I don’t remember a life without pets and I wouldn’t have it any other way. From Santa giving me my first dog (a German Shepard we named Cleo) when I was about five years old to taking in strays and acquiring many other furry friends over the years, our pets have always been members of the family. My younger sister would throw them birthday parties and they’d always have wrapped presents under the Christmas tree. So it was natural for me to adopt two 13-week old black kittens when I got my first apartment after college.
I was living in New Orleans at the time and this adorable brother sister duo had been abandoned at a coast guard base. There were five kittens in total but the others had been adopted and not wanting to split those cuties up I took them both. I was 23 at the time and had no idea how many adventures and life experiences those guys would be there for. Together we lived in seven cities (which involved driving cross country in one case). They saw me through major career changes, were there to “nurse” me back to health after major surgery, consoled me after break ups and were my ultimate “litmus test” when dating someone new. If Chase (the male) didn’t approve, chances are the relationship wouldn’t last, and as it turns out he was pretty spot on!
Sadly, Chase crossed over the Rainbow Bridge at the end of 2018; he was 17.5 years old. It was one of the most difficult things I have experienced, but I am blessed that he was in my life as long as he was. Scout will be 19 in July and not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for having her in my life. I often feel like I’ve needed my pets more than they’ve needed me and have taken note of some of the lessons they’ve taught me.
I mentioned being grateful for having Scout in my life and for having had Chase as long as I did. Pets have taught me to appreciate all that I have. If you think about it, pets are grateful for the most simple things in life. It doesn’t take much to make them happy and I think we can all learn from this. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to “keep up with the Joneses”, but at the end of the day do those things really matter? I think about how excited a dog gets when he sees his leash and knows he’s going on a walk and it puts things into perspective. Pets have taught me that there is something I can be grateful for every day. They are content simply to be in the company of their owners and to me this is a strong reminder of how meaningful and special it is for us to spend time with our loved ones. As we all navigate these uncertain times, this resonates with me more than ever.
Be Present In The Moment
Animals have the extraordinary skill of being able to be in the moment, whatever that moment is. Whether they’re experiencing joy, fear, or anger, they feel that emotion in the moment and then let it go. They don’t anticipate what might happen or hold grudges; they just “are” in the present. As humans, we do tend to worry about the future or fret about the past, even when there is nothing we can do to change either. All we are doing is wasting precious time rather than enjoying the moment we are in and who we are spending it with. My fur babies have taught me to appreciate the now. Every moment is special and I try really hard to remember this and appreciate where I am and who I’m with.
Enjoy The Ride
As we’ve already established, it doesn’t take much to make our pets happy. Dogs seem especially happy to embark on new adventures with a wagging tail, no matter where their journey might be taking them. Picture the dog sticking his head out of the window of a moving car taking in all the smells. They don’t know where they’re going, but they are enjoying the ride! This is a lesson that I learned later in life, but probably one of the biggest. Agonizing over the outcome of something will only lead to frustration, especially if the outcome doesn’t meet your expectations. My pets have taught me that if you only focus on the destination (whatever that destination is), you’ll miss out on all the lessons and experiences along the way.
Take Time To Play
I’ve realized that most of us take life way too seriously, well at least I know I do. One of the many things I appreciate about our four-legged family members is how they can turn pretty much anything into a fun game. Scout (at the tender age of 18) still loves batting at ribbons and strings. I love watching dogs go crazy and act silly when they see a bird or a squirrel. We live in a fast-paced world that never seems to shut off. We’re never far from our cell phones, check social media constantly, and respond to emails at all hours of the day. Being around pets has taught me that it’s okay (and actually healthy) to turn my cell phone off occasionally and to relax and have fun. Playtime isn’t just for pets and kids -- it’s okay to have a dance party when nobody’s watching or to simply just “shut off.” I dare you to try it!
As cliché as this one may sound, it’s probably one of the biggest. The best gift our fur babies give us (and teach us) is unconditional love. They love us without expecting anything in return.
Our pets don’t care if we’re having a bad hair day or if we’re in a grumpy mood. They’re genuinely just happy to be around us. You still get slobbery kisses from your dog even if you’ve just scolded them. While I realize that loving a human unconditionally might be a far cry from this; it’s not an impossible task. I think something important we can all take away from is to learn to genuinely appreciate the people in our lives without expecting anything in return.