The joy of pets

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For centuries, even back to ancient Egypt, animals have been domesticated as household pets, and man has created special bonds with his domesticated animals, making them part of the family.

Here in the Philippines, dogs are the most popular choice for household pets, partly for practical reasons, as guard dogs, but also for their loyalty and intelligence.

I rarely see cats as household pets here. Sadly, Filipino cats are mostly stray, and they keep multiplying because there are no laws that require them to be neutered.

In American cities, cats are as popular as dogs, especially for busy people who prefer cats’ low-maintenance lifestyle.

When we came here almost two years ago, we brought our house cat with us, an orange tabby named Sebastian a.k.a. Snaggle-Tooth. It was a huge production, but it was worth it. He had lived with us for 18 years at that point, and we couldn’t bear to leave him behind along with everything else. Now he is 20, having far surpassed the normal life expectancy of house cats.

In a bizarre way, I feel that he understands me when I talk to him. Wishful thinking perhaps, but whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter because I know he understands the important things.

Pets bring joy and fun to our lives. There have been studies showing that they help us to maintain a positive outlook, and that they reduce stress and anxiety. They provide us with unconditional acceptance, without judgment. They also bring cohesiveness to families.

In recent years, the therapeutic usage of pets in the States has gained a lot of momentum not only in homes but also in health centers such as nursing homes. Some research has shown that for people who suffer major illnesses, pets help them to actually live a little longer, and they tend to be less melancholy about their medical conditions. Pets are great listeners, and except for parrots, they never talk back.

Last year, I acquired a pregnant female goat named Sophie. Since I know nothing about goats, I took her to some dear friends of mine, Royce and Luisa Ladnier, who run a goat farm in Balugo Sibulan called Hilltop Farm, for some R&R, since their farm is like a resort spa for goats. (They sell beautiful Anglo-Nubian goats, primarily as breeding stock, many of them purebred.) They took care of Sophie, and she gave birth to an adorable male goat, Sammy. Originally destined for slaughter, Sammy was castrated as a matter of course (it greatly improves the quality of the meat and makes it less gamey).

But then I realized that he is my pet, and so he will be spared from the butcher’s blade, becoming one of the very few goats who die of old age. Being castrated, he is becoming quite philosophical, since his mind is not clouded by the constant chasing after does (females) that goats are famous for.

Sophie has since given birth to female twins, Flora and Fauna. It’s a lot of fun watching them playing with each other, and prancing around like reindeer. They come to me when I call their names, and they love to be petted, which is good for me, since it calms me down.

On the practical side, they are also “guard goats,” because they make noise whenever someone comes towards or through our gate. I never thought I would be a goat-lover, but I am.

Pets bring out the nurturing instinct in us. Our troubles seem to melt away, since we know that we could never explain them to these innocent little creatures. I would encourage anyone who can to indulge in, and to indulge, a pet.

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