Is your house an “animal house?”  Not the kind filled with hormone invaded teenagers or wild frat boys in college but a home that has a pet attached to you and your family.  In my mind, an animal house is a home that incorporates animals into everyday living.

There are people who have never owned a pet and may wonder what the fascination is with having a dog or cat.  The idea of cleaning a cat box or using a “pooper scooper” is not something they are want to do (not my favorite either.) Pets can also be expensive, frustrating and have the ability to break your heart.  When I was in the single digit period of life my dog ate over 16 pounds of See’s candy on Easter eve and he pulled the Christmas roast off the top of the refrigerator!  My mom grabbed it out of his mouth and washed it off and we ate it for dinner.  She never told our guests.  I learned that even if things didn’t go exactly as planned, life would still be okay.

So, why bother?

Let me share with you…

As a therapist I love pets!  I am a believer in the affection and comfort they offer. I can usually tell which of my clients grew up with pets and those that didn’t. Also, there is a difference in the ability to calm one’s self when you have a pet.  It might be walking the dog or stroking the cat. Their tolerance and ability to handle emotionally charged situations like a grandparent passing or unexpected tragedy is evident.

Animals teach us so many valuable life lessons.  They offer companionship and unconditional love.  We learn about commitment, responsibility and life’s process. They offer true acceptance never judge us for what we say or how we look.  They allow us to share our deepest feelings and remain a “true confidant.”  We can learn to love and be loved differently through these wonderful creatures we call pets.

As I reflect back in my life I have to say that some of my most valuable lessons came from owning a pet.  Responsibility was ingrained as I learned to care for something that depended on me for food and water. I learned about the cycle of life and about procreation from my friend’s cat “Whitey” who had six litters of kittens!  I learned about the food chain between rabbits, my cats, and coyotes.  And compassion when my beloved great dane had to be put to sleep to end his suffering from cancer when I was 14.

‘Tis better to have loved and lost

The most important thing I learned was the connection between love and the inevitability of loss.  Throughout our lifetime we will experience friends moving away, death, and more than likely divorce in some way or another.  What always amazed me growing up was how even though I missed and longed for my animals past there was always enough love in my heart to connect again and again.  Time and connection always allowed for healing.

Animals can be messy and sometimes destructive. But they teach us to hang in there. We clean up the mess and forgive their misbehavior. I had a Labrador retriever who was the eternal puppy. She ate two screen doors, a cupboard, the wallpaper off the bathroom wall, and a wood door. She loved the water and thought nothing of jumping in the pool with the kids and was so quick she caught a bird in mid flight right before our eyes! But we loved her anyway…besides she did let the bird go.

Pets can add to our chaos when we don’t need or want it. But they can also help us learn to deal with the unexpected in life. Managing change and helping us to understand that we might be tired but still capable of handling one more thing like stopping by the pound on the way home from work or putting up lost signs.

Think about it…

If you have a family the idea of taking on one more challenge may seem overwhelming and depending on the circumstances it might be.  But at some point think about what the benefits are to you and/or your children. An animal can positively pre-occupy a child while you fix dinner or finish up work.  They are a source of entertainment and can frighten off a burglar or rat.

And, if you live alone, the companionship of a pet can be immense especially for dog owners. Think about it… not only do you have the relationship with the animal but the added benefit of people who will interact with you because of your dog (always a safe way to start a conversation) whether you are taking a walk or at the dog park.

Orange – Villa Park Animal House

We have an animal house in the truest sense… teenage college student with friends who come over to alleviate their homesickness. We have a 35 lb. cat, a skittish German Shepherd who attempts to hide in the fireplace or cupboard when scared but runs the perimeter to keep guard.  And my favorite Big Jake who perches himself at the highest point in the yard to watch over his kingdom and never misses an opportunity to slime you with slobber! I love it!

This is dedicated to my mom who allowed us to have an animal apartment! 

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