Love is true and strong when you are willing to die or kill for the object of your affections. For those in grief, the healing power of such love is frequently found in the presence of a pet, a dog or a cat kept in the home for the purpose of pleasure or companionship or quite likely both. The depths of this love, for those unacquainted with the friendship of the feline and the canine, admittedly looks a little like lunacy, easy to trivialize and minimize, dismissible as nothing more than hyperbole or a bit of sentimentality. For those in the wake of loss, however, there is a calm and comfort found in a furry friend the magnitude of which eludes the limitations of language. The Chinese sage Lao Tzu once said, the one who speaks does not know, and the one who knows does not speak, a precious truth made plain through the empty, adoring eyes of a four-legged friend. The warmth of their presence, the absence of any judgment, the tenderness of their faithfulness, all of this a gentle reminder you are loved just as you are.
The commonness of this relationship can actually obscure the strangeness of what is in fact cohabitation with an alien. The wildness still within these domesticated docents echoes an ancient calling also etched within every human being: to share in the pain of life, which is the cost of knowing its beauty. That so much compassion can be found in something so other underscores the importance of allowing yourself to touch, and be touched, by difference. Otherness enlarges your sense of self in vital ways unimaginable until your world is infused with the gifts of what was once foreign. Yes, something as simple as cuddling with a creature on the couch at the end of the day can buoy the spirit, mend the mind, and assuage an aching heart even if only for the night.