The Worthiness of a Pet
I believe it essential that all children have a pet. I would prefer that they have a cat, a horse, or a dog, but I realize that animals such as these are not always possible because of size and space and allergies. These three, my favorites, have filled my life with goodness and wonder. They have also taught me about kindness, loyalty, and loss. My emotions become tied to my pets and as they sense this, they become linked to me. My husband says that this is because I feed them, but I think that our bond is deeper than that.
I’ve had several cats over the years, each one with a different personality and a different relationship with me. There have been purry kitties and those who love to rub. There have been independent ones who love to snub. Long hair, short hair, black, white or gray, each cat has been a friend at least most of the time. Sometimes they claw furniture and at other times they have clawed me, but when I am sick or sad every one of them became a beloved protector, attentive to me. Cats like to follow and then they like to take the lead. They are probably the happiest when they can supply a prize, usually a poor mouse breathing its last breath. One time I even received a velvety bat. What a surprise!
Living on a farm I also have had horses. Horses, although big and potentially dangerous, most often have wonderful hearts. They listen to every word, adhere to most commands, and they love to nuzzle as I pet their ears and noses. My horses don’t mind a slow walk just as they willingly saunter and trot. Galloping probably provides the greatest joy as I hop and pop on top as they leap ditches and sagebrush. We both arrive winded from our romp.
Horses have lovely and loving eyes and ears. They hear each word with unblinking loyalty and often nod in agreement. My horses, unlike some people, have never said I was odd or ugly or dumb. They just whinny reassuringly and emit the most marvelous earthy odor making every day delightfully scented. They love their regular feed and they really love a sugar cube or apple. They sniff it out the minute I enter the pen. If I have forgotten, a sad neigh results as a gentle reminder of my forgetfulness. Unlike cats that can be left quite contentedly with water and food as I set off on a week’s journey, horses are tougher. They are too big for the overhead bin and they do not know how to eat some today and save some for tomorrow. A caring friend is a must when leaving a horse. Above all, my horses miss me when I am gone and while happy at my return, they may be a little saucy on our first ride.
And then there are dogs. Dogs come in every size and shape imaginable and their colors reign throughout the rainbow. Some bark, some whine, some jump, but a well-trained dog is a magnificent partner. They greet me each morning and they are the last to say goodnight. They let me travel although I must hire a caregiver, and they love to travel as well. Dogs love cars and trucks; they are content with planes and trains. They just like to go, in fact they prefer it to being left at home. If they must be left, they do not hold a grudge for long after I get back. They may slink around for a day or two with a frown and drooping shoulders, but soon all is forgiven and we are frolicking together yet again.
Each of these three pets, cats, horses, and dogs have filled my life with joy. They have also taught me about loss. Just a few days ago my aging border collie drew her last breath. She had been slipping away for days, quietly and with no fuss, but I could read the end in her tired eyes and sad face as she prepared to set off on a different journey. The morning dawned and Telli did not greet me at the back door. I headed toward her doghouse, but she was not there. I strolled the grass and then found her under the willow tree. She lifted her head but could not stand and so I gently petted her nose and spoke kind words as she stole away, quiet and sweet to the last. My husband dug her little grave and we carefully lowered her in, eyes filling with tears. That day Telli taught me about loss and grieving.
Pets are wonderful. No, I should reword that: good pets are wonderful. When well behaved they are loyal, attentive, and kind. They teach us about love and loss. They abide our foibles with stoicism and patience, and they care about us regardless of what we say or do. Pets make marvelous friends.
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