I have to include my animals in my list of "thoughts". All my life, I've been drawn to the emotional bonds that people can develop with animals. My family always had cats and dogs, and I soon became the family "veterinarian". I was the one that doctored the injured birds we found, and gave medications to the cats and dogs. I eventually became a veterinary technician, in fact, and worked in that capacity for a number of years.
I have had close relationships with a number of animals throughout the years. These relationships are built on trust, love, and honesty. Animals - especially dogs - are incredible. They take what we offer, and give back to us much more than we give to them. They accept our times of anger and confusion, and still love us. I think that, in terms of unconditional love, a dog gives that better than any human can. Even when we treat them badly, they come back to us and wag their tails.
People only get out of a relationship what they are willing to put in, and it works that way with animals too. Those who see animals as just another possession will never really understand what I'm talking about here. To know what you can truly receive in love and companionship from an animal, you have to be willing to open your heart and mind. The bond is amazing - animals are generally not spiteful, hateful or vindictive. They offer honest emotions, and if returned with kindness and understanding, those emotions create an incredible trusting relationship.
I'm a dog trainer. I've had dogs on TV .. dogs that have been nationally ranked in the top ten of their breed in obedience (one as #1 for two years) .. my dogs have performed in an act at fairs, schools, variety shows across the state .. I've traveled with my dogs on road trips of up to 10,000 miles long ... given seminars with them by my side .. they have been a very big part of my life for the past 16 years or so. But even with all the accomplishments I've listed, the biggest thing I get from my dogs is the warm loving emotional companionship they offer. I'm never alone, with these furkids by my side.
It's been long established that pet therapy is a valuable tool when working with mentally handicapped or ill people. There are a number of reasons for this. Animals offer "uncluttered" emotions. They don't require commitment or emotional understanding. They're warm, loving, and bring back thoughts of safer, younger, healthier times.
I have started taking my dogs to the local nursing home. In ways it's very difficult - the condition of some of the people there brings back recent memories of my Dad's illness - but the rewards are good too. Kylee (my oldest Chow) is the first one I've taken in. While some of the residents did not react to her presence, others could not get enough of her. One elderly lady reached down and buried her hand in Kylee's fur .. and I wasn't quite sure how I was going to get her to let go. Kylee just stood there, very patient and accepting. I chatted with the lady for some time about dogs she'd known in her lifetime .. and eventually she let go and we moved on to the next person. It was a very good visit.
It's spring of 2005 and I'm just have six animals now - five dogs and one old cat (Raven is 19 now). I can't imagine ever living without sharing my life with these critters. Having animals in my life is part of who I am, and I feel that I am more emotionally stable due to their influences.
In some ways, I pity those who don't understand this.