While I'm aware of my own tendency to assign human emotions and intentions to my animals' behaviors, there's one pet-related event that I just can't shake.
Three years ago, I was living in Oklahoma City. On a particularly dreadful day filled with the pressures of grad school and the reality of being 900 miles from family, I, alone with my dog in my living room, put on a one-woman show of exhaustion, frustration and homesickness.
For a healthy 15 minutes, my dog stared at this spectacle.
Eventually, enough was enough and she began to approach me.
With barely three inches of clearance on my chair, she hoisted her long and lean, 40-pound body onto my lap. Then, laying her head on my chest, she again watched me.
In the most awkward and uncomfortable manner, she maintained her position there, beginning to shake from exhaustion.
After a few minutes and a mood change, I changed the subject: "London, let's get a treat."
I cannot completely grasp how she knew to console me. Or how she so selflessly spared her own comfort for mine.
I could try to describe this moment objectively. Yet, I can't shake how her embrace was so humanlike. Am I then guilty of anthropomorphizing? And if I am, is that OK?
Throughout my time in rescue work and a lifetime of pet ownership, I've continuously witnessed animals display "human" traits such as compassion and patience and even selfishness and jealousy.
Working with a dog rescue, I saw dogs that were thrown from vehicle windows by cruel humans only to turn around and embrace another human.
I've seen my own animals, in one moment, staring each other down over a better toy, and in another moment, standing in an ordered line at the water bowl.
It seems to me that those holding the argument that animals don't have emotions have quite a steep hill to climb.
As I take over the reins to this column, I hope to shed light on why and how our pets have become such integral parts of the human experience. And I especially hope to illustrate how to make the human-pet bond stronger, longer and more memorable.