Lessons my pets have taught me | Pets

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Quadrupeds are great companions, but they are so much more than that. These days they are our “fur babies,” and besides the unconditional love they naturally give, they also have a few things to teach us.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from the wonderful animals of my life.

I am happiest when I walk. If I internalize my dog’s high energy when we’re out together, it’s amazing that we never stop. The joy you feel from the moment we leave the house goes beyond anything I feel in any of my daily activities. She reminds me not to waste the moment, to grasp the fact that I’m outside, in a beautiful place, and doing the exercise we both need. What a wonderful thing!

n separation anxiety is an option. My wife and I do a lot together, but sometimes she goes on her own adventures, and when she leaves the house our little dog howls like a teenager dumped at the prom. She even cries sometimes. She has a bed under my desk, but she prefers to wait by the front window, so she can see her mother come home, and then do her happy dance. I’d spend every waking minute with my wife, but that’s just not possible or practical. When I’m gone, I do things that aren’t really couple-oriented, like writing. Sitting by the window waiting is not a good use of my time. The dog has other ideas.

The cuddling of the family is really the best. Every night, my wife and I, and the dog and the cat, we go to bed together. Sometimes animals lead the way. They love their bedtime, and everyone has their place, so a group cuddle is not only possible, but inevitable. These are some of the best moments of our lives. I’m usually the first to get out of bed in the morning, and I can sense the exhilaration of the three of them as they (very) slowly get up to welcome the day.

n Every room in the house is multi-purpose. This includes the master bathroom, which was largely dominated by the cat. It has its own niche, which works great for all of us, but when you want attention, it can be very demanding with a captive audience. In the past, when I lived alone, I spent my solitude moments reading. The cat now wants to be petted and will not accept no. It is fun and funny. If I want a little peace, to relax without my kitty on my lap, I have learned to give her her food beforehand. It’s the only thing that will distract her.

Our pets have given us more than I can express. Life is better with our animals in it. She has outlived too many pets, and loss is always grief. But I love them while they are here and I will never forget what they taught me.

Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, California.

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