From their furry feather coats to their loud obnoxious snouts, pets can have a huge effect on our lives. From chewing our shoes to sleeping in our beds, the impact they can have on us can so easily be overlooked.
This conversation is a little bit cuddlier than the rest. Time to rewind back to the days when things were looking pretty grim. Those cold depressing afternoons, weathers packed in, heading home from school… but what do pets actually do for us on those days?
My dog’s name is Boxer. He’s a bullmastiff crossed with Labrador, so basically a bit thick. He’s fudge colored and has tanned golden fur from paw to noggin. He’s just turned nine years old, which is getting to retirement age, and he is still as grumpy now as he was the first day I met him at three months into the world.
One afternoon my mum and I were traveling home from a trip up to the north island. Dad phoned in and said there was a surprise waiting for us once we got home. As it was close to Christmas time, I just assumed it would be a Christmas tree, probably stolen from some farmers backyard but instead I was surprised by this 20kg flee bag…
At the time I was just a depressed little brown boy, about 5-foot-tall, coming into my teenage years still very confused about life. I had an anxiety about other kids, especially the popular ones. But that is school during puberty I suppose… A whole lot of popular kids and a lot more not popular kids.
I was one of those unpopular ones… The weirdo in the corner. My best friend was Boxer. As lame as it sounds dogs can be your best friend. We lived in a neighborhood without closed fences, an area where theft was non-existent. Asides from the occasional garden gnome or solar light…
But like all things in our neighborhood, there were no boundaries. Our dog just wandered about and did what he pleased. Every day when I came home from school he would be sitting in the sun, minding his own business. His head resting on paws. Softly waiting for the next time he’d be fed.
After each day at school, I would taunt him to play. He loved to bite back then, to chase after and tease me with my shoes in his mouth. His turds would and still do cover the entirety of our lawns, so it was always best not to venture out barefooted. His farts reek of something unearthly, his breath stinks worse than death, and the consistent musk from his general presence is enough to muzzle friendly visitors. He was still my best friend though. There was something about Boxer that made him so important in my life.
When there were earthquakes in our town, he was the first to let us know. When our sister came home with her new husband from the UK, he was there to lick their faces. When grandad spilled his beer on the deck, Boxer was the first at the scene to perform floor suck. When I came home crying one afternoon because the person I asked to go out with me said no, he was there with me in all the tears. And when our family struggled through the loss of our brother, he was sitting in his kennel waiting for someone to come and pat him to sleep.
Our dog has powers beyond words and playing fetch. Powers in the form of love and understanding. When the words “food for the dog” or “time to go for a walk” are muttered from any area of the house, Boxer comes bushy tailed. Or conversely when you ask him to go outside or to sit on his mat, for some reason he doesn’t hear you. Selective hearing me thinks…
There’s a side of us our pets are professionals at bringing out. A side of us that longs for cuddles, that loves to pat smooth fluffy things, that intrigues us about our animals. They know who we are, they’re aware of our mannerisms, how we treat other people, can sense when we are unhappy and can sense if we are easily led on to feeding them.
It’s important to build those relationships with animals because they can teach us how to build relationships with other people. The power of just being there for someone without saying anything when they are going through a tough time. To be loyal to our friends because we know there are consequences for dogging the boys. Or to join in when our friends are celebrating birthdays and eat up all the leftovers!
People often take for granted the relationships we have with other people and that is played out on a smaller and smellier scale with our pets. It’s not “just a dog” it’s not “just a friend” the same way our parents aren’t “just other people” and our mates are not “just Dave.”
Growing up took me a long time. It took a long time to find out who I was as a person. My experiences and support networks are some of the biggest reasons I am the way I am today. Which is by no means perfect. Nobody is perfect. Nobody has all the answers. But the point of doing life is that we’re all figuring this stuff out together. This lesson is about learning to appreciate our cuddlier whanau. And the power of being cuddly too. 🙂
Thanks for checking in!