Growing up we almost always had dogs in our home. I loved having them (except for picking up the poop). 3 reason come to mind as to why we love our pets.
1. They reward us with a lot of affection with little effort. My dogs where always happy to see me! They never cared where I had been or how much trouble I had caused during my day. Pets are fun to play with, tend not to hold grudges and very rarely bite you. Because they tend to show this kind of unconditional love, they tend to enhance our self-esteem (think, “If my dog loves me… I most not be that bad a person after all!”)
2. They provide an out let for us to nurture something. Some people like gardening. You start with a seed put it in good soil, water it, give it just the right amount of sun and plants will blossom or grow all kinds of amazing beautiful things. But plants don’t tend to give us the same kind of affection a pet does. But pets and gardening proved the same rich feeling that comes from nurturing (growing or maturing) something.
3. Companionship. Ever had a pet tell you they were to busy texting to sit with you? Relationships with other people is risky business. Even when we put a lot of effort into a relationships there is no guarantee the love will be reciprocated, especial in times of need. Peoples attention spans are shrinking. Few people have good listening skills. Even with all the social media access we have, studies show that we feel more, not less, disconnected from others.
Our love tends to be more fickle than that of our pets. People get offend and can bite you back. Sometimes people will bite without us even provoking them! Perhaps this is why people are increasing deciding not to get married or have kids. It’s often more difficult to find affection, nurture others and find real companionship with other people than it is with our pets.
Last week the Pope addressed this issue by telling people they ought to raise kids not pets. Pope Francis said, “these marriages, in which the spouses do not want children, in which the spouses want to remain without fertility. This culture of well-being … convinced us: It’s better not to have children! It’s better! You can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside; you can be carefree. It might be better — more comfortable — to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog.”
Likewise C.S. Lewis, commenting in his chapter on “Affection” in “The Four Loves” recognizes the easy of which we give pets affection instead of humans, “Those who say, ‘The more I see of man the better I like dogs’–those who find in animals a relief from the demands of human companionship–will be well advised to examine their real reasons.” (pg. 53)
Dennis Prager is one of my favorite social commentators. He wrote an article about Pope Francis comments that are worth reading here.