If patience is a virtue, then caring for animals can help make us virtuous.
I was far from virtuous one recent morning as my first coffee awaited my return from the daily ritual of walking the dogs as soon as I roll out of bed. A cold wind sweeping off a pond did nothing to improve my mood as I stood waiting at yet another patch of innocuous grass as both Labradors intensely sniffed, oblivious to my scowl and growing impatience.
I know that the life expectancy for my two large dogs is relatively short—one now ten and the other nine—and I should not be wasting any of the time we spend together in an impatient state. Later that cold day I realized it was the 7th anniversary of the passing of our golden retriever, Jake; he had been twelve. I resolved then to have more patience with Baxter and Cole, even when stopping for the umpteenth time during our morning walk. Besides it is a new year, an appropriate time for making resolutions.
Our cat Waldo entered our lives last October and he, too, is now teaching us about patience. One of the first lessons came when trying to find items he enjoyed scratching other than the living room chairs and dining room seat cushions. Not only did we need to find the correct item, but we also needed to determine the correct location for it. The patience part came in the waiting for the absence of inappropriate scratching. It took several weeks before we were no longer awoken at 3 AM to the ripping sounds of cloth being shredded.
A new lesson in patience is on-going. Two weeks ago, Waldo stopped eating. We now have a plethora of cat foods in the pantry closet. After a couple meals of wolfing down a particular brand, Waldo decides he no longer wants it. I’ve had as many as four different ones open in front of him before he decides on one. Our vet suggested adding clam juice, which does help the appeal of a waning liking for a particular brand, but not permanently. (We need to have patience as we figure out what is going on…)
Anyone that has pets learns the need for patience, from house training a puppy to teaching a cat to stay off the kitchen counters. Numerous studies show the many benefits of pet ownership, both mental and physical. Learning patience is just one more.
[This is the “Editor’s Notes” column from the February/March issue of Pet Tails.]