Pawsitively Adorable: Why Our Furry Friends Are More Than Just Pets
Let us take a moment to consider the genuine importance of pets in our lives. It’s not the case everywhere in the world, but where it is the case, it is worth genuinely reflecting on because…. well, we love our pets!
Meet Dexter. No. Not that Dexter (although I did name him after the fictional serial-killer-killing-serial-killer because I enjoyed the TV show and thought the name rolled right off the tongue)! I adopted him back in February 2016 outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. This was about a year and half before the tragic, violent events that transpired there occurred (for which Dexter did not approve; he never really understood animosity amongst humans).
Dexter was a simple cat…a simple, unassuming cat. I never knew what he thought much about the world. What were his politics? His views on society? His deep-seated personal beliefs? Was he pro-Trump or pro-Clinton? What about gun control? Immigration? Education? Covid? What were his opinions on all the “culture wars”? He never relayed those to me (or any other humans, as far as I know). He did have a lot of passions and pursuits, though: sleep, food (especially wet food), window-watching, feathered toys, high-up places, hideaway spots, fragile objects he could knock off counters…those sorts of endeavors. He didn’t mind humans (or he at least tolerated them), but he did enjoy their attention! As for dogs, well, hmm…he never really understood why his human servants ever divided their loyalties between his species and theirs!
Dexter was a white domestic, shorthaired cat with grey spots. He had a protruding, “snaggle-tooth” (one of his nicknames), and an overall exuberant, curious, and affectionate personality. When he wasn’t getting his recommended, minimum amount of sleep (23-23.5 hours a day), he was full of energy…constantly darting, or “scampering,” from one end of the home or apartment to the next (always when his humans were asleep, of course). For that reason, “Scamper” was another one of his monikers. He did also really enjoy his down time…especially with his bipedal servants. And then one August day, his back legs gave out. With the veterinarian’s grim prognosis and recommendation, he was euthanized, and, as all of us are bound to do, he departed this world!
It’s never easy to bid farewell to any beloved companion or loved one (human or pet) …but especially not during the year in which every person on the planet was reminded of their own mortality. 2020- it was the year of the virus! The year of isolation! The year of social unrest, economic collapse, and postmodern chaos! But it was also the year of adaptation; the year of medical heroism; the year of bike riding, bread baking, long walks, and newborn babies; the year in which everyone realized just how precious many of our usual happenings- movies, grocery shopping, happy hours, gym classes, weddings, and travels- really were! Grief isn’t always about losing those with a pulse. Sometimes the loss of a previous way of life can hit people just as hard.
It’s been a little over 3 years since the whole thing began! It was a nightmarish, collectively traumatic period most of us would prefer to forget. But should we…not just for cautionary reasons but for the sake of some any potential “silver lining(s)”? This is a hard, age-old, existential question…whether or not “silver linings” that emerge from periods of great sorrow and chaos “justify” those periods of great sorrow and chaos (personally or collectively). I don’t know. My safest guess is that I suppose that all depends on the person and their experiences. But one thing does seem certain- periods like those paint the redemptive elements of life that may have previously remained hidden in a clearer light…in other words, the stuff we “took for granted.”
In the end of his book, 12 Rules for Life, Dr. Jordan Peterson advises people to “pet a cat when [they] encounter one on the street.” We love our cats and our dogs (and whatever other pets we may own). We love them because they’re cute and cuddly, they make for great companions, and they act in timeless (and humorously) predictable ways. But we also love them for the same reason we love babies and small children: their simple, uncomplicated, primitively present nature holds our tragically complex nature in check! Dogs and cats of course have shorter lifespans than we do, and that really hits us hard! Their presence to us is like one who makes a sudden cameo, reminds us not to give way to hopelessness and despair, and then exits the stage. Hopefully, we can appreciate their brief performances!