To All the Animals I’ve Loved Before

I’ve always been an animal lover and have grown up with a dog for fourteen years of my life. It was only until university when I discovered just how fundamentally important the presence of a pet is for keeping me happy and healthy as a 21-year-old lady.

When I was seven years old my parents decided to invite a dog into our family; it is one of the most vivid childhood memories that I have to this day. This decision created overwhelming excitement and joy in me because, as an only child, I could not wait to have a “sister”! I begged my parents to let my childhood best friend Faith come along with us to the kennel because I knew that picking up a puppy would be one hell of a momentous play date for both of us. When we arrived at the kennel, Faith and I squealed with excitement and anticipation. However, my parents gave me a very stern lecture about how owning a dog is a massive responsibility and that I would have to step up my game to help care for this puppy. My dad even insisted that I sign the ownership documents! 

After talking about my new responsibilities, it was finally time to take my puppy home. Little did I know, that that moment would change me as a person. My puppy, who I adoringly named Mavis, would become my biggest source of unexplainable happiness and emotional support. The little five-pound ball of fur helped me through a ridiculous amount of teen angst and through my first heartbreak upon coming home from third year of university. Mavis provided a unique type of support that my best friends and parents couldn’t ever provide because she boosted my mood just by existing. She was, and still continues to be, an enormous piece to the puzzle of my happiness and well-being. 

                                                                              14 year old Mavis!

However, when adulthood and university rolled around, I was dogless and lost a major emotional support system in my life. I longed to have a pet at Queen’s and was always a pro-dog kind of gal, meaning that I DID NOT like cats. I thought there was no chance in hell that a cat (or any other animal aside from my dog) could provide the same sense of peace, but my mind has changed now in my current and final year of university. 

Since my housemate, Cassidy, recently adopted a cat that she has lovingly named Elenor, I’ve realized that any type of pet has a positive impact on my mental health. Perhaps it’s Elenor’s curious and affectionate temperament that reminds me of my dog and the sense of comfort that I’m used to, but ultimately I’ve learned that I’m a cat person now too. 

                                                                                         Elenor

I shared this realization while visiting a friend this past weekend at the University of Western’s homecoming. While inebriated, I felt that it was my responsibility to let all of my friends know that “I’m a cat person now!”. Seeing the comforting presence of a cat at the house party I went to was a treat, let me tell you! 

I want to thank Elenor (and Cassidy!) for putting to rest the paralyzing debate of whether dogs are better than cats. As a new “cat person”, I can confidently say that it has nothing to do with the species, rather what matters is the greater good that cats have provided for people’s happiness and well-being. Being able to come home to a cat after a lengthy and nerve-wracking day has worked wonders for my anxiety and depression while being at school. Like my dog Mavis, Elenor has given me so much comfort just by being herself and I am forever grateful for that. And scientifically speaking, scientists have proven that interacting with dogs and cats releases endorphins, providing a calming effect, so what’s not to love about being both pro-dog and a cat person!