Anyone who knows me well understands that I’m a package deal. If you want me, you’ve got to be comfortable with Stella the Wonder Spaniel tagging along. Stella is a quirky half-Springer, half-Brittney who weighs a svelte 39 pounds but is schizophrenically indecisive about whether she’s a toy lapdog or a mammoth hunter. Of late, she’s been even more enthusiastic than her normal self, as Springtime is the season when new smells come up from the earth and herds of rabbits brave the Lakeview lawns. I marvel at her sincere joie de vivre and ultimate excitement, wishing somehow that I could adopt a dog’s mentality after a long, difficult day.
I was reminded of just how dear our pets are today when I read Life Lessons From The Family Dog in the New York Times. As with me, the reporter’s relationship with his pet is more than just an occasional game of fetch. Our pets become companions and confidantes. They are barometers for knowing when to get riled up and when to chill out. They are our emotional thermometers and can respond in kind – snuggling up in the crook behind your knees when you’re curled on the bed crying from heartache; barking (mockingly?) in your face when you’re curled on the couch aching from a hangover.
This week a couple of important developments have happened with people close to me. One of my dearest friends from college was diagnosed with breast cancer. The prognosis is good and cureable. Nevertheless, the news took my breath away. A few days later, a close girlfriend’s mother fell ill and has been hospitalized in intensive care. Again, we seem to have dodged a bullet; has her mom is expected to make a full recovery. Both patients have wonderful friends and families who love them dearly, but they also have four-legged support in a cast of characters that includes Begonia the Pug, Chandler Bing the Terrier, and Pele and Trixie the fraternal twin cats. Somehow I know that it’s safe to say that the positive vibes we are all sending our loved ones can barely compare to the healing powers of a pet who loves you.
For Christmas this year, I gave Stella (and myself) a big present – the gift of a dog walker. Ever since Heidi has started taking “crazypants” out for her thrice-weekly galavants through the neighborhood, I’ve noticed even more spring in Stella’s step, but also a peacefulness about her when we’re home. I feel like I’m repaying her for the wonderful friendship and hilarious past six years. Hopefully, the gift will be an investment with a payback stronger than my sad 401k!
If any of you have pets, go home tonight and give them an extra squeeze. They love to love you back, and they’ll make the aches and pains of even the worst days a little more bearable. (If you think they’re feeling particularly potent, ask them to send some good pet love their way to Brooke in Athens and Maggie in Kansas City!) For those of you who aren’t “pet people,” I get that this may sound like I am the one who should be called “crazypants.” Indulge me, please: I encourage you to stop and pet the puppy the next time you come across a happy dogwalker – if it’s not the Super Spaniel greeting you with a slobbery smile, it will surely be another warm, furry friend willing to give you a few minutes of healing affection.