When I was growing up, there were always animals in my house: dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and even a turtle at one point. My childhood consisted of dog kisses and cat naps. In high school, I would be greeted with wagging tails and yipping coming from the four-legged animals I had grown up with. When I moved away for college, I only saw the familiar furry faces once in a while and for short periods of time. I knew this left them confused and I couldn’t help but feel bad about it. When I came home for winter break, it took my dog two weeks to recognize it was me, which hurt a little. As an only child, my childhood would have been boring without them. While my parents took work phone calls, I would be in the backyard playing catch for hours with our dog. It kept me busy and was able to teach me how to take care of others. We create relationships with animals. So much so that it becomes routine to open the door and be attacked with happy pets who waited around all day for us. We often overlook this.
As children we beg our parents for a pet; a dog, cat, maybe even a fish, something we can play with or hang out with. Something that sees us as the center of their world no matter the mistakes we make in our own lives. They could be for therapeutic reasons; the animal’s fur could provide guidance and security to someone with a disability. Or, for the sole purpose of having a family pet — I mean dogs are man’s best friend for a reason. I often think of all of the holiday cards with families and their pets. They always seem to include the pet’s names in the card’s signature because they’re considered family.
As life continues on and we grow older and become busier, we start to overlook the fact that our pets are also getting older. Playtime might become less frequent as nap time for our animals becomes more prominent. It doesn’t mean we start to love them less, we just become busy and our pets aren’t our only friends anymore.
As we graduate and start the new chapters of our lives, our pets are starting their final chapter. They might get sick or start to act differently because of their old age, causing our lives to halt because a family member is unwell. Unfortunately, animals don’t live forever, and eventually, we’ll have to say goodbye.
With life continuously moving at such a fast pace, our childhood companions might pass away without us being around. It can be hard thinking that they weren’t surrounded by the person they also grew up with. When returning home, the house seems different, the wagging tail routine has ended and instead silence greets us as we walk through the front door. No more late-night shenanigans from the cat who wouldn’t move out of the middle of the hallway. Or the constant excuse that our animals won’t move from our laps.
Without these animals, our lives would be boring. An animal teaches us companionship and compassion — valuable skills needed for the real world. While it’s incredibly sad to see them go, we have to remember that we gave them a much better life than they would have had inside an SPCA, and in return, they gave us friendship in times of need.