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A primer on pet-loving families for those who don’t understand them

Many non-pet lovers find it very very hard to understand the family of pet-lovers. This is a kind of a primer for them. Pets have names For pet-loving families, the pets are not amusement toys. They are a valued member of the family. If you know the name of their pet, use that name instead of asking, “How is your dog” or “Where is your cat”. A pet-lover always refers to their pets by their names just like they would do it for the other members of the family. Dogs, Cats, Parrots, Birds Turtles and a yes in some cases fish too have a name. It is not strange behaviour Don’t be taken aback when a pet lover says goodbye to their pets when leaving home or greets them with a ‘Hi’ when returning home. The pets expect that and will sulk if not acknowledged. They understand that ‘Bye’ means they will be left alone for some time. They may not like it but then they are philosophers on one level knowing no one gets everything in life. You will often find pet lovers discussing their life’s issues with their pets. And the pets listening with full-on attention. They are perhaps one of the best counsellors in terms of giving attention, empathy, non-judgmental attitude and positive strokes. They have feelings too Pets are not reared to get rid of left-over food. Pets do get fresh food and sometimes exclusive and expensive food. Don’t try to give the left-over in your plate to the pet. Pets are not ‘animals’ although that may sound weird. For many pet owners, they are like sons/daughters and for the children in the house they are often like siblings or friends. Pet-owners will worry about their pets if they have left them alone for a long time just like they would worry about their children left alone. This is totally normal behaviour. When you invite them for a wedding with ‘please come with the entire family’ don’t get scared. Although the pets are family they will not bring them along. They understand your sensitivities and live with a hope that in some evolved future the invitation will say, ‘Pets included’. The agony of them going missing The agony that they go through when pets go missing (god forbid), is very real and very genuine. They will move the heavens and earth, spend time, money, energy to trace them. It definitely is like their sons/daughters gone missing. They will look out for them for months on and go close to look at any other animal if it resembles their lost pet. If you cannot empathize with them, don’t mock them. When Pets die Finally, when the pets die, the loss is huge. The entire family grieves the loss of a loved member of the family. Perhaps the only member of the family who understood, ‘unconditional love’. Allow them to grieve. Give them that space. Some do take a long time to get over the loss and some may never. Please don’t say things like, “It was only a dog”, “You can get another dog”, “It was one of the three cats you had, you have two more left” etc. You are hurting them more by your insensitive words. They may get another pet, but it is not some kind of a replacement for the lost member of the family. Each pet is precious to them. Each pet is different. They are not like the broken vase you can replace with another one. Pets are life. If you make the effort, you can understand the bond.

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