They do not judge you. They do not care if you're fat, skinny, short, tall, black, white, Asian, beautiful, deformed, gay, straight, Republican or Democrat. They ask very little of you. Pretty much all they want is for you to love them and take care of them with food, water and shelter. In return, they'll be there for you, and appreciative to have you in their lives.
I am referring, of course, to our pets.
Many of us have owned pets over the years, usually a dog or a cat, although sometimes folks go for something more exotic. Regardless, they typically enrich our lives without measure. At times, we wonder what we'd do without them. Every now and again, we take them for granted. But not often. When I think about where I'd be without some of the pets I've had during my life, I realize it might be a scary place, indeed.
While my parents got a dog (Buffy) when I was little, she was always more attached to my mom, and didn't have much to do with my dad and I. The first pet that I ever chose was Punky. She was a calico cat that I procured from a cousin who lived in the country, and I clearly remember the warm summer day in 1988 when I watched her and the rest of the litter bound across the grass, playful and full of kitten energy. I pointed to the-one-who-would-become-Punky and said, "I want her!" And she came home with us.
My parents separated and divorced that summer, and it was a trying time. Punky was instrumental in getting my through it, as she was so many phases of my life. I remember her, still a growing kitten, curled-up asleep as we would go to bed. Later, when we were both older, she would sleep on the pillow next to mine, her head turned toward me, and I would talk about my day with her. By this point, I was an adult living alone, and there really wasn't anyone else to listen. I know that she didn't understand what I was saying, but it didn't matter. What mattered was that she was there.
After Ashley & I moved into our first house together, we got Allie (pictured above). A tuxedo cat of immense personality, she was one of the most special pets I've ever had. Allie was a talker. Never quite sure what she was on about, we'd nevertheless talk back to her, asking her what was up. She also loved to move toys around in the middle of the night. We'd wake up in the mornings and find a pile of cat toys on the floor next to the bed. During the day she'd bring them back downstairs, and repeat the cycle the next night. Allie also liked to play with the next cat we got, Gemma (a Torti with some 'tude), and her signature move with Gemma was to body slam her, which sometimes shook the floor.
Our current menagerie contains Gemma (now 9 years old), Festus, Cupcake, and our first dog together, Zena. Cupcake is a sweet little creature. She rarely ever talks, but can be very affectionate. She likes to sleep in my clothes basket, and she also enjoys following me into the bathroom, wherein she wants lots of attention. Festus is a good-natured black cat that has a loud meow and a bit of a rascal-nature to him. Festus never met a stranger, and is still attempting to play with Zena, our 12-year-old recently adopted beagle, but Zena is having none of it.
I'm not sure how the whole pet thing started (or became as popular as it is today), but I don't question it. These little creatures love us, and we love them. They look forward to seeing us when we come home every day, and especially to being fed. They provide companionship to the young and old, social and lonely among us, and the only real downfall is that their lifespans are comparatively short. But then I remember the words of a former co-worker: "I think the reason that our animals don't live so long is because it allows us to know more of them."
How right she was.