Loving our animals just comes naturally. No matter what kind of day we’ve had, they always lift our spirits and help us to forget our cares. In this way, they are also our best role models for how to love and be loved by our partners. Yes, human relationships are much more complex, but animals (especially dogs and cats) remind us every day that:
1. Love is just listening. In my experience, animals understand this better than people. Sometimes when things go wrong, we just want to vent—we don’t necessarily want advice or to go over every possible solution right now. Though it’s very human for a significant other to want to “fix” things, it’s wonderful to know that when you talk to your dog, she’s happy to simply hear your voice and offer puppy-dog eyes and cuddles. Our animals also remind us to listen when our loved ones need to vent, too.
2. Love is unconditional. According to a recent survey, 40 percent of respondents said they’d rather spend Valentine’s Day with their animal than their significant other. Laugh if you will, but there’s something powerful behind this message. Animals love us unconditionally—on our worst days, when we’re grumpy, when we mess up, when we’re selfish, when we spend all day in our pajamas eating chocolate. They don’t base their love on what percentage of chores we do around the house or how organized we keep the pantry. Their love for us is constant, reliable and nonjudgmental, and it is very freeing not having to “be” anything different than our true authentic self.
“Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms. —George Eliot
3. Love is loyal. Loyalty is an essential element of any relationship, and animals offer it in spades. Our dogs and cats would walk to the ends of the earth to protect and support us, and they never lie to us. Our animals are unfailing in their devotion, and the luckiest among us find the same in our relationships.
4. Love is showing up. Our animals quickly become best friends, family members and loving companions. Why? Because they are right there, every day, wanting to share each moment of our life, be it joyful or filled with sorrow. When we’re sick in bed, they snuggle us. When we cry, their fur and whiskers catch our tears. When we take exotic vacations, they let go but jump back into our laps the second they see us again. They aren’t stuck behind laptops or iPhones or addicted to Facebook while sitting in the same room as us, which is a common complaint in relationships today. (And even if we’re the ones glued to our phones while petting them, they love us just the same.)
5. Love is right now. I’ve written before about how animals are wonderful teachers of mindfulness. Whether sprawled out on a sunshine-filled floor or out taking a walk, their minds are free to open and wander—they’re not stuck inside thoughts about yesterday or tomorrow. They savor the little moments in life and remind us to “stop and smell the roses.” They make us laugh and aren’t constantly worrying or multitasking. How fulfilling it is to truly live and love in the moment happening right now.
6. Love is eternal. Anyone who’s lost a beloved animal knows this to be true: They leave this earthly plane but live forever in your heart. When I lost my dog Dakota, my world fell apart, and my heart broke into a million pieces. Only in time did I find ways to honor his memory and learn deep within that he will always be a part of me, and that I am a better person today because he loved me.
“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose; all that we love deeply, becomes a part of us.” —Helen Keller
What valuable lessons to remember as we share our lives with loved ones! What love lessons have your animals taught you?