A lot of people claim to love animals, but true pet lovers are much fewer than that would suggest.
It’s easy to love that cute and friendly dog on occasional visits, but a much different matter to live with that dog and to know him when he is not so cute, when he plays up, when he chews on your slippers or jumps up to eat your dinner when you’re not looking, and those occasions when he has an ‘accident’ indoors. That’s when you find about those people who claim to love pets, and those who really do.
A family pet is a part of family life. He’s not just a plaything, and certainly not a status symbol. You can’t choose when you love him and when you don’t. He’s there, a part of the picture regardless of any and all. If you’re fair dinkum about it he’s as much a part of your life as the unconditional love he gives.
I write all of this having witnessed situations that sadden me. I have one friend who has a dog who is banished to the outdoors 90% of the time. When he comes inside he is confined to one small area. Worst of all he is not given the love and affection every dog craves. A little goes such a long way with dogs. All is forgiven with the smallest gesture. This dog is unhappy and frustrated being sidelined. He’s not a part of the family because he hasn’t been accepted into it. He’s the dog, with specific rules governing him. It saddens me every time I see him, and so I always make time just to play with him. He can’t get enough of it.
Then there is my sister, who pays lip service towards being an animal lover, but in reality it’s only when it suits her.
She loved Rigby when she saw him every so often. Now he gets called ‘your dog’. He is treated very poorly by her, which angers me greatly. Being the affectionate, joyful dog he is he continues to wag his tail and get involved. He epitomises the family dog, and Labs particularly, in that he wants to be part of everything, and takes enormous pleasure in sharing with the people around him. The boys get that, and give it back, but not my sister.
There’s no question for me that Rigby is family. I don’t separate him from the others. He’s best mate and ever affectionate friend. He’s constant companion and fascinated shadow. His joy is being with me, and sharing his joy with me. It would be a churlish, shallow person to reject that.
As it stands in my circumstances there’s no-one in the world who adores me more than Rigby does. When someone turns around and is mean to him I take it as personally as if someone is rude to friend or family. In ways it’s worse because not only is Rigby always well-intentioned, he is not in a position to defend himself. People who take on animals are bullies.
With Rigby as close to me as he is it hurts me whenever anyone is cruel to him. I wonder at the mentality of people like that. It’s led to tension with my sister, who couldn’t care less. Unfortunately my niece takes some of her cues from her mother, and so I have to explain to her that when she is mean to Rigby it’s like she’s being mean to a friend of mine. It’s not acceptable.
There are a multitude of reasons for me to move on, but this reason is near the top of the list. I can cop most things, but I won’t tolerate it for him. Dogs are family, and that’s how they should be treated.
Throughout Rigby wags his tail and he snuggles up close. His love is unquestioning and unconditional and truer than most things in life. You understand that and you can learn a lot about how to live.