If you’re not a dog person, then you may roll your eyes when the conversation topic with a few friends turns, inevitably, back to the topic of what cute behavior their dog had recently exhibited. People never seem to tire of the topic, like doting parents talking of their children’s achievements (at finger painting). Until recently, I was firmly in this camp. I had no idea why people raved about their pets (or their dogs, especially). But let me convert you, there’s a whole world out there.
The science of pets
Animals such as horses, sheep cows and (to some extent) pigs were domesticated for very direct survival reasons: They have enormous utility to our genetic ancestors, even to hunter-gatherer societies. How then, did the non-milk-producing, non-meaty, non-fleece-producing cat and dog become so closely entwined with the human species? By hijacking our brains’ natural instinct to care for small, cute, warm creatures. Adult domesticated dogs and cats exhibit many of the same traits as the infant versions of humans, tricking our brain into thinking that they’re a precious genetic relative of ours, in need of care, compassion, physical affection (pats), and most of all, food.
This could be considered to be a sterile and cynical view of the love that you receive from pets, and that it is, underneath, a purely transactional relationship, with us truly being the ones that are fooled, and have the worse side of the deal. That is, until tragedy struck.
Getting a pet, and experiencing unconditional love
When my parents became ill, then gravely ill, and then passed away last year, I was shocked at how struck I was with grief. It took me quite some time to get over the loss and their death. What really helped me to turn the corner was getting a pet. A little dog, to be precise. Now, I’m fully aware that some people will say, "Aww, but dogs are so needy and they get on your nerves and they crap on the floor and ruin the carpet and you have to clean it up and they get fleas and need to be walked and they bark at everything." This is all true. Dogs are needy. Dogs are demanding. Dogs do require a lot of work. But they also give a lot of love. They give you a reason to get up in the morning, they give you someone to come home to, they give you someone to care for and be cared for in return. Also, they don’t judge you. They don’t care if you’re fat or bald or unattractive or don’t have a high-paying job or are a little socially awkward. They don’t care if you’re a little bit boring. They love you all the same.
I had always been a dog person, I just didn’t know it. The unconditional love and acceptance that I received from my dog meant more to me than I ever thought it would. My dog was the one that kept me sane, and kept me company, and kept me from falling into a depression that I’m sure would have lasted a lot longer without my little pup. I was cynical, I was doubtful, I certainly didn’t want to be toilet training a little furry monster. But for some reason, perhaps subconsciously, I knew that I needed that little dog in my life, and so the visit to the animal shelter was made. I looked into the eyes of many dogs, and realised that what they say is true: they really are people in there, under the fur. This is why you need a pet.
Cats are like this too, but they’re a little more independent, and you need to be a little more careful around children, with them. They are independent, aloof, and don’t like to be touched. Dogs are more like babies. They need constant attention and love, and they need to be with you a lot of the time, or else they will start to get anxious and uneasy. But they give back a lot of love, in return. If you’re feeling down, they will make you feel better. If you’re happy, they will share your happiness. I’m not sure that I’d have benefited the same way with a cat, as with my current puppy, but then again, if you had asked me, I would also have doubted whether a dog would have helped me either. Shows how much I know!
Now I understand why people not only constantly talk about their pets, why they not only buy insurance for their pets, but even go to the effort of making sure their pet insurance is the best that it can be, diligently researching pet insurance reviews before purchasing. The reason I got my little dog was to feel the love and closeness that comes from having a family member, two of which I had just tragically lost. Now, I want to protect that family member, and so of course, the insurance is there for my pet too. I couldn’t stand to lose my little pup, and I’d say for the peace of mind, it’s a worthwhile investment many times over.