While taking care of a pet—especially a lively interactive one like a dog or cat—isn’t always easy, it’s a completely rewarding experience because of what you get in return: pure, unadulterated love. And what you learn from your pets is something you won’t find between the pages of a book, which just goes to show that you don’t need to be a two-legger to possess some essential wisdom about life and love. As cheesy as it may sound, we believe that pets are some of the best love gurus there are (why else use them for therapy, right?), and we’ve listed some of the love lessons we learn from our fur babies below.
1. How to be loyal
Dogs have always been some of the most loyal creatures, often schooling humans in this admirable trait. Perhaps one of the most famous real-life examples of this is Hachiko, an Akita who would meet his master at the train station every day so they could return home together; after his owner died, Hachiko continued to wait for him at the train station, foregoing the kindness of the people who tried to take care of him and returning at the station to wait for his master at the same time every day, through rain or shine, for the next nine years.
2. How to love the life you’re given
With the busyness of life that can be full of deadlines and traffic jams, we rarely take the time to stop and smell the roses. This is especially true once we’re grownups and have to fend for ourselves. The fast-paced, stressful lives we lead sometimes has us forgetting that all work and no play is a recipe for regret down the road. Take a page from your pet’s book, and once in a while set aside those responsibilities and enjoy life with the same kind of carefree joy and playfulness your pet exhibits when you play a game of tug of war using his or her favorite toy.
3. How to be unrestrained in showing affection
Our pets never hesitate to show us how much they love us, and dogs in particular are excellent at showing us that we are the center of the universe, as far as they are concerned. They happily lick our faces, wag their tails, and jump up and down with happiness to welcome us home, and they’ll take any opportunity to nuzzle or come in for some cuddle time. With all the social niceties we’ve put in place, it’s so easy to forget how important physical connection is to our mental well being. So think of your pet and don’t forget to dole out hugs to the people who matter in your life.
4. How to forgive
If we’re honest, we’re not always the best pet owners 100 percent of the time. There may be times we forget to feed the dog or miss an important vet visit. How many times have you arrived home grumpy from a stressful day of work or a long commute and brushed off that oh-so-eager pet who’s been waiting all day for you to come home and is ecstatic because you’ve just walked through the door? And how many times have you found your pet just as willing to cuddle minutes or hours later? Not to mention waiting at the door for you when you come home the very next day? Humans are much less forgiving of such lapses in appreciation! So perhaps it’s time to learn a thing or two from your fur baby’s forgiving nature.
5. How to pay attention
How high-quality are your quality-time interactions with your loved ones these days? Do you really still engage in full-out conversation, or do spend all your time with your eyes glued to the screen of your TV, mobile device, or computer? Whether they’re playing with a toy, engaging in a cuddle fest, or even just grooming themselves, you’ll usually find that your pets are focused on one thing and one thing only. This is why play time with your pooch or kitty is so enjoyable and rewarding. And you’ll find that when you apply this kind of focus on the humans you love as well as your fur babies, you’ll deepen your relationships and enjoy your time with each other all the more.
6. How to be there for someone when times get tough
Studies have shown that dogs can sense sadness in humans, and can respond to it by being passive (they refuse their food, or stop playing with their toy) or being closer to us (they sit near us, or even try to lick away tears). While these studies haven’t proven that they can feel empathy, it is proof that they can distinguish sadness from other emotions. Something we can learn from them is to learn not to be a fair-weathered friend, and be there for our loved ones in their sad moments as well.
7. How to love unconditionally
You’ve probably read stories of dogs and cats that have adopted other animals—even ones from different species! There’s the story of a golden retriever that has acted as a mother to a baby lamb that was rejected by its mom, as well as a cat that mothered orphaned kittens after the death of her own litter. Your pet knows that when you love and care for someone, you accept them for who and what they are. Your pets don’t care how much money is in your bank account (in fact, think of how many homeless people find love and loyalty in the form of dogs and cats) or what your lifestyle or sexual preferences might be. They just love you with everything they’ve got. And lessons in that kind of unconditional love is something everyone should sit up and pay attention to.
A lot of the things on this list are ways to show unconditional love. All these and more show us how love should be felt and expressed, and while pet lovers already know that this is the kind of love we should all give and receive, it never hurts to be reminded!