MOMMY CHRONICLES: Pets = unconditional love
By Stacy Turner
We had our fair share of pets growing up that ranged from your typical dogs and cats to an assortment of birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, and fish. When one hamster died a few days before Easter, my older sister had us believing he’d be raised from the dead, something she’d learned at Catholic grade school. Sadly, no miracle took place that Easter –– my sister was certain it was because she wasn’t allowed to bring him to church. In addition to rodents of unknown theology, we always had at least one dog ready to play, go for a walk, or add to the overall chaos of family life. From a Saint Bernard to a French bulldog, a Scottish deerhound and several Yorkshire terriers, my growing up years included a United Nations of dogs. We also had outdoor cats that, for many years, weren’t allowed in the house.
Dad wasn’t a fan of felines. He explained that while he and his 10 siblings always wanted a dog, Grandma never allowed it. And with 11 kids, I can see her point. Dad explained that his mom always had a cat, since they could catch mice and fend for themselves. My dad and his ornery brothers tormented those poor cats, mostly because they weren’t dogs. He told us from extensive experience that cats really do land on their feet, no matter how far they fall (or get dropped out a window).
Ironically, dad became a cat lover later in life when a quiet little kitty ‘followed us home’ and decided she belonged to him. The tough guy pretended to be irritated by her preference of him, but he wasn’t fooling anyone, especially his new cat. Pets have an uncanny ability to love us in spite of our sometimes prickly exterior. Pets can see the best in us, even if we don’t let it out much. And just like magic, when we open our hearts to our pets, these dogs and cats make us better humans.
Recently, my husband, a lifelong dog lover, joined the pro-cat bandwagon. Since our 100-pound diva dog, Tinker, prefers sunbathing on the porch, man’s best friend is a scrappy 15-pound ginger cat. This dog-cat comes when called and follows my husband around the yard to ‘help’ him. As an added bonus, man’s new best friend also hunts rodents and pests, protecting our house and garden.
Our girly dog prefers being the center of attention –– so much so that she’s willing to sit still and let the girls make her beautiful. She’s let them paint her nails, add multicolor ‘beauty marks’ to her face, and streak her coat with glitter to make her look “so pretty.” As long as the girls are showering her with attention, she’s willing to be their model, unless an actual shower or bath is involved. She cinched her role as favorite pet, however, when she burped and passed gas quite loudly and at the exact same time. In that moment, they declared her to be “the best pet ever.” Admittedly the bar may be a little low at my house, but no matter the species, pets become cherished members of our families, and our lives become richer for it.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), having a pet can provide many health benefits. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. Pets can even help manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship. It’s no wonder that a recent study by the American Pet Products Association reported that 11.38 million U.S. households have gotten a new pet during the pandemic.
We’re also part of that number, having adopted two kittens during the pandemic. In the few months we’ve had them, they’ve added countless hours of joy with their playful antics and unconditional love. They follow our big ginger cat around like he’s the best thing ever, and like hanging out with the rest of us, too. And while they’re not exactly fans of our dog yet, with her hearty bark, pokey nose, and ginormous paws, they’re getting used to their big canine sister, too. We’re just one big family, whether on two legs or four. And we know that no matter what goes on in the outside world, that unconditional love from pets will help get us through it.