"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
- Anatole France
There's nothing like the love of an animal. You can have the worst day possible, be on the verge of tears, and then feel a cold, wet nose pressed against your arm; instant relief. At that moment, it feels like the world's weight is gone.
Or the warmth that fills your body when you see your pet twitching in their sleep, having dreams about chasing cars, or whatever atrocities cats dream about. And you can never forget those cry-laugh moments when your pet unintentionally does the funniest thing you've seen all week.
Pets are the best.
But don't get us wrong, owning pets isn't amazing all the time. Who hasn't woken up at 3 AM to the sound of a cat throwing up... somewhere. And isn't it just great when your dog finds a puddle of dirty rainwater to play in days after their expensive grooming appointment?
In reality, owning pets has its challenges -- be they financial or emotional. An unexpected vet visit can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars because your dog thought eating a sock was a good idea.
And then there's the unfortunate reality of watching your beloved pet grow older and weaker, knowing one day you two will have to part ways, and a decision of when to make that call might rest in your hands.
How beautiful it is to love something death can touch.
According to a study by the American Pet Products Association, 67% of U.S. households own a pet, up from 56% in 1988.
And as millennials delay societal milestones such as getting married and having children at record rates, they are doing one thing: getting pets. In 2020, millennials held the largest share of pets in the United States at 31%, compared to 29% of Baby Boomers.
And then the pandemic hit.
In March and April 2020, millions of us faced a new strange reality: lockdown, quarantine, and a newfound fear of never seeing toilet paper again.
Suddenly, we were all stuck at home, isolated from the lives we had just weeks before. Our planned dinner dates turned into virtual dates, workplace water cooler chat became virtual Happy Hours, and Tiger King was all anyone could/would talk about. Times were strange.
The lack of human socialization hit us harder than we thought it would, so what did we do to get companionship and feel connected to life? We cleared out our animal shelters and adopted new best friends.
Nearly 1 out of 5 American households adopted a pet after the start of the pandemic because if we were going to be home, we might as well have a companion there with us.
Clearly, owning pets isn't going anywhere soon.
Animals don't just make us laugh and keep us warm on chilly nights; they can also help reduce feelings of stress and loneliness. Our pets listen to our secrets and gossip, and they can always tell when we're not feeling our best.
Plus, our pets inadvertently help us practice mindfulness by making us acknowledge the present moment.
Imagine this: your pet is lounging in a sunspot on the floor, basking in the glory of the warmth. When you're soaking up the sun with them, are you thinking that rent is due in a couple of days or about the fight you just had with your significant other? Hopefully not!
Even just 10 minutes of interaction with an animal can reduce cortisol levels which helps lower stress. So the next time you feel overwhelmed, find your pet and cuddle up next to them. We're sure they'll appreciate it too.
With that being said, what are the emotional hardships of owning and loving a pet? \
Unfortunately, our furry friends do not have the lifespans they deserve. It feels like a cruel joke, but we will most likely watch our pets pass away.
Losing a pet can throw off our life routines...routines we might not even realize are in place until they're no longer needed.
Suddenly, there's no need to open the back door first thing in the morning to let your dog out. You no longer walk down the pet food aisle at the grocery store because what's the point? Those daily walks without your dog feel lonesome.
Our pets become deeply ingrained into our lives, emotionally and physically. We get used to their weight pressed against us as we sleep, even if they're hogging most of the bed. We learn what they need just by the sound of their barks or meows, so when they're suddenly gone from our lives, we're met with a vast emptiness in their absence.
The grief of losing an animal was so severe for one woman that she experienced "broken heart syndrome" after the death of her beloved dog, a condition in which the experiencer exhibits symptoms of a heart attack in response to profound grief.
Why do we keep putting ourselves in situations of heartache? Well, if you ask most pet owners, they'll tell you the years of love they had with their pet was well worth it.