Dr. Bill Atwood

The joys of pet ownership

Pets bring us a sense of happiness and love, columnist Dr. Bill Atwood writes.
Pets bring us a sense of happiness and love, columnist Dr. Bill Atwood writes. NYT

As we face the daily challenges of our lives we seek out ways to make the journey a little better. We enjoy music and art, share conversations with friends, stroll through a park or along a trail, or break into song. All of these and many other exercises bring joy into our lives and help relieve the stress of the day.

Another is having a pet or two, or more, in the house. Pets bring us a sense of happiness and love. I grew up always having pets. Our house had cats and dogs that brought with them a sense that everything was going to be okay. Dogs and cats are quite different. The adage that dogs have people and cats have staff is well understood if you have ever cared for both. I enjoy having Siamese because they are such an odd type of cat. If you know any cat people they will say they have a cat. Those with Siamese always state they have a Siamese and people understand. Siamese have attitude. You live with them and never the other way around.

Dogs are so different. They just love you. The wagging tails and the purring add to the solace of our home. During the days and nights, the interaction with a pet brings comfort and joy in a world filled with many sorrows.

Last week, we discovered Hildegard had a fast-growing mass on her liver and she needed to be euthanized. She had lived a long life and it was time to let her go. She came to us 10 years ago as a rescued animal. I don’t know what happened before her rescue down in the valley, but she was scared, hungry, and lost. She moved into the mountain community and found life was much better at Bass Lake. The Siamese let her know that size had nothing to do with who was in charge — it is the attitude. Hilde, as we called her, soon discovered that a full-sized German shepherd is controlled by an 8-pound Siamese. Cho-Cho let her know from the first encounter that Cho-Cho was in charge. I learned that lesson the first day Carol brought Cho home from the animal rescue event down in Fresno 12 years ago.

They bring us much and we provide for them. Most people treat their animals as members of the family and while some think it wrong to keep an animal in captivity, the animals also benefit from that safety that captivity offers — warmth, shelter, food, fresh water, and love. A feral animal doesn’t live long and ends up the dinner of a predator. Our pets take their final breaths with their people next to them while the wonderful staffs of local veterinary hospitals administer the final lethal dose. The beloved pet simply slips away to sleep unaware they are never going to reawaken.

The great people at the Animal Hospital of the Sierras who have cared for my animals for more than three decades sure were wonderful during Hilde’s final moments. We can’t thank those people enough. So in a few weeks, Carol and I will be ready to adopt another furry one into our home. I like German shepherds but I never find the Rin-Tin-Tin or Roy Rogers’ Bullet type of shepherd. Mine trip over their own paws, make messes when drinking water, are afraid of noises in the night. But they love us and we love them.

I sure miss our Hilde.

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