Someone asked me the other day if I considered Cooper my child. The conversation wasn’t overly serious so this random question took me by surprise in that I didn’t really think about my answer. I just said no. Which surprised both of us. More on my surprise in a moment. The friend followed up with, ‘Hmmm, I would have thought as much love you show him you’d see him that way.‘ Well, I was flattered he could tell I love my dog but I was a little perplexed at the implication that I could only feel the depth of love for a human. And for many that might be a natural assumption but it wasn’t one for me. After I thought a little more about it, I still don’t perceive Cooper as my child. He is more of a companion in my eyes. Do I love him any less? Absolutely not. I love that dog as much as could ever love a child. Just because he isn’t human shouldn’t devalue his worth or my capacity to love him. I know so because I would easily do harm to someone to protect him. I would sooner punch someone over Cooper than anything said person could say to me about myself. That to me is a fine determinant on how much I love my 65lb munchkin.
I guess when I first got Cooper, I did sort of perceive him like a child. I still refer to myself in the 3rd-party as his daddy. In many ways, you might perceive an animal as an eternal child because they always need looking after. So the parent-child aspect can be present but I don’t think it necessarily has to encompass the love we feel for our pets. I can tell you as Cooper and I have bonded and time has passed, I do not see him as a child. He is my friend and companion and I couldn’t love him anymore than if he were human. The latter is the surprise for myself.
I’ve had pets off/on most of my life. I grew up on farm and had tons of animals around me all the time. But until I met Spike when Apple guy and I first got together, I’d never felt the depth of love for an animal before. I loved Spike more than any animal before him and still miss him every day. It broke my heart when we had to put him down. And part of the reason I didn’t want another dog was because I was afraid of betraying the love I had for Spike. Now I see how silly that was but being heartbroken can affect one’s judgment. And I consider myself fortunate Apple guy badgered me into getting another dog. I’ll always love him for bringing Cooper into my life. I don’t mind admitting I love Cooper even more than I loved sweet Spike. It doesn’t mean I love Spike less. I came into Cooper’s life early on and he is growing up with me. Spike was a full grown adult and already had his bond with Apple guy. Not to say he didn’t love me but it’s just different. Spike will always be the dog that taught me I could love an animal.
And this makes me wonder what changed? Why am I suddenly more capable of loving an animal so strongly whereas before I wasn’t? Was it because I grew up on a farm knowing most of our livestock was food? Did I form detachments to prevent myself from getting hurt when I lost a pet? No, we never ate pets of course, but what is a pet to me might be food to someone else in another country. The separation in our minds is what I’m referring to here. Then I wonder if maybe the misery of my childhood somehow blocked it. Even as a young adult I never loved my pets like I did Spike and now Cooper. My 20’s were about survival for myself. Maybe it was an extension of the block from childhood? When I met Apple guy my life had definitely settled down quite a bit. I’m guessing mostly. I can’t really explain why things shifted. Maybe I just grew up.