Harrison Middleton University

Pet Connections

Pet Connections

We’re excited that you’ve joined the conversation! At HMU, we want to continue the great authors’ conversations in a contemporary context, and this blog will help us do that. We look back to Aristotle and the early philosophers who used reason and discourse to gain wisdom and now we endeavor to do the same every day.


December 16, 2016

Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today’s post.

I have been trying to put my finger on just why we own pets. They’re costly, time-consuming, usually messy and, in general, not visibly useful. I have been re-reading some of country veterinarian and writer James Herriot‘s stories in order to better understand the transition from working animals to friends and companions. Herriot noticed and wrote about the change in society’s relationships with animals. Though often categorized as children’s literature, his writing offers wonderful perspectives about life in general. He recognized and wrote about the fact that typical working animals are also great companions. There is something special and important about having a warm, loving, trustworthy friend which seems more useful than just about anything else we have commodified.

I do not know why anyone else owns a pet, but I’ll offer a reason as to why I own one. Growing up, I had many pets which I cared for and loved. Yet, I did not understand the full attachment and responsibility that one has to a pet until I owned one as an adult. The most difficult decisions are made by adults. I have owned two cats now, as an adult. The first one, Pride, was a stray that we adopted and I grew to love. Typically an independent cat, he stuck close to the house when he got sick. He also purred nonstop. Cats, apparently, do not purr when alone and we still do not know precisely why they purr. Once sick, his purring actually increased. He either must have known that his end was close or he sensed my anxiety. It seems to me that purring is nearly always appropriate, whereas the human emotional releases are not nearly as soothing to others. When people cry, humans often hug or also cry. But purring actually does soothe humans. I will never forget that even while being euthanized, Pride purred. I am convinced that it was more for me than for him. To me, this is the very essence of connection.

I am in awe of being a part of such a strong connection, and so even though it was difficult, I did end up rescuing another stray cat. It is not surprising to say that I love this one too. In the end, I think that we own pets for their absolute willingness to trust. They do not judge, they know little of sin or evil. They talk in their own way, they interact according to their own personalities and comfort levels. Humans observe their patterns in order to connect because we want to feel connection just as much as they do. Communication across beings is surely something very unique, almost supra-natural.

The following quotes taken from an NPR article about people with serious mental illnesses who have bonded with a pet enlightens human need in general. I feel that connections are meant to be explored and not taken lightly. I also find that it is an appropriate time of year to dwell upon our relationships with both humans and animals. Enjoy and relish those around you!

~ “One study participant placed birds in his closest social circle. When he was hearing voices, he said that they ‘help me in the sense, you know, I’m not thinking about the voices, I’m just thinking of when I hear the birds singing.’”

~ “Another said that walking the dog helped them get out of the house and with people. ‘That surprised me, you know, the amount of people that stop and talk to him, and that, yeah, it cheers me up with him. I haven’t got much in my life, but he’s quite good, yeah.’”

~ “As one person in the study said, ‘When he comes up and sits beside you on a night, it’s different, you know. It’s just, like, he needs me as much as I need him.’”


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1 thought on “Pet Connections”

  1. I grew up around a farm so we always had pets, mainly working dogs who helped us herd cattle and who genuinely loved to spend the day with us. The connections we had with them went beyond the work – we were all a team. One of the dogs in particular used to follow my dad everywhere he went. Even when my dad would arrive back home this dog would awake from his snooze in the house whenever he heard my dad’s car coming up the driveway. He instantly would get up, move towards the door to the garage that led into the house and wait excitedly for my dad to come through.

    Pets don’t see themselves as pets..they see themselves as partners. That’s how we saw them too. The genuineness they show towards us is what makes that connection we have to them possible. The loyalty they show us endears us to them even if at first we are reluctant to have the pet in the first place. That’s how they win us over.

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