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The Peace of Pets

Monday, October 1, 2007

photo by Bill Thompson III
Bill calls this photo, "The Crazy Pet Lady of Whipple." OK, call me crazy, but I know what I need.

Ever wonder what you would do, or who you might be, without a beloved pet? I do, all the time. They save me sometimes. We've all heard about the studies where researchers hook people up with a blood pressure cuff, take a baseline reading, and then let the person's pet into the room. A couple of caresses or strokes down the pet's back, and the blood pressure falls. I feel it acutely, and I look forward to those quiet times of day and evening when I can turn to my pets for comfort and slowing down. A little Shiraz doesn't hurt, either. That is a Baker noseprint on the lens, by the way. photo by Bill Thompson III
I'm showcasing the photography skills of Phoebe Linnea in the next few pictures. She's the creator of my new profile pic, and these were in the same series. Sure, Mom's setting it up and coaching her, but I hardly need to say much anymore. "Come in closer." "Now just the heads." That kind of thing. And she does the rest. I would have liked to wield a Canon EOS at age 11, but never so much as touched a real camera until I was about 21. Photography is just another of those things that she'll have grown up doing, lucky little thing. She'll have grown up with the instant gratification and education of looking at her picture within seconds of making it. I sent my film away for years, waiting a week or two to see what I'd done. She doesn't know how good she's got it. I love it when she reviews her work and comments, "That's a keeper."photo by Phoebe Linnea Thompson
I think about what it is that's so comforting about animals. For starters, I don't think I'll ever stop marveling at the fact that one can bond so strongly with another life form, one that can't talk or hold a verbal conversation, one with a completely different set of social signals and foreign yet deciperhable body language. Yet both of us reach out and we manage to bridge those gaps with ease. We understand what they're telling us, and they understand us. And here's this psittacid on my shoulder, serenely preening his feathers, and here's this canid on my lap, watching for lagomorphs in the yard, and I get to pet them and talk to them and accept the comfort and companionship they lavish on me. Charlie throws in dermabrasion as a by Phoebe Linnea Thompson
Here's the second thing about animals that I think sets us at ease. Aside from food, water, and shelter, their demands on us and estimation of us are pretty simple, and change very little. Our children are constantlly growing and evolving, and their demands on us change radically with each passing year. The bald squirming little grub that needed to be nursed every hour, needed its diapers changed, now needs a ride to and from basketball practice, needs to have friends spend the night, needs a grilled cheese and ham sandwich, but doesn't like tuna. The people we love all go through changes, walk through doors in life, and sometimes we can't come along. Through all the evolution and changes swirling around me, I'm pretty sure that Chet will be just as excited to see me come through the door when he's 13 as he is at 2 1/2, sure that the idea of a walk in the woods with me will always be the best thing he can imagine, now and forever. That, my friends is something.
And so there is a special peace and uncomplicated simplicity to being with our pets that often eludes us in the company of family and friends. You hear the phrase "unconditional love" bandied about; that we wish we could be the kind of person our dog thinks we are. We know our pets will always love us and want to be with us, no matter what. No wonder they bring us peace.
photo by Phoebe Linnea Thompson. New glasses. Whaddya think?

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