|Photo by Noël Zia Lee|
Amazingly, there are people in this world who still believe animals are incapable of having or showing emotions. Among the doubters are scientists, non-pet people, and those who have pets but view them more as a fun accessory rather than sentient beings. It can be hard for people who’ve formed strong bonds with animals to comprehend this way of thinking, because our experiences tell a different story.
Part of the problem could be that there is no concrete way to measure love, no real “proof” of this emotion that’s one of the strongest human motivators. We can clearly see (and to an extent measure) other emotions, such as fear and anger. Love is impossible to see with the naked eye, unless you take into account the many ways we can “show” others that we love them.
Humans can say “I Love You” out loud to others, but we also express love by our actions. This might be a gentle caress of a lover’s cheek, a kiss on a child’s skinned knee, or lending a helping hand to a friend in need. Our pets can tell us they love us in nonverbal ways too. When I go to bed, Belle comes and nestles under my chin, so very close to my heart. One might say, “Well, she’s just trying to stay warm.” But she does this year round, even on hot summer nights when the room has yet to cool.
When people love us, they want to be near us, and our pets are no different. I smile whenever I think about the night I was ill and couldn’t fall asleep with three cats on the bed. I would put them on the floor hoping they’d go find another place to sleep but they’d come right back up. Eventually I grabbed my pillow and a blanket, and moved to the couch to get away from them. In less than five minutes all three cats were lying next to me on the couch.
Animals also show love for humans by what they do after becoming separated from their families. Cats and dogs have traveled thousands of miles to reunite with those they love. If they were simply interested in getting fed, why not just sit down on the doorstep of the nearest house? And what of legendary dogs like Hachiko and Greyfriar’s Bobby, who showed their love and devotion long after their owners had died? Hachiko waited for his companion at the train station every night for nine years, and Greyfriar’s Bobby sat by his master’s grave for fourteen years. If that’s not love, what is it?
You can see love quite clearly in a person’s eyes when you look at them, and you can see it in your pet’s eyes too. All you have to do is look for it, and believe that what you see is real. Because it is – of this I have no doubt. I do not need to hear those three little words to know that my cats love me. Far better to see it is their eyes and in their actions, which as we all know, speak infinitely louder.
Anyone who needs to ponder the question “Do our pets love us?” for longer than a minute or two, has sadly not experienced what I see as one of life’s great joys. To love and be loved by a pet is a blessing. Tell me, how does your pet show their love for you?
Read more articles by Julia Williams