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Five Life Lessons Learned from Our Pets

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Comfort is essential for human beings, and generally all living things, to have a fulfilling life. Despite talking about health and wellness all the time, I’m no stranger to creature comforts as I enjoy this large ice cream cone on a humid New Jersey day. Sometimes comfort doesn’t come from food, though. More often it comes from the others in our lives– like our pets.

I recently lost both of my rat brothers, Sniffles and Splinter, to complications due to their ages. However, in their three years with me they’ve taught me a great deal about love and life which I will be sharing with you today. Many of you pet owners, regardless of the breed of your baby will agree on these lessons, I think.

1. Show gratitude. You haven’t known gratitude until you hand a rat a morsel of their favorite snack. They snatch it out of your hands, clutching the food in their tiny paws and munching away until all that’s left are the crumbs in their paws. Then, they come to the door sniffing wildly and eagerly licking any remnants from your fingers. Gratitude is the feeling of a tiny rat tongue on your finger.

2. Move heaven and earth for those we love. Pets rarely hurt feelings, often making them easier to love than their human counterparts, but our relationships with them are a proving ground for loving unconditionally. And for those we’re apt to move mountains. Every other week for three years I made trips to the vet for teeth trimmings (Splinter had malocclusion) so he could eat and be healthy. Sometimes I had to commute 40 mins one way and pay as much as $70 for the procedure. Some days I got up at 7:30 a.m. on weekends to get it done. It was trying all around, but I did it and I would do it again. I learned a lot about duty in service to my little ones.

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3. We are temporary. A pet’s life expectency is a sobering thought that can ground us in our own temporary nature. No matter how hard we try, no matter how good our diets are, how many medicines we take or surgeries we have, our bodies will wear out and eventually cease to function. Acknowledging that is “acceptance,” not “giving up.” We come to weigh what really matters against all the noise in our lives. We must do all we can with the time we have.

4. Every day is awesome. One could argue dogs are happy because they don’t have to worry about things like mortgages and student debt, but we can all learn a thing or two. Each day has possibilities, if only we allow ourselves to explore them. If only we could muster that same zest for life each morning. It probably will take a lot of coffee.

5. Everyone is special to someone. As a rat momma, there were plenty of times where I heard “ew” in response to talking about my furbabies. I learned to warn people of what I had in my carrier at the vet; I referred to them as “like hamsters” to nosy, prudish neighbors who I feared would make a ruckus if they knew I had “rats” in their complex. For all the flack they get as a species from the less-informed, there are few better pets to have. Even an animal who is held in such low esteem by the general public is held in such high regard by someone: me. Everyone is special to someone, and so are you.

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What else have your furry family members taught you?

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