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WITH LOVE, FROM TWO LEGS TO FOUR

December 5, 2013
Cute Pets

Cute Pets

According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent over $50 billion on their pets in 2011. Yes, that is billion as in BILLION. If you own a pet or know someone who does, this is not a shocking fact. The truth is becoming more and more obvious. The relationship is mutual. Not only will our pets do anything for us, but we humans, will do anything for our pets.

It is a strange relationship that we have with our furry friends. Many of us connect to them as well, if not even better, than we do with other humans. We attach ourselves knowing that we will most surely grieve their passing since they do not experience a life span that resembles that of humans, but we are willing to develop a loving relationship with them despite our knowledge that we will experience the loss.

We humans take on a commitment for our pets that exceeds the type of commitment many of us avoid when it comes to another human being. It is quite obvious that being a pet lover really means being a pet lover.

People and Pets

People and Pets

Around the same time Americans were spending their $50 billion plus in 2011, researchers Zilcha-Mano, Mikulincer, and Shaver developed a scale they called the “Pet Attachment Questionnaire.” The intent to break down and analyze specific information about who, when, how and why we humans get attached to pets the way we do.

They came up with two basic attachment dimensions that people can be categorized in when it comes to the way they feel about their pets. The first dimension is one of avoidance and the other is one of anxiety.

Here is a sampling of a few specific questions found in their questionnaire. Although they are just a few questions for each of the two dimensions, it should be fairly clear if you and your feelings about your pet place you in one of the categories.

You need to scale your response from 1-5 as follows:
1 – Never
2 – Rarely
3 – Sometimes
4 – Often
5 – Frequently

Avoidance Scale

Being close to my pet is not important to me.
I prefer not to be too close to my pet.
My pet is a nuisance to me.
I am not very attached to my pet.
When I’m away from my pet for a long period of time, I hardly think about it.

Anxiety Scale

I’m worried about what I’ll do if something happens to my pet.
I feel that my pet doesn’t allow me to get as close to them as I would like to.
I feel worthless without acts of affection from my pet.
I am worried about being left alone without my pet
I need a lot of reassurance from my pet that it loves me.

The higher your total score, the more likely that your pet attachment is either based on avoidance or anxiety. Healthier pet relationships do not show a high score on either category.

I write about this today because I chose to bring my two dogs along when we traveled to family for Thanksgiving. Coincidentally, my sister’s 13 year old pug had to be put down that day and my bringing our dogs along caused a lot of extra stress at a bad time for her.

Had it not been for a little “J-Bird” and willingness to face the music and give forgiveness a very front row position, there might have been some serious damage done to one of the most significant relationships in both of our lives.

We love our pets and sometimes even feel as if they understand us more than people in our lives; its true. Best to be careful to make sure we don’t lose sight of how important and significant our relationships with other human beings are.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

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