Dear Lucy: I have a dog that I love dearly and have had her for 10 years. I am a widow and she is my constant companion. When I go out and have to leave early because of her, I am not upset but others seem to get upset! Some friends accuse me of treating her like she is a person or letting her dictate my schedule. I resent this. I do not think of my dog as a person. She is a dog and I well know that. Why is it that when you are a certain age, live alone and have a pet people like to label you "pet lover" in a mocking way?
– Signed: AW
Dear AW: I have no idea why people do, say and feel as they do. But I know that there are a lot of lovers of pets in this world! Those are the people who choose to take on the full responsibility of caring for a pet without being forced or coerced to do so. Those are the folk who clearly understand the depth of the responsibility and are willing to meet it.
I don't have a pet simply because I don't choose to take on the responsibility. It is tremendous and requires commitment, love, patience and today, some disposable income. However, I have profound respect for those who choose to responsibly have pets whether they are single, widowed or married with a house full of children! I also like it when those who have pets don't judge or disrespect my right not to have a pet.
My aunt Vickie is 82 years old and is on her fourth dog in the 40 years I can remember. She lives in my house in the country. When she moved in, she had a dog who was getting up in age, grouchy and eventually went blind, stopped being house broken and died.
This dog, Vixen, had seen my aunt through the passing of her husband of 35 years before auntie moved into my home. My aunt very much wanted me to stay in the country with her and I could not as my career would not allow it. When Vixen died, initially I was not in favor of another dog as my aunt had taken the passing of this one so hard. After about three months I came to my senses and began to encourage her to get another one.
Her present dog, Mr. Lee, is beautiful, smart, loving and kind. He is the company to her that I cannot be. As a very experienced lover of small dogs, my aunt is real clear on her responsibility to her dog. She feeds him very strictly and carefully, keeps him beautifully groomed, talks to him (not expecting an answer, just needing to hear herself talk), takes him to the vet, walks him and gets up so, so early to take him out to potty. And, yes, she plans trips, excursions and church commitments around her dog's schedule of needs.
I, too, am a widow but I have not made the decision to assume such responsibility. But I thank God for Mr. Lee and my aunt's choice to share her overflow of love with him.
I have given up on trying to understand how and why we are attracted to differing choices. But I do understand that God has provided each of us with plenty of opportunity to express ourselves and our love for all of creation. And I respect any activity that affirms life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in ways that cause no harm to self or anyone else.
Taking care of a pet, and especially a dog, is a reminder of what unconditional love is all about. They forgive you when the foods not on time, or hold the poop if you just have to sleep late, they are always glad to see you and hug you even when you stink. They trust you to keep up your end of the bargain and support you no matter what. Sounds like great training in loving to me. And when you are really good and learn how to discipline them correctly and lovingly you never have to worry about how they will behave at home or in public.
So honor your own choice, keep your life balanced on your own terms and enjoy the welcome home barks that bring you joy.
(For help with the feelings that get in the way of prayer and peace of mind, get Lucy's new book, "BE NOT ANXIOUS." Order it directly from her at 901-907-0260 or go to her web site www.heartworks4u.com.)