Human/Animal Bond

Why Do I keep You? Let me Count the Ways

Admit it - sometimes even you wonder why you have pets

April 13, 2015 (published)

Admit it. You’ve wondered. Perhaps your toes have squished into a still body-temp warm hairball in the wee hours of the morning. Or tonight’s dinner is now (sans wrapper, of course) in the belly of your once-favorite beast instead of roasting away at 325F degrees for 45 minutes. Maybe you chose to live in a location where snowfall lasts more than an entire fiscal quarter and you’re about to take your canine companion with projectile diarrhea out for the seventh time in four hours.

It goes without saying that no matter whether we consider ourselves a pet parent, owner, guardian, or BFF, there are times (few or many, depending) when we have all asked ourselves or the universe at large: Why do I continue to have a non-human animal reside with me?

Answers to this question are multiple and varied, of course. But consider this short list to remember why the next time you come home and find the stuffing from the loveseat (yes, the one that you custom ordered and paid for with your tax refund) lying on the foyer floor.

  1. They provide 24/7 confidential mental health counseling. In this age of HIPPA, it is guaranteed that whatever you tell your dog or cat or rabbit or guinea pig (but maybe not your African Grey parrot) will not go anywhere else. Mum’s the word from your companion animal. Your boss is a Neanderthal jerk who you know got the corner office by doing unnatural things with his supervisor? Just say it. Boyfriend or girlfriend a serious mistake that your Mother warned you about? Let it out and don’t hold back. Consider that your Persian cat or Golden retriever practices non-judgmental, empathic psychotherapy, with unconditional positive regard and hourly access, as necessary, at very reasonable rates. As my friend’s coffee mug states: I don’t need a therapist. I have a cat.

  2. They love us in spite of what we do. Your Yorkie saw that you turned the blender on high before replacing the lid and still, despite hearing a string of profanities and watching you scrape a chunky detox smoothie off the ceiling in your ratty bathrobe, thinks you are THE best. The cat knows that your idea of “cleaning up the apartment” before company comes consists of stuffing the entire week’s worth of newspapers and mail into the microwave and spritzing “Clean Laundry” eau de toilette in the air, but still would argue that you have many redeemable qualities. Your dog knows that you have all but run out of his $75 for 10-pounds bag of dog food and are now mixing it with the grocery store, high-corn product that features funky shapes, but that’s okay. He thinks you’re neat. No worries.

  3. They laugh with us, not at us. They have seen us pathetically wiggle into Spanx, and looked on as we missed a step and took a pratfall worthy of Jerry Lewis. But instead of whipping out their video cameras and posting the shaming on Facebook, they just look at us with an accepting grin or straight face. They know that we can’t be perfect 24/7, that things happen that we can’t control and that’s okay.

  4. Their character detection is second to none. The guy in IT promised that his best friend would be perfect for you. But after a first date of watching him eat with his mouth open and him volunteering his World of Warcraft level, you still have your doubts. Need further validation of your intuition in a hurry? Bring him home and let your cat perform the “sniff test game.” Start with a score of zero and your date gets one point each if kitty jumps into his lap, rubs her face on your date’s cheek and/or does figure eights around his legs. Two points if she puts her booty in his face. Subtract one point if kitty hisses or poofs her tail and arches her back. Subtract three points if she runs out of the room, screaming. Tally your points and prepare the appropriate speech to give to your co-worker on Monday.

  5. They bring us into the here and now. We’re still thinking about how mean Judy Gilberts was to us in the sixth grade or we’re dreading wearing the mint green bridesmaid’s dress at our cousin’s wedding 18 months from now. Neither matters to our companion animals and they feel sorry (probably) that those things matter to us. They are totally and completely mindful and in the moment. Each walk is a new adventure, even if it’s only around the block for the 2,190th time. The catnip-filled toy mouse that’s missing an eye and its tail? Indescribably pleasurable. If we actually learned from the four-footed and winged creatures in our home, we’d never be bored and would realize that even bad things (like the trip to you-know-where) don’t last forever.

  6. They show us that death is not to be feared. Who knew that our dogs, cats, small mammals, birds and reptiles were on par with Jedi Master Yoda in this regard? For those of us who said “ta-ta” to our simian cousins about five million years ago, death is still The Big Magilla and the thought that we might not exist one day is the stuff of existential crises. The same cannot be said for our animal companions. Why? They relish every day, take each moment as it comes and likely never give so much as a single thought to the fact that one day it’s all going to end. There’s too much living to do in the forms of new smells to be enjoyed, cat food to be dissed and squirrels to be chased to worry.

Also, there’s that unattended toilet paper roll that is just begging to be shredded.


April 13, 2017

Your article lifted my heavy heart today. Thanks.

Richard Spiva
February 3, 2017

Love Love Love it.

Louise Selah 
May 22, 2015

Just had one of my fur baby Yorkies diagnosed with Cushings.........this article made me smile & I really needed to have something to smile about.......thank you for this article :)

April 13, 2015

This made me smile.


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