Creature Comforts

I did not have a pet growing up. My mother hates animals, and my father knew how to keep the peace. Not having a pet growing up, I didn’t know what I was missing.

When I met my wife, however, she came with a cat. His name was Shelby. This is him:

Shelby (Profile)

He was a proud, aloof, and very British cat. He liked me, but he loved my wife (he would drool when he picked him up). He was strong and independent, an outdoor cat, and fought like hell to protect his territory. But when it came time for us to leave England for the United States, we had to leave him behind. Although he went to a good friend of ours who we knew would give him a good home, it was still a sad parting. A few years later, he died.

Over here in the U.S., we were renting for quite some time, and couldn’t adopt a new pet until we were able to buy a house. When we did, it wasn’t long before another cat became part of the family: Pia. Here she is:

964E7B38-6513-47D2-8C98-6C49A33B0EA7

She couldn’t be more different from Shelby: intensely social, very vocal, at times psychotic, and with a deep intelligence that covers knowing how to open doors to what her humans want from here at any given moment. And she adores me.

We have a routine. Every morning I pick her up and we cuddle for a few minutes. She doesn’t leave me alone until this happens. Every night when I come home, I lie on the couch and she jumps up on my chest, settling in the crook of my arm, and falls asleep for an hour or two. This happens every day without fail.

There is a point to this, too, beyond sharing essentially my entire social life (yes – two cats). In the decades since I left home, I’ve learned a great deal about myself, and about people. My day job keeps me in the service industry, and I help dozens of people a day. Often, I see people come into my store with animals: most often dogs, although the guy with the parrot is probably my favorite. I know these creatures for what they are: service animals. Some are for blind people, some are in training, but many more are therapy animals, there to help that person cope with something in their life: a great, unknown weight that drags them down and stops them from the simplest of things, like going out in public.

I feel for these people deeply, because I’m one of them. My depression, my bipolar, manifests in drawn-out waves of intensity, and there are times when I can’t get out of bed, either – never mind going out in public or making it to work. I know what it’s like.

And since getting Pia, I know exactly why these people have therapy animals. As much as they are a tool for coping with loss, trauma and mental illness, there are so much more than that: they are a symbol of something so many of us are missing in our lives.

You see, while animals most certainly possess a wide range of emotions, there is a level of self-awareness they lack. As D.H. Lawrence once said:

“A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.”

Animals get their love and care from others, and reciprocate in kind. Their lack of self-awareness translates into a lack of self-pity, which in turn translates to something we so desperately need: unconditional love.

Pia will love me whether I am happy or sad, high or low, ecstatic or depressed. She will love me when I’m there every day, and she’ll love me when I return from a week’s vacation. Pia’s love depends solely on how I treat her, and not on the fickle whims of human self-absorption. And why would I treat her with anything but love in return?

Whether I’m happy or depressed, Pia is a reminder that there are things in the world that are wholly good. That despite what people do to each other and have done to me, there is something – some creature – that loves me anyway.

That gives me worth when I feel worthless. It gives me hope when I’m in despair. And it gives me love when I feel abandoned by everyone around me.

So why am I telling you about my pets? Because I believe everyone in the world can benefit from socializing with the incredible creatures we share our planet with, and for those of us who struggle with our mental health, they might just change our lives.

Or maybe even save them.

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoAnete Lūsiņa

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25 Replies to “Creature Comforts”

  1. Thanks for sharing, I agree that we form such a special bond with pets. I’m looking to get a dog sometime next year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The sooner the better! I will say that cats are naturally independent creatures, and I feel like they look at you like a partner in crime rather than a master and owner. Dogs are more subservient, but probably show you a lot more love and affection, too.

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  2. That’s what I call a cool cat! HA! In all seriousness though, pets are amazing, especially cats! I love them and their independent spirit. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re welcome! Some people think cats are assholes for the very behaviors that, to me, make them endearing. Wouldn’t you want to live with something that considers you as much a pain in the ass as you do it?

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      1. Cats and cucumbers are always funny, though I do feel a little bad – apparently they’re scared ‘cause it looks like a snake.

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      2. Lol that is what i was thinking! I did a piece on YouTuber Smooth McGroove and his music, and he keeps his cat in all of his cool Acapella music videos and he makes the cat dance! It is funny and awesome!!😀

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  3. I feel like pets can teach us what unconditional love is. My dogs tail is always wagging. Every time I open the door, every morning, even if I ducked out for two mins. Her love is present, she doesn’t hold a grudge. She’s wonderful. Pets can be wonderful if you open your heart to them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agreed. The cynic in me would argue that pets only love the people that take care of them, and while perhaps that might be true for certain animals, like snakes, I think that other creatures such as dogs and cats can form a genuine emotional connection with their human.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Some days it feels like that companionship can be the difference between life and death.

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    1. I’m glad. Life only comes one day at a time, and it’s important to have something to look forward to at the end of each one, even if it’s snuggling with something furry.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Furry purry snuggles are awesome. ^_^ Snuggled up in a blanket with kitties is one of my favorite things. Except when they sit all over my knitting/crochet. Haha!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Mine are all very good about letting me trim their claws. 85% of the time they are snuggly, 15% it’s running around the house in hyper-mode, the floor is lava, and the coke fairies are out (aka when they stare at nothing and/or go bananas after something unseen). Thankfully the razors are dull. Or I’d be perforated on the regular when the get playful.

        Yours isn’t keen on nail trimming?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. She’s still young and won’t sit still for long enough. We had to have the vet do it last time.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you found such a companion. Is Bob the dog in your main website photo? He looks adorable!

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