Recently while browsing on Amazon I came across an interesting book titled A Letter to My Dog: Notes to Our Best Friends. It’s essentially a collection of heartfelt letters that pet owners, including some celebrities, have written to their best canine buddy. The personal letters celebrate the human/canine relationship, speak of the deep love and devotion they have for their pet and reveal raw honest emotions as they discuss a beloved dog that’s gone to the Bridge.
Intrigued, I discovered a website of the same name where people can write their own letter to their dog and post it for others to read. The dog-focused book and website have become so popular with pet owners that a follow-up book is coming soon. Naturally, it’s titled A Letter to My Cat, and there will be a sister website as well.
I loved the concept, so I decided to write my own letter to my “heart cat” Annabelle and share it with you, my dear friends and readers of the CANIDAE RPO blog. It was a lot of fun writing this letter to my darling cat that I love so much. I encourage you to write your own letter to your dog or cat, and share it here if you so desire.
My Dearest Annabelle,
It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly ten years since I first saw your tiny little self in that flea-ridden place, desperately in need of rescue. I swooped you up and out of there immediately. You weren’t more than a month old, and so I became your “mother” to give you the loving care you badly needed.
I intended to find you a family once you were well, and old enough. Looking back, it seems silly I didn’t realize at once that you’d already found your forever home. But I’m so grateful that I kept you, because you are simply the best, most loving friend anyone could ever have.
No one really knows exactly how dogs were domesticated, although there is evidence pointing towards a mutual benefit for both man and canine. “Why” dogs became our best friend has been more elusive. However, research into dog behavior has been giving scientists a better understanding of the reasons.
Scientific understanding of how dogs came to live with humans has led researchers to conclude there were most likely three females, referred to as the “Eves” in the early years of domestication. In 2004, scientists took 85 dog breeds and traced their genetic pattern. They consider 14 of the 85 to be ancient breeds, and seven of the 14 are classified as having the oldest genetic footprint. However, even the ancient breeds can only be traced back to around 2,000 years or so, which is far from the time when dogs were first domesticated.
The seven ancient breeds are from Alaska (the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute), China (the Chow Chow and Shar Pei), Japan (the Shiba Inu and Akita) and Africa (the Basenji). According to researchers, the history of how dogs became various ancient breeds is difficult to determine because of interbreeding and how they were moved to different areas around the world. It’s a complicated history scientists are still trying to unravel.
Most of the dog breeds we know and love today were created during the 1800s. Different dog breeds were interbred to create our modern day breeds and each one was bred to do a specific job for man. Some of those earlier breeds used are now extinct. Interestingly, the Saluki was isolated by geography during the time when breeds were being created in the 19th century, and their genetic makeup appears to be different than other breeds for that reason.
Dog owners know what scientists are just beginning to discover when it comes to why dogs became our best friends. Anyone who has lived with canines already understands how in tune dogs are with us and our emotions. A study I reported on earlier explained how dogs are capable of being empathic, which is something any dog owner who pays attention to their dog already understands. According to researchers, dogs became our best friend because we reward them when they show empathy towards us. They believe their study suggests that we’ve simply conditioned our dogs to respond to us.
While visiting a rescued pup we had placed in a new loving home, his female owner commented that he was a “guy’s dog.” This had me wondering if some dogs really do prefer males or females. After all, it was a variation of comments we hear from pet owners all the time, like “my dog hates men,” “she’s a girl dog, so she bonds better with men,” and other similar phrases. But is there any science to back up our observations?
Man’s Best Friend?
There are few studies on the issue, but it turns out dogs in general may prefer men. Neurotic or anxious men, that is. A study conducted at the University of Vienna, “Relational factors affecting dog social attraction to human partners,” showed that dogs approached male owners more often than female ones.
More so if the male owner was neurotic, as determined by a personality test. But personality may play as big – if not bigger – role than gender, as the dogs also stayed close to neurotic female owners.
The study actually brought up more questions than answers, as more independent behavior from the dog could be an indication of a more secure attachment and not gender preference.
Does Nurture Trump All?
A large number of pet lovers on dog forums believe that dogs simply like best whichever person takes care of them. Therefore, they tend to like the gender that typically feeds them and doles out the CANIDAE dog treats. I’m sure that has a lot to do with it, but since I work from home and am the main caregiver and num num dispenser in my household, I can attest that this isn’t always true.
I have spent a hugely disproportionate amount of time with Cody – even when he was our only pet – and still simply don’t exist when Mike is in the room. Oh, he may make a big deal when I make my first appearance of the day, but after that it’s all about Dad.
As responsible adults, we make all sorts of “arrangements” throughout our lives. We make arrangements for our children, our elderly parents, our finances and our assets. Some people obtain life insurance and designate godparents for their children, to ensure their family is taken care of should the unthinkable happen. Even so, many people do not make arrangements for their pets. Until last year, I was one of them. It wasn’t because I didn’t love my cats. On the contrary – they are “like children” to me in many ways. It also wasn’t because I didn’t take their health and welfare seriously. So why didn’t I ever discuss with anyone what I’d want for my babies if something happened to me?
Good question. I think I was somewhat in denial. It’s not that I believed I would live forever or that nothing could ever happen to me. I understand that life is unpredictable, and you just never know. Still, sometimes I think people – myself included – sweep these thoughts away because we want to believe that all will be well. Usually it is. But what would happen “if.” We don’t really like to think of that, yet we must.
This was brought home to me during a conversation with a friend about how I’d feel if something happened to my heart cat, Annabelle. My friend asked me which situation would be worse – me losing Belle or she losing me. I’d never really thought about it before, but there’s no question that Belle would be deeply affected. She and I have as close a bond as any human/pet possibly can. “Devastated” or “heartbroken” are likely not words cats comprehend, but Belle would certainly be sad.
Straight away, I made arrangements for my three cats, with people I loved and trusted. As a single person, it was imperative that I arrange for my cat’s care should there come a time when I wouldn’t be able to. I could never leave it up to chance. I could never just live my life “hoping” that my cats would be taken in by family and if that wasn’t possible, that they would make sure my cats had wonderful, loving homes with people who cherished them.
If you believe what you read on the internet (sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t) the reference to dog as “man’s best friend” originated in an 1821 poem in The New-York Literary Journal. Regardless of where it came from, the saying has been quoted by countless dog lovers since. Of course, cat lovers say felines are just as worthy of the title. But why designate one or the other as humankind’s “best” friend? Dogs and cats each have their merits. And what about horses…or any other pet for that matter. Given the proven healing power of pets and all the many wonderful things they offer us, I think every animal deserves the title of best friend.
Anyone who’s ever shared a close bond with a pet has undoubtedly witnessed their natural healing abilities firsthand. Be it physical, mental or emotional healing, our pets can greatly improve our lives. There have been many reports in recent years of these remarkable healing pets — among them, dogs who can smell cancer before any medical diagnosis has been made; dogs who can alert their owners to seizures before they happen; horses who help handicapped riders develop balance, strength and confidence.
Cats and dogs are frequently used as “therapy animals” for seniors in nursing homes because they provide love and attention to those who might be feeling lonely, sad or forgotten. I know from experience that Purr Therapy can be very healing. Many prisons have dog training programs, which gives the inmates a sense of purpose and helps them deal with the depression, anxiety and tension caused by incarceration. Some prisons even have “cat care” programs to help the inmates learn to be compassionate towards all living things. It’s clear these prison programs provide a healing experience for the inmates.
The Many Health Benefits of Pets
These natural healers with wagging tails and furry coats enhance our lives in so many ways. The peaceful purring of a cat or the friendly nuzzle from a dog can calm our frazzled nerves. Stroking their soft fur is therapeutic for both body and soul; it can lower blood pressure and reduce stress, while helping us to open our hearts to love. Walking the dog and playing games with our pet provides beneficial exercise for our bodies; it also lifts our spirits and provides a respite from the stress and strain of life.
Pets can improve the quality of our life and positively influence us in so many ways. They inspire optimistic thoughts in those who are disheartened, and gently remind us how important it is to nurture not only ourselves, but others. In his book, The Healing Power of Pets, Dr. Marty Becker writes “Our beloved pets are life vitamins fortifying us against invisible threats: like seat belts cradling against life’s crashes; like alarm systems giving us a sense of security. Taken together, the healing power of pets is powerful medicine indeed.”
I think if I were to write a book about my relationship with cats, that title would be “purrfect.” I have never been a social butterfly or a people person. Although I have family and good friends that I love dearly, and acquaintances whose company I enjoy, these relationships are judiciously chosen. There are only a handful of humans that I trust explicitly and feel deeply connected to. Animals are a different matter altogether. I’ve felt a strong connection to animals since childhood, and as each year passes my feelings of love toward these amazing creatures grows deeper. All of my best friends DO wear fur, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I know there are people who consider that quite sad – hence all the jokes about Crazy Cat Ladies – but it’s not sad to me in the slightest.
We all experience life in different ways, and sometimes we don’t even really know why certain things appeal to us more than others; they just do. I like who I am and who I love, or I would do something to change it. I may live with cats instead of other humans, but I’m never lonely. I don’t have anyone telling me what to do, when to clean or what I should eat, and I like it that way. Um, wait…that’s not exactly true. My cat Rocky often tells me I shouldn’t eat that chicken breast or piece of fish and should give it to him instead. I just laugh, pour him a bowl of FELIDAE kibble and tell him to get over it.
Recently I’ve been thinking a great deal about my pets, about how much they mean to me and how thankful I am that they’re sharing this journey with me. Not a day goes by that I don’t look at my cats and smile, or laugh at their crazy antics. Every day I get to experience the feeling of a heart that is full of love, and I feel blessed to have such wonderful companions. That they happen to wear fur coats is inconsequential, really. Love comes in many forms, and if we have an abundance of it in our life, then we are fortunate indeed.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.