To some, dogs are animals. To others, dogs mean so much more. The same is true of cats or any animal with whom one shares their life. Immanuel Kant said, “He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” I stand with Kant.
Our dogs are like children to us. We talk to them, they sleep in our bed with us, we take one or two of them with us when we are out and about. Neither of us can sit down to watch the television or work on the computer without at least one or all of them in our laps. Moving from one room to the next we are never alone, even when that room is the bathroom.
Animals, and in our case dogs, provide companionship, emotional support, and give empty-nesters a focus for time and energy previously spent on children. And, maybe that is part of why animals are so important in the lives of people as they age. As parents, our time and energy was devoted to children. Children eventually leave the nest, and the hours we devoted to their care are suddenly empty and without purpose. The transition seems harsh. Pets fill the empty spaces.
When my kids were seniors in high school, I was going through divorce and my kids were spreading their wings at the same time. We had a dog, but illness forced us to make the decision to euthanize. Now what? One of my daughters gave me a cat for Mother’s Day. Sophie became my companion, as my children flew off to college, jobs, and the carefree nights of young adulthood. Sophie filled the empty spaces.
Fate, providence, whatever we want to call it, brought a guy into my life I eventually married who is as crazy about animals, mostly dogs, as I am. He wasn’t a cat lover, but Sophie melted his heart. She is unique among cats. His children were grown and gone as well, and so we started our dog family plus Sophie. Here and there we have had several Betas. Their fish tanks sat on the counter in the kitchen. I greeted them every morning, as they swam to the glass and fluttered their colorful fins. Fish life spans are short, comparatively, and I miss them when they cross over the Rainbow Bridge. We are between fish, at the moment.
As the world becomes increasingly harsh, unpredictable, downright frightening at times, our animals provide a buffer from the harsh world outside our doors. Our animals are the calm to the storms in life. This past year and one half, the pandemic has taken its toll on us all. Our world turned upside down and it doesn’t seem to be righting itself very quickly. Many of us now work remotely from our homes. That in itself was a change and stressor, and pets softened the transition. Every day, when I walk down the hallway and into my home office, four dogs follow. One sits on my desk – the desk puppy – one in the dog stroller, one curls up in a dog bed beneath the desk, and one in my lap. They make sure I get up periodically to take them out and play. Sometimes I take one or two for a brief walk to clear my head, to breathe in some fresh air and sunshine and breathe out negative energies.
I don’t need a lot of contact with people, my appetite for socialization with humans is rather limited. Socializing drains my energy reserves. I am empathic, I feel the energies of others, sometimes, too much so. A little socialization goes a long way. Our dogs, however, renew my strength, and fill the empty spaces…..