Editorial: The truth about cats and dogs

Published: 8/30/2018 8:41:10 AM

To be human is to be physically and emotionally vulnerable. The fastest and fittest will one day slow down and grow weak, and those brave enough to love fully will mourn fully.

Bodies break, losses mount. To be human is to learn what it means to be undermined.

In fact, life is filled with so much unavoidable pain that it’s hard to imagine why anyone would invite tragedy into their lives when they have a choice in the matter. But they do this all the time, in every nation and culture – whether rich or poor, male or female, old or young, black or white. They take in a pet, give it a name, and allow it to occupy areas of the heart typically reserved for the most important people in their lives. They love the creature in spite of, if not because of, its animalism and ask little in return. The pet asks for even less.

The relationship is so simple, so free of confusion and calculation, that the bond forms fast and strong. Few things in life worth having are so easily acquired and maintained, so when the end arrives, as it must, the blow seems disproportionate somehow and unreasonable in its intensity.

It was just a pet, wasn’t it? An accessory to finish off a family the way a painting finishes off a room? The arrangement wasn’t always perfect, but it was largely void of emotional pain. It was easy, until it wasn’t.

For children and young adults, the death of a pet is often their first experience carrying around the kind of grief that thumps. And while adults may have more familiarity with loss, that doesn’t make it thump any less. So why, then, when pain is so much a part of life’s standard package, do people bring pets into their lives knowing full well what is waiting at the end?

We don’t know the answer to that question, or at least not in a way that is easily put into words. We just know, as do most pet owners, that we would do it all over again, and will.

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