When I walk in our front door, my dogs are happy to see me. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been gone for hours or days. I know they’re happy because they wiggle, dance and squirm. Their tales wag excitedly and they push each other out of the way, trying to get closer to me. They are happy to see me because they love me.
It seems obvious to me that dogs feel emotions similar to humans. In reality, however, the existence of emotions in animals has long been a point of scientific dispute. In fact, 17th-century scientists and philosophers such as René Descartes and Nicholas de Malebranche asserted that dogs were nothing more than living machines that can be programmed to do things. They believed that given the proper stimulus and motivation a dog could be easily programmed, but that they feel nothing and know nothing.
Modern science has evolved from that theory, and come to recognize that animals have a similar chemistry, hormones and even brain structure as those that create emotions in humans. Because a dog’s neurology and chemistry are similar to a human being, it’s sensible to assume that our emotional ranges are similar, but that’s not exactly the case. Yes, it’s true that dogs have emotions which are similar to ours, but not the same as a fully-developed adult human. Research indicates that dogs have the emotional ranges and mental abilities comparable to that of a two to two-and-a-half year old human.
Dogs often inspire humans in ways that we don’t think about consciously. We sometimes take what they give us for granted. Sitting back and looking at our interactions with these wonderful animals can make us realize how truly inspirational dogs can be. They can teach us the most basic life lessons in a very pure, unassuming way.
Dogs know how to keep us company. Granted, they can’t talk to us in words the way we do with each other, but they are steady and always there when we need them to be. They ask very little in return and happily stay by our side with no question or judgment. They don’t burden us with emotional baggage or betrayal, and they know how to give of themselves unconditionally. Dogs like being around their humans; it makes them content to simply have you nearby.
Although it may not seem like dogs are patient when they bark for attention, jump around anxiously to go out, or grumble for food, think about how many times they patiently wait for us to play with them, feed them or give them a little attention on our busy days. Dogs are usually much more patient than our human children.
I’ll never forget the day we met. I was living in that noisy place with lots of other dogs, sleeping on concrete. Lots of people came to that place. Most of them would look at me behind those bars and pass right by. Then on that fateful day, one of the workers came and took me out in the yard. He told me, “Petey (that’s what they called me there), we’ve got someone we want you to meet. Come on, big boy.”
And there you were, already out in the yard. You looked so pretty and white and dainty. And you smelled really good. You were fun to play with, too. Friendly, but you didn’t take any guff. You quickly let me know who was boss, and that was okay with me. We got along from the very beginning.
That was the best day ever. Meeting you has changed my life.
I love being your boyfriend. Your house is warm and you let me get up on the soft furniture. The food is good here too. I know you like me to wait until you have finished eating your CANIDAE before I start. It’s clear that you are the boss of me. That’s fine. There is always plenty to eat and drink. You are so good to me.
One of the best things about living with you is those two people who work for you. They feed us and pet us and clip our toenails. They take us for walks and car rides and runs in the woods. We even get to sleep in their bed. No more concrete floors! Thanks for letting me share them. I love you and our life together, Frosty. Thank you for everything.
A Valentine Message from Frosty to Al:
You’re a big, clumsy, stinky mess… but you’re my stinky mess. For many years it was just me, the humans and the cat. I didn’t mind being single, but being your girlfriend is more fun. When our people leave the house, I’m not alone. Well, I wasn’t really alone before but I can’t count the cat. He doesn’t like to play the same way that you and I do. See, that’s the thing: I like having someone to wrestle with and boss around. The cat won’t let me do that.
My favorite time together is when you and I are running free in the woods, racing each other at top speed. The wind blows our ears back while we playfully body slam each other, good-naturedly growling and snarling and yapping. Good times.
One thing I’d like you to work on, however, is your neediness. When the humans are petting me, you always run up and butt in. You push me out of the way and shove your head under their hand. And when I’m sitting on the couch curled up against one of them, you try to wedge in between us. Why must you be so desperate, Al? I find that a bit unattractive.
Otherwise, I appreciate you. When I hurt my leg you took such good care of me. You were attentive and concerned, you wouldn’t leave my side. When I tried to stand up and get around on three legs, you were right there, encouraging me to keep trying. You didn’t want to do anything that I couldn’t do. You didn’t even want to go out in the yard if I wasn’t there. I’m glad my leg is getting better but it certainly showed me how much you love me. You are a good dog, Al, and I’m glad to be your girlfriend.
Recently, a Facebook friend posted a link to an article about cats that really got my goat. It claimed a scientific study had determined that cats hate it when you touch them and only pretend to love humans for the fringe benefits we provide. “While cats may look all fuzzy and adorable on the outside, research shows that they really are the cold, unfeeling monsters the world thinks they are,” the article stated.
It’s not the first time an obviously anti-cat person went on a diatribe about what awful, unloving creatures cats are, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. What I found particularly egregious about this one was the use of “science” to back up the author’s negative feelings about cats.
I told my friend that this was the most ridiculous article I have ever read. It was ridiculous because anyone who loves cats knows that every statement the cat hater made was untrue. We don’t need science to tell us that if we take the time to understand our cats as individuals and find ways to bond with them, that they will – and most certainly do – love us back. My cats Mickey, Rocky and Annabelle are positive proof of that.
If you’re a pet lover like me, you probably think that asking if pets make us happier is a pretty dumb question. You may have even uttered something sarcastic like “well duh.” I thought the same thing, until I happened upon a blog post where there was quite a debate going on about that very question.
“Debate? What’s to debate?” I naturally thought. My cats keep my Happy Meter so full, there’s simply no question their furry presence makes me not only happier, but healthier – body, mind and spirit.
The arguments against pets making us happier spoke of things like the hassle of caring for a pet (personally, I’ve never considered caring for my beloved cats a hassle, but whatever); the stress that can arise when they’re sick or injured; the agitation that occurs when your dog shreds your couch cushion or your cat deposits a hairball on the new carpet. I’ll give them points on the stress and agitation issues. No one likes those things. However, I still believe that all of the positives of having a pet far outweigh any negatives.
In my article, How Do You Keep Your Pet Happy?, my furiend Guido the Italian Kitty made an astute observation when he said “My Meowster self thinks your article should be titled How does your PET keep YOU Happy?” It was obvious that all of the things I do to keep my cats happy also make ME happy. I don’t do things that make my cats happy for the sole purpose of my own happiness, but it’s definitely a fringe benefit. I am reminded of that over-used saying: Happy wife, happy life. My version would be: Happy cats, happy me.
Not long ago, an interesting bit of writing popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. It was a short piece titled Just a Dog – not really a poem but not a “story” either. It was, however, a very moving tribute to man’s best friend. I really wanted to share it with you, but there was no author listed, nor any indication where it came from. I’m no stranger to the copyright law, and I’d never post it here (or anywhere) without permission from the copyright owner.
So, I did a little digging. I found Just a Dog on hundreds of other websites and blogs, and some had even taken artistic license and changed it to Just a Cat. A few had the supposed author’s name – Richard A. Biby – but I couldn’t find the man or where the piece was originally published. It’s definitely worth a read, though, so I would encourage you to Google it. Just not before you finish reading my post. LOL.
The poignant piece brought to mind the times in my own life where people have said things like, “It’s just a cat. How can you spend that kind of money on a cat?” “It’s just a cat, it doesn’t love you like a human child can.” Or the very worst of all, after a beloved cat had died, “It’s just a cat. You can always get another one.”
You’ve probably had similar things said to you about your own dog or cat, because the world is filled with unfortunate people who have never bonded with a pet. They can’t possibly comprehend the depth of your love for “just a dog.” They don’t understand why you would consider “just a cat” to be a beloved family member that you’d do anything to keep safe, healthy and happy. The non-pet crowd often trivializes our relationships with our furry friends, because they don’t get that our pets will never be “just” anything.
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.