Unconditional love

By Theresa Wells

It had been a bad day. I came home tired and feeling slightly defeated. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and shut out the world. I was exhausted and sick and pretty certain that the entire planet was against me.

I crawled into bed and pulled up the blankets, and then, suddenly, from the end of the bed I heard a loud purring noise. It rose in volume until a small black nose was a mere fingertip width from my own, green eyes glowing from a small round black face. And then he curled up in a ball and laid down right beside me, nestled into my curled up form and purring in a manner reminiscent of a motorboat engine.

Sirius Black Cat, the one who is not fond of cuddling, who tends to become stiff as a board when hugged with legs at awkward angles, who runs when he thinks kisses may be headed his way, was cuddling me. And I think it is because he knew I needed it.

I worked in veterinary clinics for a decade of my life. I have owned pets for almost my entire life, save for a couple of years here and there. There have been a string of cats and dogs and ferrets, and I remember each and every one because they were my friends and my family. They were the ones I turned to in high school when a bad mark came back on an algebra exam, the ones who were there when a relationship went sour, the ones who never spurned me, rejected me or judged me. They simply loved me in that unconditional way that animals do. A great deal has been written about the human-animal bond, and you could write books and songs and sonnets about it, but the reality is that until you have felt it you don’t understand its strength or meaning.

There is something fundamental about it, the relationship we have with animals. At one point in our history as a species it was almost certainly purely functional, but we have moved so far past that now, with animals becoming our pets instead of our beasts of burden. Our relationship with animals has changed over thousands of years and so we find ourselves here today, in a place where occasionally, just maybe, we go a wee bit overboard.

We buy clothes for our dogs (and I don’t mean sweaters, but dresses and tuxedos and the rest). We push them around in strollers and we pamper them in every regard. It may be that we have gone too far in the pendulum swing from service animal to treasured friend, but it doesn’t truly bother me as I simply think it speaks to the bond we have developed with the animals in our world. We no longer see them as working creatures but as members of our family, and so we bestow on them the kind of love we would bestow on a family member (and sometimes even more, because the dog never leaves the toilet seat up, and the cat never grumbles at us for failing to plug in the car). We reward their unconditional love and loyalty with our own, because when the world has failed us and when we feel alone there they are, loving us just as always.

Some of my readers may know that this year I am participating in Dancing With the Stars Wood Buffalo. This is a tremendous commitment of time and energy, and it has been more of a challenge than I initially realized as I learned having a new dance partner is much like having a new relationship. My partner and I had not met prior to this, and so there has been a “getting to know you” phase, and we have dealt with many challenges, like illness and injury and insane schedules – but we have persevered and will continue to do so, and for one reason – the Fort McMurray SPCA.

Dancing With the Stars Wood Buffalo is about raising money for the SPCA and the work they do in fostering the human-animal bond. They take the creatures that find the world has failed them, and who are alone and abandoned. They house them and feed them, and, with any luck, match them up with humans who are in need of the unconditional love of an animal. And this is how Sirius Black Cat, who does not like to cuddle but who put his own distaste for it aside when his human was in need, found his way to us.

I would suggest that if an animal has ever touched your life that you please consider visiting dancingwiththestarswb.ca and vote for the couple of your choice in the upcoming dance competition. I could ask for your vote for my partner and myself but I won’t as all I want is for you to take $20 (or more) in memory of some animal who loved you unconditionally and give it to a place that fosters the human-animal bond. You may just be helping someone else to experience that sort of unconditional love for the first time, and you will certainly be helping an animal to live a better life. I think it is, in the end, the least we can do for the animals who have given us so very much in our lives, don’t you?

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