I have always felt bonded with animals. When I was born and taken home, I had three caretakers: my mom, dad, and dog. Tyler was our 100-pound Golden Retriever who was already 6 years old when I came into the family. This friendly giant stood by me while I slept and let me ride him around like a horse. I was only 5 years old when he passed away, something I don’t really remember.
When I was 8 years old, my dad brought home a couple-of-week-old mutt puppy. She was a rescue brought to the high school my dad taught at which has an animal fostering program. This little girl entered our lives on April 4th, 2006. My younger siblings and I decided to name her April. We grew up with April, learning so much about responsibility and love.
Since April was taken away from her litter at such a young age, she didn’t grow up around other pups, making her weary and uncomfortable around other dogs throughout her life. But she got along with people while being a good guard dog at the same time. I’d call April my sister and best friend because she didn’t see me as an alpha but as an equal. April was the most photogenic dog, and whenever she saw the camera, she would pose.
Around 2018, April started showing tumors on her stomach and chest. She wasn’t as active as she used to be and spent most of her time sleeping. We knew her time was slowly coming to an end.
On December 23, 2019, we made the difficult decision to put her down. Our family debated and argued, “When do you know it’s time?” Of course, we prayed that God would just take her in her sleep, but that’s something that rarely happens. She was getting only worse each day.
We found help and comfort in this organization called Lap of Love. They are a veterinary hospice and in-home euthanasia. With the help of Lap of Love, we were able to say goodbye to April and let her go peacefully. She was our loving dog until the end, giving us love and kisses.
It’s been 3 and a half months since April’s passing, and I still think about her every day, especially being stuck at home. Our home felt emptier during that first month, though we are used to it more now, we will sometimes notice she’s not there. It’s in these moments I notice all the reasons to own a pet.
Pets bring such life into a home. They bring joy and happiness, as well as discipline and patience. Here are some things I noticed when owning a pet and how they’ve changed my life.
Discipline and Patience
When pets are babies, they need a lot of taking care of and supervision. They teach us patience when we are teaching them to use the bathroom outside, or telling them no slippers aren’t chew toys.
We learn that our pets need to eat, and how we need to keep them, as well as ourselves, on a feeding schedule. During late nights away from home, we also have to keep our furry friends in mind since we are the ones who let them out to use the bathroom.
The floor is a dog’s second plate
You accidentally drop some food. No need to pick it up, the dog will get it. We used to let April have our little leftovers or droppings. It’s only now that she’s gone that we notice the floor is not as clean as it used to be. This also means anything, even if it’s not food, will get eaten from the floor. Be warned.
Someone to talk to
People often use pets for emotional support; petting them and having them there brings comfort. To those who live alone, pets can be the ones you talk to and feel like they are actually listening. I find myself home alone often, and I would talk to April a lot. Now, if I’m alone in the house, I can speak out loud, but it’s not the same.
Pets have personalities. They do odd things like chasing their tail or trying to attack laser pointers. The way they stick their heads out of windows or bark or swat at nothing. I found myself saying, “what are you doing” to April a lot, especially when she’d lay down on the floor when she didn’t want to take a bath. My mom loved messing with April by blowing into her ears or putting some peanut butter on April’s nose to watch her lick it off. Having a pet would always keep you amused.
They know when you’re sad
I could come home from having a bad day plopping myself onto my bed and find April’s snout right there at the edge of the bed, wagging her tail, saying, “cheer up, I’m here.” She would love me and lick away my sadness and tears.
Animals have this sixth sense. They come over to help and comfort however they can. This is why they are used for emotional support or taken around hospitals. Pets love to love.
We learn from them
Seeing the innocence of a dog makes us feel empathetic towards them. We want to care for them. It seems like we are the ones who train them, who buy their food, and who take them on walks. But, really they take care of us. They bring us companionship and love.
Just like infants, pets rely on and trust us to care for them. They are loyal to us. This unconditional trust and loyalty is something I admire in dogs.
No other animal in the world shows unconditional love like dogs do. Just watch the videos of soldiers coming homeand seeing their dogs again. There is a story of a Japanese Akita dog named Hachikō who is remembered for his remarkable loyalty to his owner, waiting at a train station for over nine years following the death of his owner.
This unconditional love reminds me of God’s love for us. No matter how angry, sad, or distant we are, the love is unconditional.
Ask the beasts and they will teach you the beauty of this earth.“St. Francis of Assisi