We are literally surrounded with intelligence and masteries that we cannot equal, despite how smart and capable we are. Our pets help remind us of this even as they help and heal us in so many ways.
There is a wonderful quote from naturalist Henry Beston:
We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, the human in civilization surveys the creatures through the glass of knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err and err greatly. For the animal shall not be measured by us. In a world older and more complete than ours they move, finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with us in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.
The French writer Anatole France once said, “Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” I believe this is 100% true, and it speaks to the unique bond that we have with our pets.
But what is it about animals — and especially our pets — that captures our affections so?
For starters, we become calmer and more singularly focused while petting our fur-bearing friends, even when our focus isn’t necessarily on them. We become one-track minded. It’s harder to remain a multi-tasker while stroking a companion animal. We can so easily fall into meditation or contemplation because, consciously or unconsciously, we simply slow ourselves down. And for people who live alone and without relatives nearby to visit, being able to give and receive love from another warm-blooded creature is a life-enhancer and life-extender. Pets give us a reason to get out of bed every morning and to feel the need and the desire to live longer.
Secondly, pets ask so little of us, and they never criticize us. They don’t care if we’re a prince or a pauper; they view us as worthy of their love and attention no matter how often or how perilously our fortunes may change.