The suitcases are out. Clothes are piled on beds in the guest room. And Riley the Westy knows it. He watches every move, and doesn’t like it one bit. I know we are inclined to read human emotions into the lives of our pets, but some things are obvious. He knows he is about to be left behind, and for some time. He doesn’t like it. Let me put it this way, I have heard him howl his long mournful howl for hours when my wife has left for a few days. Nothing can stop him and nothing can comfort him. One of his favorite people will stay in the house while we are gone, and he will settle down to decide that it’s not all that bad after all. But it will take time.
In the meantime, as we pull out of the driveway headed for a much longed for winter respite, we will be oddly sad and a little reluctant to go. We too will get over it. What is it about people and their pets, especially pets that display affection, intelligence, and loyalty? I’ve been to farms where the dogs live outside and barn cats are tolerated as long as they keep the vermin down. Yet, no matter how stoic they claim to be, farmers weep when one of them is sick, injured or dies, and the dogs and cats know who belongs on the property and who doesn’t. I know, I know, it’s just territorial instinct, but it seems to go so much further than that.
If we read human emotions into the lives of our pets, what do they read into our lives? I have no doubt that it goes both ways. Some years back we had a cat, Catmandu to be exact. I had an accident one year that laid me up for several weeks sitting and sleeping in my chair. She never left my side. Was she comforting me, or was I just a handy place to nap? I may never know, but her presence gave me comfort and peace, healing balms if there ever were any. Did she read that need? Paula the late church cat attended every AA meeting, greeting each person in turn. Then she selected one, almost always the one who needed comfort the most, on whose lap she snuggled for the duration. I suppose it was just coincidence, or maybe the lucky soul smelled like tunafish.
As for me, I continue to be amazed by these creatures for whom we care, and who care for us. We may read into each other things that are not there, but just the same, it seems to work out well on both sides.