When I look into the eyes of an animal, I see their soul, through those warm, full eyes of a living being. It’s like those eyes communicate, “I’m the most loyal creature on earth.” Animals do feel, they get lonely, they hurt, they feel pride, and they’re endlessly forgiving of us human. Though they can’t exactly hug you, they wrap furry arms around you with their eyes. Most important, they love unconditionally. You can feel their love in their sighs of contentment, those easy, deep breaths, as they lay in your arms. We nurture them with dry kibble, baby voices, and long walks but they give us back a thousand times more. Taking care of them gives us a reason for occupying the planet.


I’ve had my disappointments with people in my life, but never with an animal. Our fur babies actually lower our blood pressure, make us calmer and happier. But I guess I should qualify that statement… puppyhood/kittenhood is a whole ‘nother thing!  You have to acknowledge the pros and cons ahead of time if you’re adopting a pet in their first year of life. If you’re happy with the worst possible thing each critter is capable of, you’re good to go. But if little “accidents,” shredded cushions, and chewed up Jimmy Choos are not for you, then you best find an older pet. One whose energy levels don’t lead to climbing the curtains and jumping the fences.


So, we know what cats will not and will do. It is certain they will make shredded wheat out of your arm chair, and true to their nature, many disdain scratch stands.  They are so not co-dependent and may not welcome you at your door. Their aloof nature allows you more freedom than that of a dog, as long as you can handle their capricious affections, because a cat’s purring is like consuming tissue regeneration! That soothing sound makes you feel that incredibly calm and does it help with collagen growth?! I think so! At the very least it lowers your stress level so you create fewer new fine lines. Should you own a “drag-queen” cat with fur colors that only Picasso could paint, the good news is they are always dressed up in advance and though they will still perform at uncertain times. Flirty but graceful, it could take days or hours for your “king-queen” to make a captivating appearance. They don’t even realize how hysterical they are, but despite their bipolar antics when you feel that powder puff rub against your leg, you recognize that with their black magic, cats force us to chill out. Perhaps they assume the role of our anxiety anthropomorphized and that is their beautiful gift to all of us self-absorbed human folk.


With animals, one owns a universe full of love. You can’t stop animals from being eager to please, but remember, like humans, they can have a hate or love fest with you. Each cat or dog I’ve owned included a different personality and that’s the beauty of animal ownership. Bella, my mini-schnauzer, who has since gone to her sweet rewards, was totally not eager to please, and preferred not to be touched. Though she was purebred canine, she did not own a co-dependent cell in her body, somehow still, she caused me to grow another heart.  Her very presence of 11 years in my life was so loving and caring to me.  Surviving a cancer diagnosis and all the surgery and treatment involved, Bella was my liquid Valium every step of the lingering, torturous road ahead. Her delicate little furry legs followed mine everywhere I went, and when I wasn’t moving so much, she sat dutifully by my side. She knew that even though she’d rather be maniacally barking at passerby’s out the front window, her loyalty was to keep watch for me, until I fully recovered. Loyalty fuels our canine companions.


Animals develop such strong bonds with us, they are family. Our tribe. They make us feel special
and accepted, no matter what we look or smell like, how much money we have in the bank or what bad habits we just can’t seem to beat. That’s a tall order for 4-legged creatures but these qualities make us love them so much. Maybe it’s because they depend on us for food, love and shelter, but it such a treat for us humans to be wanted immensely, that we keep our hands on them like Velcro and infantilize them forever in our lives. There is psychological comfort going on here, we never lose the love we have for our pets, though humans come and go during our lifetime. I love animals throughout their geriatric years and beyond. I have shelves of urns with each animal I’ve loved with their photo nearby. Upon my demise, it occurs to me I will be like Cleopatra as all the urns will nest next to me in my casket. Now all I need are 4 strong, good friends who will wobble under my heavy load. Doting on animals so much is a real thing. When they go to their celestial transformations, us animal lovers painfully grieve like never before. A piece of the human heart always hurts.


I now am the mother of what I call a “Covid Dog.” Louie (aka Louie Armstrong) came to me in March 2020, just as the pandemic began to rear its ugly head and I had spent the past 6 months mourning my last pet. Louie is a black, male mini-schnauzer wearing a white butterfly on his chest. He marks a brand new experience for me, since I always had female cats and dogs. We literally have been huddled together the last 11 months trying to dodge the venomous plague.  Trained quickly, I realized I had a personality of a pup like I never experienced. Louie is totally co-dependent, follows me everywhere and we sit together, just looking out the window, waiting for the delivery trucks, during the pandemic in this very scary world. He sleeps in my lap, expecting a back massage each morning, and I love hearing him breathe next to me each night.  When I ask him questions, he cocks his head to the far right as if to say “What’s happenin’ Mama? Who’s stopping by today: Amazon, UPS, or Shipt?” I cannot imagine what it will be like when we both enter the “new normal” together! It’s like he and I have lived in our own little snow globe and one day, that protective glass will shatter and we’ll have to learn how to behave “in public” together.


Animals are perhaps finally getting the respect they’ve long deserved. Researchers, celebrities, and kids who grew up with pets-as-siblings, are finally admitting they are like people (or we are merely animals). I am glad we are learning to speak up for them; they are all so innocent and have been so good to us for so long. They have zero expectations unlike humans. Most of all, those eyes speak volumes about their feelings, and we must pay attention to our developing conversation. No matter what horrible things they hear you say on the phone, who’s birthday you forgot, or what they witness as you internet-search on your laptop, it’s a no judgment zone with animals. The best part of my day is when Big Daddy Louie sits on my lap, looks at me before closing his eyes and says in NOLA lingo, “Mama, we passed a good time today.”


Editors Note:  The beautiful pics included in the article were designed by Cindy Small.  For more artwork visit her on Instagram at instagram.com/familysequins.