It’s easy – especially for non-pet people – to think of our love for the animals who share our lives as trivial. Pets, some argue, are opportunistic scavengers who’ve evolved from living at the periphery of our lives, eating our trash and killing the vermin our communities attract, into sophisticated parasites who have conned us into feeding them elaborate diets and allowing them to sleep in our beds. We’re fools, some say, for loving them. They take and take and take … and what do you get in return? Some cute Instagrams? A chance to scoop their poop?
Unlike the love we show for our children (pure and instinctual), our parents (devoted and nostalgic) or our friends (reliable and gregarious), our love for our pets is often scrutinized and mocked. “It’s just a dog,” your friends tell you when you skip happy hour because you need to go home right after work to take your housebound corgi for a walk. “Cats don’t love you back,” your roommates insist when you bring home your first kitten. “Have a kid,” your mommy and daddy friends tell you, “if you want to know what it’s really like to love another being unconditionally.”
But science tells us that there’s more to the human-animal relationship than some would have you believe. Studies show that our companion animals do indeed feel some emotions and develop deep bonds with their humans, and their relationships with us are not one-sided. The American Veterinary Association defines the human-animal bond as such: “A mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes, but is not limited to, emotional, psychological and physical interactions of people, animals and the environment.”
Studies show that, in addition to performing useful tasks for people (hunting, vermin control, basic companionship), our pets provide us with a sense of well-being we don’t always get from the people in our lives. People who own pets tend to have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and are less lonely than those who don’t. The U.S. Department of Health conducted a study that showed that heart-disease patients who owned pets were more likely to survive heart attacks. Plus, living with pets is just more fulfilling – they’re not our whole lives, as the saying goes, but they make our lives whole.
We’re dedicating this issue to the animals we love – in its pages, we’ve got a story from a local man who lost his dog Jan. 1 but has spent the time since his loss reflecting on what he learned by having that dog in his life. To that end, we also asked you, our readers, to tell us what your relationships with your pets has taught you. We tell you about a book written by a woman who was both devastated and fascinated to discover that her cat had a life beyond the comforts of her home, and we talk a little bit about the recent obsession with doggie DNA testing. We’ve also got the winners and runners-up of our pet lookalike Instagram contest, as well as a resource directory to help you touch base with local pet-related businesses, shelters and rescues, veterinarians, doggie daycares and dog walkers.
Check orlandoweekly.com all week for more stories, photo galleries and blogs celebrating Puppy Love, and don’t forget to bring your pup to our Puppy Love event, happening Feb. 16 at the Acre in Orlando.
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