Mental Health & Well-BeingPerspectivesPets

Animal Love

posted by Charlemagne March 16, 2016 0 comments
dolphin

 

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakended”
~ Anatole France

I have a lot of respect for vets, for zoo keepers, for anyone really that works with animals. I love animals don’t get me wrong but from listening to vet students at uni talk about shoving their arms up cows’ backsides and nearly getting kicked in the shins by horses to cats scratching and dogs biting and that’s just the domestic animals, (lions, tigers and bears anyone? Oh my!) I knew from that moment I wouldn’t be cut out for working with animals! It takes a pretty cool person with a lot of passion, patience and protective gear to do that kind of work! Hats off to you! But I love animals, learning about them and I love having pets in my life.

I consider myself an animal lover. I grew up with dogs, rabbits, tropical fish, birds and a tortoise. With 3 siblings, two parents and my grandma living with us, I guess we were our own petting zoo! It certainly was entertaining and I have many funny stories to share. I’m going to be honest though, I don’t like bugs, insects, rodents, reptiles or slimy weird looking creatures. I won’t hurt them, more like run a mile in the other direction, but I’m pretty superficial and like animals that look pretty, or are fluffy, love cuddles and generally return love and affection. I love that interaction. That human–animal bond and relationship.

Also cute, fluffy and cuddly animals usually don’t bite, sting, poison or try to eat me alive which kind of helps with the whole bonding thing! Ha-ha!

Bottom line: I’m selfish and crave uncomplicated, endless love and affection.

I love visiting zoos and learning about animals and love seeing them in their natural habitats too. I care about animal rights and their welfare and it makes me sad, mad and cry when I see animals being abused or ill treated. In fact my blood just boils! When I was at school from 12 – 17 years old, all I wanted was to be an oceanographer and study dolphins, whales and marine life. I love the ocean, beaches and am a coastal girl born and raised. I had everything mapped out and even wrote to universities in England and America at 14 years old inquiring about the field of study and subjects I would need to take exams in. I had two A4 ring binders bursting full of information and letters, references and tips on entering that career field. I had planned to go to Southampton University and then head off to Florida thereafter. I was a member of the WDCS for a decade. I’m into being environmentally friendly and thinking about our planet for the future. Basically, listen to Leonardo DiCaprio on climate change and his concerns for the future and that’s my view too. Unfortunately, my science teacher had to go on research leave and we had a drama teacher take over our class as a stand in for the final year. She did her best but didn’t know how to explain science and we had to teach ourselves from our text books. My grades fell from A to C and it messed up my chances of a marine biology career. It broke my heart. I guess maybe it wasn’t mean to be. Things happen for a reason.

Anyways,

having grown up with animals, there has never been a moment where I haven’t had a pet in my life apart from when I was at uni and when I moved to Germany. And honestly, even though I had a lot going on, a lot of stress, bad relationships, busy social life and a lot of work to do, I missed having a pet. I missed my dogs probably more than my family ha-ha. (Sorry guys!) Having a dog to come home to, who greets you at the door wagging their tail, barking and jumping on you–there is nothing quite like that absolute heartwarming feeling you get when you feel their unconditional love exploding on you. How they look at you with nothing but happiness, contentment and understanding and they never judge you. How they always miss you and can’t wait to see you again. They just make your heart swell up with so much love and all those gooey feelings. Those are things you cannot put a price tag on.

I’ve been blessed and had pretty amazing relationships with my pets. We have had a lot of fun and I have many fond memories from my childhood that involve our furry friends. Even in my older years, during the uni summer holidays, I’d spend time with them, take the dogs jogging along the beach back in the UK and we’d play chase or fetch.

Which was often me throwing sticks or stones, the dogs running after them and then playing with them rather than bringing them back ha-ha! Yeah, still working on that!

But to me, a pet is part of the family and not just a ‘thing’. Some people, cultures and countries differ in their views and perspectives on how important animals are and the roles they play but to me, animals are up there and are pretty awesome. I mean look at the Chinese zodiac for instance – it’s all based on animals. And animals play a prominent role in literature, mythology, history and culture. I think people who have never had a pet or experienced that bond fail to understand how animals can influence and affect lives.

It is widely known that animals can help improve mental health. They can help soldiers suffering with PTSD, they can help children suffering with illnesses or other conditions and generally they help people of all ages and from all backgrounds to battle loneliness and a whole list of ailments. Some say cats have intuition and know when someone is sick with cancer and some say dogs can tell when a woman is pregnant and can even communicate or bond with the fetus. Maybe it’s all conjecture but there is definitely proof that you can have special bonds with animals and they can help you feel better.

Unlike human to human love, their love is uncomplicated and unconditional. You can talk to them, de-stress and offload and they won’t say anything back. They can listen to you as you confide in them and they don’t judge you. You can just love them wholeheartedly without fear of rejection or them cheating on you. You can just feel and feel free to be yourself around them. You never have to ask them to love you. You never have to ask for their attention. They give it to you constantly, day after day, all the time and in the right doses.

Pets can help when you’re feeling lonely and can force you to interact with people to socialize like vets and talking to people at the pet shop when buying food. You can often strike up conversation about pets with strangers or meet new people in parks whilst walking your dogs and you can share funny stories. Pets have their own unique characters and do the funniest of things too so often they bring laughter and amusement and create those feel good hormones lifting our moods.

They help give us routine in our daily lives and teach us responsibility. We have to look after them and it gives us focus and reminds us we need to look after ourselves in order to care for them well. They often remind us to take breaks from work and force “playtime” on us! This is definitely something I value. I work hard and often work through meals. If my furry friends didn’t need walking, want feeding or crave social interaction then I probably wouldn’t be able to prise myself off my laptop. They teach me the work-life balance motto: that ‘all work, no play’ isn’t fun nor the way to live. They teach me to take time out and give myself boundaries.

Pets help you to get outside, get fresh air or to move and play. They can distract you from stresses and problems but also remind you to live in the present and appreciate the time you are spending together. They also teach you to love and not be selfish, to put someone else’s needs before yours and to focus on something other than yourself.

But you should only ever get a pet if you can commit. It is a two way relationship and you need to provide and care for them and be there. It is no good if you are gone all the time and only want a pet when it suits you. It isn’t fair and although pets like having another pet around for company, social interaction with you is very important. If you don’t play with them they will get bored and then you’ll get anti-social behavior and problems! They are just like children; you have a responsibility to care for them but also to love them and invest time in building a relationship with them. You shouldn’t be selfish but think of their needs before your own. There are way too many animals at the shelters needing re-homing and there are many that do not have the love they deserve. As our old car window sticker said, “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas”. That goes for any pet. They are not a novelty that will go out of season when the trend changes but they are with you for their entire lives. It is a lifelong commitment that should be carefully considered.

And pets are not really children’s responsibilities. This is a pet peeve of mine! (Pun intended) Often parents will buy their children pets and while this can be amazing and an incredible addition to the family, I have seen too often how this ends up being a disaster. Parents do not train their pets. They do not teach their children how to handle animals and sometimes this results in children and/or pets getting hurt or injured. Many a time I have witnessed how pets are neglected when children’s needs are put first and they become an afterthought. Usually it doesn’t work out and the pets are taken to the shelter. Children do not understand responsibility. They do not know how to take care of themselves let alone a pet so why would anyone give them a pet to look after? It is, in my opinion, the overall responsibility of the parents to teach, coach and train both furry friend and child/children to interact with each other and to demonstrate boundaries, love and care to ensure the safety and well-being of all concerned. It is never the pets’ fault but the humans’ who fail to take the time to invest in the relationship and to teach, guide and train.

That is why until now, I haven’t had a pet of my own. Our pets belonged to my parents. Our house was always busy with people coming and going and there was always someone there for them but at uni I was too preoccupied with other things. When I moved to Germany I felt lonely. Really lonely and I struggled to find work for quite a few years. I felt trapped, isolated and at times went through periods of feeling depressed and fed up. A stuck at home reluctant housewife that wanted independence and success in her career. My husband suggested getting a dog but I knew this would be a tie and when I eventually found work, it wouldn’t be fair. Dogs are also expensive and in Germany you have to pay dog tax too. With vets bills etc. it just wasn’t an option. I do want a dog though later in life when I have children. I love huskies, Cavalier Spaniels and Beagles best but when the time comes I will go to the shelter and adopt whichever dog steals my heart. Timing has to be right and I need to be more at home. But my sister in law had a pet house bunny and my husband really wanted one too to make me feel better and so after a bit of research we took the plunge and we got not one, but two bunnies. They sleep in the day and are active mornings and evenings and I’m part time and work from home the rest of the time. It took a while to juggle schedules and get a routine going but we are doing great!

And despite all the practical constraints of owning a pet; cost, trips to the vet, feeding them, cleaning the cage out, training and disciplining them, they are my best friends and it’s been really fun to learn more about them and see their personalities really shine. They have given me more routine, focus and purpose and taught me patience, positivity, humility, kindness and how to set boundaries between work and free time. It’s been worth all the ups and downs and all the worries and they continue to enrich my life and bring me light, love and happiness. They constantly make me laugh and I absolutely love and adore them! They are my furry babies! It has definitely given me insights for what it could be like with children later on and taught my husband and I to communicate and find out where we stand, our views and ideas on topics like discipline, work-life balance, training, ‘family’ time and sharing duties and responsibilities. But all in all, it has filled my life with much needed love and laughter and their devoted loyalty, companionship and affection just makes everything so much rosier.

 

As a final word, I would recommend getting a pet to anyone but you have to make sure it will work for you; the pet is the right one for your lifestyle and you can commit. Please research well and be honest and if you do decide to get a pet, please please consider going to the shelters first to adopt because so many animals need good homes and a lot of TLC. Of course, sometimes situations present themselves and we have to say goodbye to our furry friends and part ways and it was unforeseen. It’s incredibly sad for both owner and pet but sometimes this can be avoided if people look further ahead into the future and take everything into consideration beforehand. If you are not sure then maybe try volunteering at animal shelters or working with charities first. 🙂 Thank you!

 

Here are a few of my favourite links to animal charities in case you wanted to donate or read up on them and feel free to share your favourite animal charities in the comments section below:

http://www.rspca.org.uk/home

http://uk.whales.org

http://www.australiananimalrescue.org.au/main.html

https://www.dogstrust.org.uk

love charlemagne

 

 

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