Friday, December 12, 2008

Unconditional Love

What is it that separates other animals from humans? Why are we so very different? And why do some humans really believe we are in any way better or smarter than other animals?

Are some people born animal lovers and others are not? I'm not sure what the answer to this question is but I do know that I've been an animal lover my whole life. I also know that I have constantly been reminded of the handful of times I threw temper tantrums growing up. The first major one was over an animal, albeit a stuffed one. I had to have my teddy bear Amanda when I was five years old. I saw her and knew what I wanted. I had to have her. My second animal tantrum was not over a stuffed animal. This animal was a lively Scottish Terrier puppy. She cocked her head and batted her big brown eyes and whined just a little and I knew I could not, would not leave her in that kennel in the pet store. She had to come home with me. With the help of my brothers begging and pleading we took her home and made her our first pet. My parents did not know it at the time but she opened the floodgates to our pet-less household. Over the years between elementary school and high school we brought in another dog (this one a Lab), four cats, a rabbit and a couple hamsters.

Then sadly it was time to go to college and I could not take my friends with me to the dorms. So I visited my pets when I visited home from college. I didn't know it at the time but this was the start of a long phase of my life without pets. I lived in apartments that either did not allow pets or did not have enough space. And as a poor college student I couldn't afford the food and vet bills. Then I graduated and took my first job and still could not afford the food or vet bills. Over the years since I graduated I moved to France and lived in two different boroughs in New York City and have often commuted 45 minutes to an hour one-way to work. My lifestyle has not been compatible with pets and as more and more time has passed without them I have felt a whole; something missing.

Recently I made a career move, leaving my 8-5:00 office job an hour away in pursuit of freelance writing and other creatively fulfilling endeavors. Needless to say my finances are not quite stable so a pet is still not a reasonable option for me just yet. Fortunately my new schedule provides enough freedom and flexibility that I do have time for other people's pets. I am spending the next three days pet-sitting in a house with three cats and four dogs! I've gone from being pet-less to having an abundance of pets, if only for a long weekend. I have been here less than 24 hours and have already been reminded of the incomparable benefits of pets. Sure they shed and drool and slobber on you but they also give themselves in a way most humans are incapable of giving.

Every time I walk in the door they are happy to see me. It doesn't matter what kind of day they were having before I got here; I'm here therefore they are happy and consequently I become happy or happier too.

Human to human interaction can often be complicated by insecurities, doubts, grudges, and judgments. Animals only asses the current situation to make sure it's safe, then jump right in with all four paws. Four dogs who've only just met me run up to greet me, sniff me a bit, determine I am of no threat then begin panting and pawing for their round of attention and petting since they are four and I only have two hands. With the three cats it's a similar story. I greet them separately, then sniff me, look me over, then begin purring and meowing.

Since there are so many animals I am staying over in their home to ensure they are safe and well looked-after. The cats and I shared a room last night and one of them decided to not only share the bed with me but also my pillow. He decided he liked me when he met me and so from that moment on has not held back. I laid down to sleep so he joined me. He wrapped his body around my head purring his way into my brain and my dreams, then got up and shifted and stretched his body along my chest and stomach, purring his way, literally, into my heart.

Love is easy, direct and absolutely unconditional with animals. I am sure that is why so many humans are animal lovers. If only all humans were capable of such unconditional love the world would be a much happier place.

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