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On the Importance of Pets

I have often asked myself WHY I let one beloved creature after another into my life, my home and my heart. We all know going in that the odds favour us outliving them, and each loss is so heartbreaking. Those who have never loved or been loved by an animal (makes you wonder, doesn't it?) can't begin to understand the extent of our emotional attachment to these precious beasts. It has been years and years, but still I mourn for my darling Beardog. People say "oh for god's sake, he was only a DOG." I beg to differ. He was family. He loved us. He was devoted to my children. He had a personality and a sense of humour.

And he trusted us implicitly. Never was that trust more evident than the night we lost him. I had rushed him to the vet at something like 9 p.m. As he lay there on the table, in terrible anguish (we never did find out what was wrong with him), I was torn to shreds by indecision. The vet had told me there was a slim chance we could keep him alive long enough to run the dx'tic tests which might tell us what was wrong and that if he lived long enough, we might be able to treat him. But he was perilously dehydrated and in unspeakable pain. While I debated, Bear looked up at me and as clearly as if he had spoken, I "heard" a single word: PLEASE. I turned to the vet and said "do it." I put my forehead to Bear's and he stared into my eyes with absolute love and trust. I could feel the vet moving around beside me. Seconds later, my Beardog heaved a great sigh and was gone. Oh lord how we howled, the kids and I. I'm crying now as I remember that terrible night. And I wonder how I ever managed to bring myself to risk my heart again with another dog.

But what's the alternative? Deprive ourselves of the joys of their companionship? That would be like avoiding human friendship because we fear we may experience pain sometime in the future. And where else do we find such acceptance, such unconditional love? Where else will we find someone who doesn't judge us by our looks, our race, our financial status, our social standing...our state of health? They don't see those things, they see *us*. Not only do they give us love, they give us laughter and a reason to get up in the morning (even if sometimes it's a mite earlier than we'd like :)

It's no easy thing. We take them into our hearts and hope they will live long, happy lives. We do everything we can to ensure just that. Under the circumstances, it's the best we can do. I know I have no alternative; I can't imagine life without my crazy crew. I can't imagine life without at least a couple of cats and a dog; I'd die of loneliness! Well, all that aside, for every heartbreaking story, there's a happy one. For every tragedy, there's a miracle. Through the dark threads of worry and grief are woven bright threads of joy, companionship, love and loyalty. I guess that's what makes it worthwhile.

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