I used to judge "those" people. You know the kind of people I"m talking about. Those pet owners who lovingly kissing their pooch on the lips, or speak to them in baby talk as if they actually comprehend human language, or worst of all, dress them up in cute little sweaters that always makes the pets look like they hate life. When I saw these people, I would instinctively shoot a "Jim from the Office" stare at someone nearby, or at least pretend there was a camera there to capture my incredulousness.
But then, about 10 years ago, my ex and I adopted 2 Shih-Tzu's from the pound, who were rescued from Hurricane Katrina, and I became one of those people. Okay, perhaps not the sweaters, or kissing on the lips, but I became a dog/pet lover.
All pet owners should be able to empathize with this statement: No matter what words we use, there is simply no way to describe how much our pets mean to us.
To us pet owners, they aren't "pets", they are family.
My beloved pet/family member, Maxine, recently passed away at the age of 15, and I am heartbroken about it.
The funny thing is, when we first adopted her, I was ADAMANTLY against it.
Not only was I allergic to dogs, I simply didn't want more pets around the house to clean and take care of (taking care of myself was hard enough).
But when they came home from the shelter, they were so small, scrawny and timid, they looked like they had to have been abused at some point. They would often disappear under the sofas to hide from us. It became evident that they had been through so much trauma, the mere sight of humans seemed to scare them. It hurt me to know that anyone could treat an animal this precious, so hatefully.
Because my ex and her roommate had to work so much, I was often the only one available to take them out on walks, and feed them. Max was a little bigger than her sister Tellie, and had a voracious appetite. She would not only clean her bowl, but would often casually nudge her sister aside to finish off her dish as well. A tactic that I often employed as a young child myself in a family of 4.
Being the one that the dogs instantly bonded to, I felt a shared connection. My life started to change. I stopped going out so much. I spent more time walking my dogs and playing with them than socializing with my friends.
In short, I began to love them deeply, and treated them as if they were my own.
Max helped me through one of the most difficult, painful moments in my life. She brought me so much joy, love and happiness, that I sometimes wonder if I would have survived my ordeal, if she had not been there to comfort me?
Now I understand why pet owners treat their furry animals like children....because to them, they are. They teach us love, kindness, and compassion. And those things are essential to becoming a good writer.
And Max was the best. She never complained about not getting attention, never barked (except occasionally at other dogs), and was always so obedient. I can't imagine a better dog.
So as much as it pains me to say goodbye to my best friend, I am grateful for the time she gave me. I hope I gave her a life worth living.
I saved her life, and she ended up saving mine.
PS: This post is dedicated to all the pet owners, and pets who bring each other joy every day. In honor of my dog Max, I am making a monthly donation to Old Dog Haven, a local shelter here in Washington that houses and cares for older dogs who are either unwanted, or homeless. If you're looking for a way to help our furry friends, they are a great organization doing God's work.