Not everyone loves pets. They can be a pain to feed, clean up after, train (if even possible), and keep safe and healthy. Did I mention the expense of feeding and keeping them healthy? Pets range from dogs and cats to birds, lizards, snakes, hamsters, fish and exotic beasts.
Sizes can vary as well, with each pet family offering up a wide array of choices. Pet snakes might be a two-foot garter snake or an eight-foot boa constrictor. A dog might be a chihuahua or a great dane. Factor in life style, and the difficulties can expand exponentially.
Losing a long-time pet companion, a member of the family, can be excruciating and can take years to recover from, if at all. Unfortunately, like many pet owners, this has happened to me several times during my life.
So, why have a pet? The simple answer is that they bring us joy. Though I'm partial to mammals and birds -- animals that have thinking brains -- I know of people with iguanas, turtles, frogs or even angelfish who believe that their pet companions love them.
Like many boys, I had a menagerie of animals as pets growing up. I even raised white lab rats. I've had a full spectrum of tropical fish, amphibians, reptiles, parakeets, rabbits, cats and dogs. I'm allergic to cats, so they aren't my choice, but in my mind they don't compare to dogs anyway. (Note to cat people: I'm not dissing cats. The tendencies and affections dogs show are just more my style.) I've never owned a horse, but my son and daughter-in-law have two.
Ask almost any dog owner what is the one thing that their dogs do that makes them happy and they'll say the same thing- giving them unconditional love. If you doubt this, just say goodbye and leave the house, then return in two minutes to retrieve your keys and they will act like you've been gone all day. Come home from a terrible day at the office and they can show so much excitement to see you that your troubles can melt away.
We had the pleasure of visiting my daughter and her partner in Seattle last summer and I was a little worried before arriving. I knew they had parakeets and a cockatiel that they let fly free in their house. I needn't have been concerned. They loved us.
Many of my friends and followers chimed in for this topic. Here are some of the great comments I received (I've edited or paraphrased some):
Lisa’s Fabulous Adventure- My fur kids are with me all the way. When I chill they chill. They watch after all the details of my RV life. No one walks by or they'll sound the alarm, and when it is playtime they are ready with a toy in tow. I have a sheltie named Dash (8 years old) and her companion dog named Mercury (age 6). Also, a quick story: my mom got a cockatiel for her birthday one May and my step-dad said it had to go! So, that June she gave it to me for my birthday. Well, not knowing anything about birds, I decided to give it to my Daughter for her birthday the following January. We affectionately refer to it as the birthday bird. It takes special people to take on a pet that has the potential to outlive them.
Patty H. B.- Our two girls (dogs) are from a shelter. They have very different personalities, but they fit right in to our family. They ARE family. They give comfort when I'm sick or sad. I had open heart surgery earlier this year to replace a valve. They were so gentle with me.
Sharon M.- I've had so many wonderful "once-in-a-lifetime" dogs, each one an individual and each one different. No matter how difficult my day has been, when I walk in the door, my dogs think that is the best thing that has happened to them all day. They never lie to you. They always let you know you are the most important thing in their lives. They will never abandon you for someone that is prettier, or has more money, or a fancier car.
Lisa E.- They don't judge. They just are and they are deeply tuned into me. If I am sad they get silly and I know it's to make me laugh. If I am sick they won't leave my side. They are gentle and yet protective. They take up a huge space in my home, my life and my heart. They are my fur babies!
Kathy S.- Dogs provide unconditional love and companionship. Plus, they don't care if you've been sick and in the same pajamas for three days. They'll still snuggle! Dogs truly have the ability to provide emotional comfort.
Jennifer H.- I have three dogs and they are all my favorite. They all have their own personalities -- Lucy always cuddles with me in the morning when I’m drinking my coffee, Buster cuddles with me when I get home from work and Brooklyn cuddles with me when it’s bed time. They all sleep in the bed with us and have their spots. Lucy is on the pillow above our heads, Buster at our feet and Brooklyn, the biggest one, squeezes right between us. We love them like children.
Tina and Eugene K.- My dog makes sure my blood sugar is where it needs to be, day or night. I have no clue that my blood sugar is dropping when I sleep. Charlie is my 3rd service dog. She warns me if it goes to high or too low.
Cheryl (CKU)- I have a 7-year-old sheltie named Lacey who assists me by hearing things that I can’t hear. Love her to the moon and back!
Tink & Chuck- What makes me happy about my cat is not only does he give me unconditional love, he has taken on the role of nurse maid to take care of me. When ever I'm not feeling well, he will spend the day snuggled up on my lap. If I'm having a migraine, he crawls up on my pillow and lays close to my head and begins to purr. He reminds when it's meal time and bed time. When our animals pick us and bond with us, they some how connect with us on a level that we can't even comprehend. My cat knows when I am going to have a seizure before I have one. Another reason to be happy is that deeper connection that our pets form with us when they choose us and make that bond. It may not be something that we can fully reciprocate, but it's a big part of what makes us think of them as our children or members of our family.
Nadyne H.- All animals considered, I will always prefer a dog. That said, at age 13 my mother helped me buy a pet squirrel monkey. I'd always loved monkeys and she happened to see one for sale in the newspaper in Tucson AZ. I adored my little guy, Andy, and spent several years with him as my constant companion when not in school. Summers were great, he got up, had his bath in the bathroom sink, then went out to the backyard to play all day. He never ran off and stayed in the yard. He would try to make occasional dashes into the back door for a treat from the sugar bowl or fruit basket, but overall he played out back and rode our pet dog around all day. Winters he was diapered after his bath and then tethered to dad's prize elk antlers in the dining room. He played all day on his "monkey bars" and had to have regular diaper changes. That was VERY embarrassing for me when friends were over.... I cut disposable diapers into triangles, punched a hole in the correct spot for his tail, and zigzagged around the outer edges on the sewing machine. I'd whip up a few dozen at one time and they'd last awhile. Eventually he went on to live with a member of the local Simian Society in Tucson and even won an award and appeared in the newspaper! I sure loved my little Andy and owning a monkey was truly a once in a lifetime experience!
Kevin/Yvonne & 4 Doxies- They keep my wife happy, and that is a good thing. Actually, one big reason we full-time in an RV is that we wanted to travel and their companionship was a necessity.
Steve/Aileen P.- Our Sasha girl was the best doggie ever. She loved to go with us in the RV and loved to go on walks with us. Appreciate your fur babies!! We still look for her and for her cute ways she begged for human food.
BLSMSS- Our husky was actually my husband's before we met and married. She chose me to be her primary owner. When we had our log cabin, we would sit on the porch and she would come up and sit next to be and rub so I would pet her. She was funny, drink my coffee if I left it on the porch floor, play ball and make tunnels in the snow. She would protect me from a certain person, growling only at one particular person.
Dave and Susie- My pups seem to know when my PTSD is in a bad place. Of course, they see the effects of it but it's not until I lay down that they really go to work. Though they've never been trained, they snuggle up around my legs very tightly. Normally, they're the snuggly type, but when I'm extremely upset, they almost seal me inside my blankets. It doesn't feel confining, nor does it feel claustrophobic. I don't know if anyone has benefited by weighted blankets but it feels very comfortable. They're so much more than life-buds -- they've saved my life more times than I can count.
Lindsay (The Picturesque One)- My cats make great company for me because I don’t want to be tied down to them and they don’t care if I’m there or not. Except night when they want to watch TV in my lap and share my bed.
Trish and John- I have a Jack Russell called Poppy, age nearly 13. I love the way she welcomes us back to the RV, not with barking but with love and attention. She knows when we have showered and dressed and then asks for her morning walk. Everything about her is gentle.
Debbie in AL- My cat makes me happy when he understands what I'm telling him. He'll want to go out and go to the door, I say no and he walks away from the door. Gonna be different in a trailer!
WeBRollin- Pets have a way of enriching our lives like nothing else can. I have a sign in my motorhome that says, "Home is Where Someone Runs to Greet You," and I think that says it all. After I lost my husband three years ago, our border collie, Biscuit, became my constant companion and she loves to travel with me. She will watch out the windshield and when a vehicle meets us she will look to the side and try to grab it -- that herding instinct.
As a cute finishing thought, I'll turn to Novelist Anne Tyler. "Ever consider what pets must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul - chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we're the greatest hunters on earth!"
Thanks, everyone, for your contributions! Another topic will be posted shortly.
Jack Huber is a writer, blogger, poet and photographer. Like many, he is concerned about the psyche of our planet's inhabitants and wants to try to improve his little corner of it.