Monday, November 4, 2013

Here Are Five Good Reasons Why Everyone Needs a Pet

I am one of those annoying “animal people.”  You know, the ones who get all upset when a news story comes on involving a dog suffering, but can sit there and eat a brownie while watching a story about a grisly murder. 

But there are valid reasons for this emotional response to animals.  And the most obvious one is this: animals are, by and large, just plain better than people.  Period.

Seriously, when was the last time you heard about a cat walking into a school, a post office, a…litter box (?)...and shooting a bunch of other cats?  When was the last time you heard a dog use a racial epithet?  Ever seen a hamster bully another hamster?  I think you get my drift.

I’ve had pets pretty much my whole life.  I can’t really imagine ever not having at least one. 

I always tell Mike I knew he was the one for me when Dominique, my elderly, cranky cat, didn’t hiss at him when he came over.  Mike had always been a dog person, but when Dominique passed away a few years later, he cried just like I did. 

He even let me grieve for a few weeks before bringing up the subject of getting a dog – which I was dead set against.  Right up until the moment we brought Brady home.  (This was in 1993, so, no, he wasn’t named after Tom.)  Brady was an 8-week-old Golden Retriever puppy.  And Brady transformed me into a dog lover.  We had already gotten another cat, a 12-week-old Maine Coon named Wendy, who was so smart, we felt like we were her inferiors in every way (and she wholeheartedly agreed).  The two became instant friends and partners in crime.  They even developed a tag team approach to their mischief.  One day I came home from work to find all of the magnets off of the fridge, and several chewed beyond recognition.  It became clear later on that Wendy had gotten up on top of the fridge, swatted the magnets off, and Brady had taken over from there.  Teamwork.

Sadly, we lost both of them early on, within eight months of each other, each to a different form of cancer.  I still miss them, and I still miss Dominique.

And now, we have Gigi, an extremely sweet 14-year-old rescue cat with more issues than Newsweek (she’s been in kidney failure for about a year and a half now, and I administer subcutaneous fluids several times a week; she also has Inflammatory Bowel Disease, high blood pressure, a missing front tooth, and more neuroses than I can even attempt to catalogue here) and Suzie.  Suzie is an 11½-year-old Golden Retriever rescue.  We adopted her ( - a fantastic organization) at 10 months of age, following surgery to repair two luxated patella (meaning, her kneecaps were messed up at birth).  She is an absolutely awesome dog, and it makes me sick just to think of the two families that gave up on her before we were lucky enough to get her.  She is very smart, very pushy, and very charming.  When we moved from a house to a condo a few years ago, I was worried about how she would adapt.  How she adapted was that, within 48 hours, she acted as though she’d always taken an elevator, and within 72 hours, she was the most popular dog in the building (alas, another Golden moved in last year, so she has to share that honor now, and she does so selflessly).  Gigi amazed me even more.  At the house, she had spent most of her time in the “formal” living room, happily distancing herself from all of us.  Now, she walks around the condo as if she owns it.  She loves sitting by the full-length windows, looking out at the Boston skyline.

Both of these wonderful creatures remind me every day that I am merely human.

Princess Suzie
Princess Gigi

(My husband, who writes a great blog, wrote about Suzie last year.  You can find it here: )

There are so many reasons we humans need our beloved pets that it’s hard to limit it to only five.  But I didn’t name this blog “Untold Reasons Why…” now, did I?  So here goes.

1.  There Are Actual Health Benefits to Owning a Pet

Ever heard of any supposed health benefits to being around another human?  Well, other than the theory that married people statistically live longer than unmarried people, that is.  (Though I’ve heard more than one person suggest that it only FEELS as though they’re living longer…)

In researching this subject, I’ve seen studies that indicate that Alzheimer patients suffer from less anxiety when there is an animal in the room with them.  It’s generally accepted now that so-called “therapy dogs” who visit nursing homes have a favorable effect on the residents.  AIDS patients have been found to be less likely to suffer from depression if they have a pet.  Heart attack patients with pets tend to survive longer than those without them.  These things are hard to argue with. (

Ever heard of a fellow human causing you less anxiety?  Hell, no.  It’s usually the other way around!

2.  Pets Are Chick Magnets (Especially Dogs)

For God’s sake, there’s even a Facebook page dedicated to the subject!

Be honest, ladies.  You’re walking through the park, and two different guys are coming from the opposite direction, both equally attractive.  One of them is walking along by himself, maybe listening to music on his headset, or reading emails on his iPhone.  The other is walking a big, goofy Golden Doodle on a leash.  Which one are you going to strike up a conversation with?  I rest my case.

3.  You’re Never Lonely

My husband travels for business.  He’s not gone every month, but he’s away several times a year.  If I didn’t have my two girls to keep me company, I’m not sure how I’d cope.  But I do, and it makes all the difference in the world.  Sure, I have to get up at 4:30 when he’s away, so I can walk Suzie to the park before I leave for work.  But when I walk in the front door at night, and Suzie’s there, so excited to see me you’d think I had a side of beef in my bag, I forget about that 4:30 walk pretty quickly. 

When I was single, Dominique and I spent many a Saturday evening on the couch together, sharing some Hagen Daz and commiserating about my lackluster love life.

And trust me when I tell you, when you’re feeling down and just need a good cry, there’s nothing like dog licks to wash away those tears.  (This is where the dog vs. cat argument can get tricky.  A cat is more likely to be, like, “Oh Jesus, she’s crying AGAIN?  I think I’ll vomit all over her new shoes.  That’ll give her something to cry about.”)

4.  You Will Exercise More, Whether You Like It or Not

Dogs can’t walk themselves, not even the smart ones.  Plus, there are leash laws.  Sure, after a long day at work, all you really want to do is cuddle up on the couch with a bag of chips and the remote.  But you can’t, not if you have a dog who needs to go out.  So you take out the leash, grab your keys and some doggie bags, and the two of you head out.  And you know what?  By the time you get back, you actually feel more relaxed, and less stressed, than you would if you had just sat and scarfed down that bag of chips.  Trust me, I wouldn’t lie to you.  Especially about potato chips.

(Cats, ferrets, and other small non-canine pets require care, too.  No, you don’t have to walk them.  But you do have to clean their litter boxes.  And that requires a fair amount of bending and stretching.)

5.  You Will Laugh More, Whether You Like It or Not

Animals are funny.  There’s no getting around it.  And unless you have absolutely no sense of humor whatsoever (and if that’s the case, boy have you wandered onto the wrong blog), they make you laugh, sometimes hysterically, sometimes just gently chuckling. 

You’ve all seen the billion or so videos on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.  The cats swinging from drapes, the dogs endlessly chasing their tails.  Hell, I think I’ve watched that video of the dog asking about the maple bacon at least five hundred times.  And I still laugh my head off every single time. 

There are untold numbers of “dog shaming” photos around now, where the poor dog wears a confessional sign around his neck.  “I pooped on my mom’s new dress,” or “I woke up the entire neighborhood at 3:00 AM because a car went by the house.”  They all make me laugh.  And apparently I am not alone, since there is now an entire website ( devoted to these photos.  

Oh, dear...

I think the task of coming up with five reasons NOT to have pets would have to be way more challenging than this one.  The one reason I hear most often is that it hurts too much when you lose them.  And, yeah, it does hurt.  It definitely does.  I’ve been through it enough times to know. 

But the love and joy they provide throughout their lives more than makes up for the pain of saying goodbye.  That old saying is true.  “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Plus, there are few things better than the feeling you get knowing you've given a dog or cat a really wonderful life, after others had given up on them.

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