If it weren’t for pets, there would be a lot more lonely and unloved people in this world.
My dog Juneau and I walk the neighborhood every night for about a half mile. Along the way we meet other people walking their dogs after dark. Our dogs sniff each other in their dog ways, the walker and I say hello, then move on. This kind of exchange happens from early morning till late at night between dog walkers.
I know that most dog owners don’t walk their dogs, so I am left with the impression that there are a lot of dogs in our neighborhood. I have gotten to know a few of them. There is the old man at the end of the street whose miniature collie is his constant companion. They are the center of each other’s world, and I wonder how lonely life would be for either of them without each other’s companionship. I’ve heard the man talk with the collie like it’s one of his children. “We have to go inside now, because it’s getting late,” he said to her affectionately.
I know, I spend more time with Juneau than I do with anyone else in my family, including my wife. Juneau is, in turn, my best friend and protector. She lies by my side as I read or watch TV; she sleeps with me, cuddled up on cold winter nights against my legs at the foot of the bed. She likes to ride with me when I run errands or stays with me on the nights I visit with my mother, who thoroughly enjoys watching Juneau play with a basket of toys that she has set aside for all visiting dogs and cats.
When my mother was in a nursing home recovering from a fall, I brought Juneau with me on visits. Patients who had been slumped in their wheelchairs all day would perk up and want to pet Juneau; I could see everyone’s faces light up at the sight of her. I would guess that many people in nursing homes suffer from loneliness more than anything else, and the sight of a dog wagging its tail and sniffing them brightens their day.
My father was not one to show much affection toward his children or grandchildren, but his cat, Two, was a different matter. The first thing he did when he got home everyday was to call out in the most obnoxious girly voice, “Where is my Two? Where is she?” His father, my grandfather, was a stern and stoic man who raised two sons with the back of his hand and a fist when he thought it was needed, but he started each day talking baby talk and whistling to his canary that lived in a cage in the kitchen.
What do these pets do for these folks that people don’t do? My guess is that pets are the epitome of unconditional love. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for? And unlike people, they don’t talk back, they don’t steal your car in the middle of the night and go joy riding (though I think they would like it), they’re happy to see us no matter what kind of day we’ve had and they give us affirmation of our worthiness for love — love that my grandfather got from his canary, my father got from his cat and I get from Juneau.
We celebrate local pets and their owners in this issue. I’m sure you’ve got a story of your own to tell, and I’d like to hear it. You can email me at the address below.
Don Baker, Jr., Editor-in-Chief