If we humans are the highest form of life on Earth, then surely cats and dogs are a close second. Over the years, they have developed a particular friendship with humans and coaxed us to bring them into our homes. Many American families include a cat or dog, sometimes both and more than one of each.
These creatures have managed to get us to house them, feed them, provide exercise and get medical care for them. In return, they provide a companionship. Eventually, they cement a relationship within the family, often evoking incredibly strong human emotion.
Americans spend a lot of money on pets. CBS News reported Americans spend $56 billion each year on the purchase of pets, food, medical care, grooming, training and toys. Many people truly pamper their cats and dogs. The myriad pet supplies in every supermarket and department store, along with the huge stores filled with nothing but pet supplies, is indicative of the value we place on these animals.
Area veterinarians and their staffs have provided very good medical care for the dogs and cats of the community. They know the value pet owners place on pets, the length people will go to treat an ill pet and the strong emotions when dealing with the death of a pet. They understand.
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At the center of our family was a dog named Athena, a mixed-breed German shepherd. She graced our home for 12 loving years. After nursing her through a long illness, we lost her and are now acutely aware of how much joy she brought to our hearts. She was truly part of our family.
Athena had been abandoned, left out in the country with no collar or identifying information. The vet estimated she was approximately 6 months old at the time and in good health. We took her in and quickly began to appreciate this dog’s personality.
There was never any doubt about her loyalty to us. If one of us was ill, she seemed to understand and lie next to us. She helped lower our blood pressure more than any medication. She loved to ride in the car with the window down a little to feel the rushing air. Each time we came home from work, she greeted us. Like most dogs, her walks through the neighborhood made her day.
We joked that she was half retriever. She would enthusiastically charge after a thrown object, grab it in her mouth but then felt no compunction to return it. Perhaps it was just her way of bringing a certain dignity to this whole fetch routine.
Most of all, she was there 24/7, being part of the family.
Many of us equate the personality traits of dogs to those of humans.
We can’t truly know just what goes on between a dog and a human to create such bonds, but whatever it is, it is very special. When it comes to loyalty, a happy attitude, unconditional caring and a calming influence, humans could learn a lot from dogs. We certainly did. There is an old expression that a dog is man’s best friend. She was ours.