A few days ago when I was doing a guided meditation session, the Instructor asked me to go back to any one moment of Love I’ve received from somebody around me, and to think about, recreate and visualize that in my head. While for most others, it could have been with a parent, sibling or a partner in any form of a romantic relationship, I, on the other hand, thought of the dogs that were kind enough to share their time with me.
I was asked to focus on the ways in which I remember those moments, particularly how my senses were affected in those and what was I feeling back then. As soon I thought of these furry friends, I had a spontaneous, broad smile on my face. I thought of their soft fur, doggy smell, the scent of their shampoo, wetness they’d try to wriggle-off after a bath, soulful eyes, and moisture on their nose. Also, I could hear the sound of my own laughter when they were playing with me.
While this recollection of Snowy, Amy and Jackson made me very happy, it also spoke of how little I valued human affection- from the outside, it could mean estrangement from others or the absence of loved ones. But this is mostly the case with my peers from this generation, also known as Millennials. What we lack in human relations, we make up for them by investing our emotions on other domesticated creatures and even plants. While my connection with plants is moderate, I have a better understanding of bonding between humans and animals.
In a survey from 2011, six-out-of-ten pet owners, or 63.2%, considered their pets to be family members. A study of pre-teens concluded that they relied on pets for emotional and social support over secondary family members, while another study claimed that early teens had better relationships with the family pets over their siblings. All of these were certainly true in my case.
What’s more noticeable is the gap pets leave behind when they are gone-there is grief with the same emotional toll as one would feel for the loss of any human family member, and more importantly an emotional dependency that could only be filled by another pet, given that the impact is not too much that one does not want to go through that again. Whether or not one decides to get another pet to transfer that dependency, one definitely will show empathy towards other people’s pets. Trickily, empathy towards pets doesn’t often mean that the ability to do so extends towards other humans while studies show that psychologically people with pets are viewed to be more empathetic in general than those without.
I, a woman, at my current place in life, nearing 30, single, with only a job to look forward to (it pays my bills) and with not much of a future plan in terms of ‘settling down’ find the idea of transferring my emotional dependency to a pet by bringing one back into my life, very appealing. Because, it is at this age, when a lot of your close friends seem to be bringing into their life- a partner, and some even their 2.5 kids, and for a lot of good reasons. By now, you’ve hit the saturation point where the whole dating shebang tires you and leads you nowhere close to where you want to be in your personal life. Also by now, you’ve a decent job, settled into your own space but no companion to share it with.
Pet ownership is increasing among singles in the world at large, and there’s an obvious answer that is also statistically proven to be correct- Separation in the form of breakups & divorces. And why? The follow up answer, obvious again, is reliability. While there may be a lot of reasons why a couple could split, and love is lost, it’s a sure thing that a pet will love you back, and unconditionally.
Pets make for good roommates in general, even for new pet owners, once they get over the initial troubles of getting used to lifestyle changes, similar to when people are experiencing parenthood for the first time. But it doesn’t mean growing up with a pet is the same as raising one, as there are lesser chances of one having cleaned up after the pet or giving them their care as much as much as the parents must have done. I definitely did not spend much time doing the dirty work as much as my parents did. I had all the fun parts though, so I can’t say I could be certified to be a good pet parent. Let me put it this way- growing up with a sibling doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re readily capable of handling your own babies as a grown up. And yes, at this point, I’d like to make it clear like pointed out above from a study, I do consider that pets are like any other family member, and it is like raising children for the person who is the caregiver.
As for the future of relationship statuses of single people with pets, the furry flat-mate is often the deal-maker or breaker. Studies support that pets are often a common point of social interaction between the pet owner, and future potential dates, and pet-owners often regard positively people who get favorable reactions from the pets, especially dogs.
I can positively tell that I can still read how a dog feels about strangers or new people, those abilities don’t get rusted even if I am not around pets on a regular basis like I once was. Yes I might not have picked up dog poop as much, but I’ll know if I see a dog on a walk, when exactly he’s ready to poop. I know, they teach you uncanny things.
So going back to singlehood, there are studies that say people with pets get to meet with, a potentially higher rate, of new people for romantic and platonic relationships than the ones without. I find that applies to people one interacts with on social media as well. I have more likes on my photographs with my dog hanging about me than other pictures of just myself. Point in case, are also, the many pet accounts on social media that are filled with 1001 pictures of dogs, cats and we find them all cute! If you don’t like things like that, you’re definitely in the minority, sister.
There’s also the fact that pat parenthood is less expensive that having kids, but pet food, grooming and lifestyle is also a market that has grown over the years and still is, so taking care of a pet does not come free and is definitely not a zero cost investment, but it is one with great benefits, mostly mental wellness related.
If someone asked me to apply the ‘Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?’ question to my personal life, I’d say that I picture myself coming home to my own apartment with a dog and a cat that are friends and a whole collection of aesthetic succulents and other plants decorating the interiors. Yes, I know if can manage all that with or without a man, the rest of my life will be sorted.
So are you still worried/ hopeless about finding the right person? You know, you can always be assured that you’ll find someone to love you and for you to return the same amount of love as long as you aren’t expecting that someone to be human.
PS: Picture in the cover image is of 'Snowy', a white Spitz who was an endless source of love and joy for my family