I was reflecting on my past four years of university recently, thinking about the overwhelming emotions I had experienced. Each year I could pick out times when I couldn’t handle the stress and the pressure of post-secondary education. There was at least one major breakdown every single year that had me closing off from friends, fighting with my partner, and calling my mom in tears. Except, it suddenly hit me that my fourth, and last, full year of university had been my least stressful and happiest year in post-secondary school yet—and I give all the credit to my cat. Well, mostly.
The only major difference between my fourth year and all the rest was that I was living with my partner and our cat. We’d gotten our little black and white Tuxedo kitten, Percy, in the summer of 2018 and since then he has brought so much joy to us both. I truly believe in the emotional support of animals and how much of a calming presence they can provide. Whenever I was feeling down or stressed, I would play with Percy or watch him run around the apartment (he is truly a crazy cat). He can be such a source of entertainment—whether he’s playing in the recently used shower or exploring the highest points he can reach—that I would forget whatever was stressing me out or bringing me down.
A lot of my friends have pets of their own that I know provide them with the same comforts. So, in honour of National Pet Day today, I would like to share other people’s stories of how their pets came into their lives and made them better.
Hazel is a Bernese Mountain Dog, but a petite one. My family had been thinking about getting another dog after our last Berner had passed away a few years prior. We kept sending my mom pictures of cute puppies until she finally gave in when I sent her a picture of Hazel. It truly was love at first sight!
Having Hazel around has definitely made my life better. As an only child she always provides a comforting presence whenever I’m feeling lonely; she will always give the best cuddles. She has a TON of energy and will give you a kiss on the nose if you ask for a ‘snoot boop’.
My bunny is a Netherlands Dwarf rabbit named Opal—a Libra’s lucky stone. A few years ago on my 19th birthday, two of my dearest friends invited me for brunch to celebrate. When I got to their apartment, there was a big box covered with a sheet in the middle of the room. My first thought was that they had bought me a new printer, but when I pulled back the sheet it was a cage with the tiniest bunny I had ever seen inside. I am an easily overwhelmed person and thusly I had what you could describe as a mild to moderate emotional breakdown at the thought of suddenly owning an animal. After a few days though, I fell head over heels for my furry little sidekick.
Opal’s favourite food are bananas—she can sense a banana from miles away. Unlike a lot of small pets, Opal doesn’t really live in a cage. She sleeps in one, but during the day she is free to relax wherever she pleases in the apartment. She is litter trained so it’s basically like having a cat. She’s very low maintenance, not to mention sustainable! Not only does she use recycled paper bedding and a second-hand cage, but all her waste can go in my green bin and she eats fruit and veggie scraps that would usually go to waste. Simply put, she is the straw to my berry and the tacos to my Tuesday.
My pet’s name is Linda and she’s a greying black cat (even though she’s only four) with no teeth and one blind eye. I’ve always loved cats. Intensely. Passionately. They are plastered all around my apartment in poster, sculpture, bowl, and mug format. Now, I have her in actual cat format. It was no surprise to anyone when I got Linda just over a year and a half ago.
Linda is a special one. Not only is she half-blind and toothless, but she’s also severely undersocialized. When they told me this at the Toronto Humane Society, my first thought was “Same, girl, same.” She came from a hoarding situation, which means that she was in a home that had many, many cats. This results in either extremely aggressive cats, or extremely submissive cats. Linda ended up being the latter. She’s very, very scared of humans, and is only now starting to warm up to me. I can now approach her without going sloth-level slow and can lay down next to her on the bed. It’s the small wins like those that make it worthwhile.
Seeing her get better always makes my day. I love seeing her do normal cat things that she didn’t do when I first got her, like play with a toy even though I’m watching her (like, how dare I watch her play?!) or hope on the dresser even though she knows she’s not supposed to. She’s slowly starting to warm up to her life with me and it brings me so much joy to witness.
My dog is a Bichon Shih Tzu named Leo. When I was younger I had a lot of different animals; cats, dogs, hamsters, turtles… you name it. However, when my brother was born he was sick a lot with asthma and bronchitis so we couldn’t have animals in the house any more. When we were older though, my brother wanted to get a dog and saved up enough money to buy one as a high school graduation present for himself. He had convinced my mom to get a hypoallergenic dog so we drove to a Bichon Shih Tzu breeder in Grimsby in 2013. We had our hearts set on a black and white dog, but when we met all the puppies, there was a little white dog that wouldn’t stop jumping and dancing for us. We knew in that moment that he had chosen us and he was the one.
Leo has made such a tremendous difference in our lives. When my brother eventually moved away for school, Leo filled the void in our family he had left behind. He’s my mom’s best friend; they do everything together. He makes everything that’s bad feel good again, makes a quiet house feel not so big and quiet, and he is a great friend whenever you start to feel lonely. He is the reason our family is the way it is today; more loving and compassionate than it was before. Even if he is a little territorial sometimes and won’t let my boyfriend and I sit next to each other (he growls and cries and has to be put in the middle haha), I cannot imagine my life without him, or any other dog at that!
My cat, Jolie, is a short-haired orange tabby. When I was six, my mom surprised me with an orange tabby cat to help me cope with bullying I was experiencing. Unfortunately, he passed away soon after and so we searched for another cat. Eventually, we found Jolie up for adoption at the Toronto Humane Society. I remember her sitting by herself in a small cage with five other kittens. They told us she wouldn’t be a good fit for kids because she wasn’t playful, but I didn’t care. We took her home with us that day and even though, 16 years later, she still doesn’t play, I love her so much.
She’s become so much a part of our family that it’s as if she was never meant to be a cat, but a human. She’s very vocal, more vocal than any other cat I’ve met, and complains about everything; if she has to eat by herself, if no one is paying attention to her, if she’s alone in a room. When my family sits down for dinner, she even sits on her own chair at the table like she’s ready to eat too—and ALWAYS with one paw in the air. She’s just very social and loves to be around people. Jolie got me through bullying. It was nice to come home from school and have her greet me at the door and follow me around the house. She was a comforting presence at a time when I really needed her.
Having goldfish is something my parents have had in my family’s home since I was little. It’s a cultural and family custom; my grandparents also have a tank similar to ours. Goldfish are supposed to be good for a home’s feng shui (a Chinese pseudoscience to harmonize an environment) and provide luck and wealth to the home and those inhabiting it.
My fish don’t have any names… mainly because they all look the same. However, my parents told me that as a kid I would just name them all “Fishy” when I would sit and watch them swim around their tank. My favourite part about having these fish is because they help my relax when I’m stressed or anxious. Sometimes I’ll just sit and watch them like I did as a kid. If you trace your finger on the glass they think its food and will follow your finger around endlessly.
My cat’s name is Jerry! He was a rescue, so the breed is a little up in the air, but he’s a cute grey and white, approximately nine-month-old, short-haired cat. When I got him I was having a really rough time living alone in Toronto. I had just gone through a tough breakup and none of my friends lived in the city over the summer, so I was feeling really lonely. I’d grown up with cats and dogs, so I had the idea that if I had a pet to take care of (and to simultaneously take care of me), then maybe I would feel less lonely.
He’s definitely made my life better. When I first brought him home, I panicked about having to take care of an actual creature at a time where I could barely take care of myself. I was scared I had made the wrong decision, despite thinking about it for months, but I think the way he tells me he trusts and loves me makes it all worthwhile. There was one time last semester when I was feeling extremely anxious and he just came over to where I was lying in bed and put his paw on my face. I definitely think he can sense whenever I’m stressed or in pain.
Ireland is a Blue Pointer, Black Lab mix. My roommate adopted her from a Mexican animal rescue the same day I moved in. You can definitely say it was an exciting day for everyone. I think dogs make people’s lives better no matter what, even in just being a presence to come home to. Ireland and I have snuggle time every day, and she truly brightens my mood whenever I see her.
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