but I’m mainly talking about the snuggly, furry critters we curl up with on the couch and in bed; the cuddly creatures that lick our noses and nuzzle into our warm bodies with all the fervor they can muster.
They give us everything we want out of a companion, how could we not swoon head over heels for them!? For true dog lovers (yes, I’m going to focus on dogs for the rest of the entry), our pets become a part of the family. In turn the dogs love us unconditionally. They’re not edging for an advantage. They don’t have ulterior motives (except maybe a scrap of food from the dinner table). Their love is pure, untarnished, and genuine.
There’s an old joke I like to think about. It goes: lock your significant other and your dog in the trunk of a car, come back in an hour, and see which one is happy to see you. It’s true. The dog would be ecstatic! They’re happy to see you no matter what. You could be gone for a week on a trip to Fiji or just run out to the mailbox. It doesn’t matter. You walk through that front door and the dog’s happiness level is going to be maxed out.
They share in our joys, our failures, our celebrations, our breakups, our new jobs, our firings, our new babies, our mourning, our happiness, the excitement of holidays, and the mediocrity of our stale, humdrum weekdays. They’re not even put off when we’re sick in bed, sniffling and moody with red noses and sweaty palms…instead they snuggle right there with us and keep us company when no one else will.
Even just a simple walk around the block or a car ride to the grocery store elicits their sheer joy and how is that not infectious!? When we’re at our best they’re there to keep us up. More importantly, when we’re at our worst they pull us up. Sometimes a dog is what helps us get us through the most depressing times in our life. Sometimes they’re the only thing.
Another benefit that fellow humans don’t offer us? The silence. We can divulge our darkest secrets, confess our most embarrassing thoughts and they’re kept in the doggy vault. The pressure comes off our chest, absorbed by the dog, and transformed into unfiltered acceptance. What a perfect system! They don’t care whether we act silly, if we can or can’t dance, if we sing off-key or not. Hell they’ll act silly with us!
Then, they’re gone. No amount of love or strength of resolve can fight Father Time. When they leave they take a piece of our heart with them. Why can’t they stay longer? The answer, I know, is basic biology. Their life span is what they’re given and we can’t change that.
But the next question is, knowing that this heartbreak is inevitable, that the loss is sooner in our future than we would like, why do we do it? Our hearts are smashed to pieces by the passing of this four-legged creature, but what do we do?
Shortly thereafter (or maybe even immediately after) we seek to ease the sadness, to fill the void, so we find another four-legged love-bug to give ourselves to. We sign up for the process all over again. Get a new best friend, go through all the ups and downs that come with having the perfect partner in crime, and then experience the same sadness all over again. We open our hearts to these pawed angels only to almost destroy ourselves with their love and their leaving.
Why? Because that bond, that unconditional love (that goes both ways), is worth it. It is sooo worth it. If it wasn’t worth it, if it wasn’t love, well then it wouldn’t hurt so badly, would it?