The art of pets

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Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.—Anatole France

The art of pets As soon as humans started making stick figures on cave walls, we drew pets by our side. Everyone from Gaugin to Lord Byron, and Picasso to Joe Pesci’s mom in Goodfellas has been inspired by pets to create, and animal companions have been human muses as often as any other example of truth and beauty throughout history. A lazy morning spent reading is made sublime with a cat on one’s lap or chest. Bring a dog on a trip to the park and suddenly every step is an adventure and every trail a mystery to be pursued to the fullest. And there is no better cure for the blues than reaching out and embracing one of these living, breathing stuffed animals that cuddle you back and selflessly (as Albert Schweitzer has often said across adorable cat photos on my Facebook wall) provide refuge “from the miseries of life.”

I know that for me, as much as any of the friends and family members I’ve loved, animal companions have given me comfort, and in many different ways, have inspired me.

There were all the (mostly) lovable weirdos my family had when I was a kid: Scooter, the very sweet calico that began sleeping in its cat box toward the end; Vern, the tiny dog with a big odor; Slick, the ridiculous Doberman with floppy, uncropped ears that tried to murder our other pets; and Stubs, a great cat with a half-tail.

Then there was our family’s favorite, Barney, the insane little bundle of restless fun that entertained me and my three sisters through much of our childhood. Barney, a terrier/cocker spaniel mix, and my current dog, Honey, a toy poodle/fluffy lamb mix, are the two best pets I’ve ever had (apologies to the wonderful, loving cats of my adult life—Rio, and her predecessors George and Bear). Barney and Honey were/are the kinds of dogs that wake up every morning and seem excited that another day has dawned, and bring an infectious energy to life as well as a desire to be with their people for every waking minute.

I won’t say one was better than the other. Honey matches Barney’s energy, but she is a more committed snuggler and thus provides a more potent dose of Puppy Prozac. But with four kids around to indulge him, Barney was constantly instigating new adventures, which made him a great source of inspiration. He didn’t follow us; we followed him.