My dog, Gertrude, adores me. She follows me around the house, and falls in a heap at my feet where ever I happen to be, sitting or standing. Sometimes she walks over and rests her head on my knee, just because. She acts as a protector, barking at strangers and stepping in between me and any perceived threats. It doesn’t matter if I have ignored her for hours, or if she was left alone all day while I ran errands and visited friends. All slights are forgotten instantly when I call her to me. Sometimes she is naughty – she gets into the trash if you don’t watch her, and she’s steals the cat’s food when no one is looking. But I can’t stay mad at her for long. She’s just too sweet and devoted! Gertrude loves me when I’m cranky and grumbling, or happy and smiling. I am hers and that is all she cares about.
Sparky, my cat, is a challenge to have in the house. He slinks about, hiding under furniture and jumping out, claws bared, when I don’t expect it. He takes the best seat in the living room, and then hisses in protest when I try to gently move him over. He won’t let me pet him for more than a few hesitant strokes, and he won’t groom himself either. As a result, he visits the vet twice a year to have his matted hair shaved off – and he needs to be sedated in order to accomplish this without injuring the vet staff. The price tag for this procedure is more than a small amount. His cat box is kept clean, and his food dish is always filled. He has a cozy corner with his own pillow and a soft blanket. None of that seems to mean much to him. But every morning, he follows me to the kitchen and offers what is often the only demonstration of love he will show me all day — he rubs against my shins while I make the coffee. When I crochet, he jumps on the cushion next to me and sleeps in the sun, occasionally batting half-halfheartedly at a ball of yarn. In his own dysfunctional way, he manages to let me know he does love me, even if he is an irritable high maintenance mess. And I love him, too, despite receiving only the smallest crumbs of affection, if only because he is mine.
That’s the thing about pets –they have personalities and moods, wants and needs. They need constant care and attention, even when we are tired, or sick, or just don’t feel like dealing with them. They need love everyday, even on days when they drive you crazy by eating the butter off the table when your back is turned. In return, they love you back, regardless of what you look like, or how much money you make, or how unbearable cranky you are being. They love you simply because they are yours, and you are theirs.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of any truer love than that.