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Truths about life with pets

By KATHY MORAN, The Philippine STAR Published Jul 28, 2023 5:00 am

It would be a lie if I didn’t say that dogs are my best friends and that cats come in a close second.

Why? Because I have spent most of my life with dogs. Cats are a more recent (in the last 15 years) addition to my life.

Here are 10 truths I learned from my pet companions.

1. Dogs make the perfect pet friend because they look at you with loving and knowing eyes. 

“Did you know that a dog, in general, uses eye contact to gain information and understand what their human wants them to do?” says Philip Tedeschi, professor emeritus and founder of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection and affiliated faculty with the University of Denver’s Animal Law Program on the human-animal bond. “Dogs use eye contact as reassurance and understanding in very similar ways that humans do. This helps us connect with them as well.”

If you have spent most of your life with doggy companions, you will be able to tell if he or she loves you from the way they stare at you.

Love in a row: Mr. Gizmo, Vodka, Boris, and Gorby

“Well, dogs stare just like humans gaze into each other’s eyes to show love and affection,” says Tedeschi. “In fact, one study showed that the ‘cuddle’ hormone oxytocin increases in both humans and dogs when they exchange a loving gaze.”

I know this to be true because it can be so uncanny that my dogs seem to know when I am going through tough times, as they stay close and continuously give me a loving stare to make sure I am okay. 

2. On the subject of toys, there are dogs, like my Schnauzer Boris, who will inspect bags that I bring home in search of food or toys. And Boris is one happy pup if he finds a new squeaky toy. But Vodka, my Bichon, could care less if I bring home a new toy.

3. A dog’s bark is a sign that they are communicating with you, not just making irritating noise. Throughout my 60 years, 55 of which I spent with a dog at one time or another, dogs will bark at me to get my attention. To the well-trained human, the bark will have a unique sound that says he is hungry, thirsty, in need of a toilet break, or simply wants some pats on the back. This means dogs can train humans to know exactly what they need as we talk to them and ask. 

If there is one thing that each of my pets has taught me, it’s that we can learn to communicate with our pets… if we listen with our hearts. After all, for a pet lover, the only language we share with our pets is love. 

4. A dog will rest beside you when you are on your bed, as he lays in his bed, but will immediately stand at attention at the mere suggestion that you are about to stand up. For a doggie companion, being a good guard is a must. 

5. A dog’s sense of smell is about 40 times that of a human. This fact is sometimes used as an explanation as to how dogs can smell us out even before we get home.

6. Cats meow differently. It is funny how Miss Kitty, my Persian kitty, meows continuously when she senses that I have arrived home. There is research that suggests that cats learn and memorize the sounds of their human’s footsteps and breathing, among others. Miss Kitty may be waiting for me at the door when I return from work because she recognizes the sound of my footsteps.

7. It is true that if you are going through a crisis in your life, get a cat. They sleep for about 13 to 16 hours a day, so, if you need to sleep on your problems, you are sure your kitty will sleep with you.

8. Cats are shedders and a cause of many allergies. But humans are resilient and can outlive any allergy (cat-related) that ever existed. Proof positive: Me. 

9. Like dogs, cats also have a look of love. But to the untrained eye, it could seem like a glare. But a loving stare-down from a cat, teeth showing and claws out, is a look of love worth living for.

10. The first year of a cat’s life is equivalent to 15 years in human terms; the second, nine years, and the third onward is equivalent to four human years. While for a dog, one doggie year is seven human years.

I have lived with all sorts of pets in my lifetime, from a Sulcata tortoise (still do), fish (fresh- and saltwater) water, ferrets, hamsters, and even an Iguana, which I gave to a collector because I couldn’t seem to develop a relationship with a cold-blooded reptile.

If there is one thing that each of my pets has taught me, it’s that we can learn to communicate with our pets… if we listen with our hearts. After all, for a pet lover, the only language we share with our pets is love.