Some years ago I met the late Dr. Maxwell, a revered Kansas City veterinarian. During my doggie’s check-up I asked him if he had any pets at home. He said, “No, I do not.” I thought that was strange. He continued, “But, I do have animal companions.”
Then, I got it. It forever changed my relationship with my own pets and all animals. We do not “own” or “have” pets, but they accompany us for a little or a long while as we both journey through life. We speak different languages and functions, except for mutual presence and the capacity to bond and give and receive love.
For what is love other than what the late psychologist Carl Rogers, calls “‘unconditional positive regard”?
Unconditional positive regard gives respect and the presumption of goodness. It recognizes hatred and aggressiveness as impairments and aberrations in what is the true and highest nature of things. It is this kind of stance that our country and our families need to consider in the face of so much dysfunction in our world. It begins to look a lot like simple kindness.
While the pandemic continues to wear us out, many of us appreciate the kindness of others who bring groceries or call to check on us. We see entertainers give free performances on TV. And when we see riotous attacks and hear political rancor we feel even more tired and done with behavior that simply leaves us hopeless and unhappy. Those of us who are lucky enough to have animal companions, hug them in appreciation for their simple presence and affection that does not judge or criticize or demean.
(This column was inspired by two of my children and their families who have adopted dogs this past month. Yoshi, a doggie from an Alabama shelter, is becoming acclimated to winter in Chicago. He threw up several times during his first night there; change is a challenge for all of us.)