Even when they're gone, pets make their humans better people.
Losing a pet can be really, really tough.
In 2002, President Bill Clinton talked about the sudden death of his dog Buddy, who was hit by a car. He said it was "by far the worst thing" to happen to him since leaving office, and he shared this heartbreaking photo, too:
Sandra Barker, the director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University, counsels people who've lost their pets.
She says many of her clients feel surprised and even ashamed by their grief when a pet passes away. But given the impact that pets have on our lives, we the people should know: It's 100% normal to grieve when you lose something you love! Even, and especially, pets.
The way humans celebrate our animal companions brings out some beauty in us, too.
After their friends moved up to that great Dog Park/Scratching Post Palace in the Sky, the stories of pet owners on Instagram reflecting on their own lives as they reflect on their pets' lives are brilliant. I started writing this out of love for our animal friends, but after finishing it, I love humans a little bit more too.
1. There are tales of transformation and loyalty.
"She saw me transform from a girl to a woman, watched as I became someone who dreamed about writing professionally to becoming the editor of a site, she helped me nurse heartbreaks of all sorts from people to jobs and she did it all with undivided love and loyalty."
2. Otherworldly reflections on the transience of existence.
"Today I had to say good bye to my childhood best friend. It's not good bye, it's see you later."
3. Beautiful photos that I'm fairly certain follow the Golden Ratio and therefore look like Renaissance paintings.
See what I mean? Compare!
4. Then there's just plain adorable pictures and real feelings™.
5. And heartstring-pulling cinematography.
"Found this old video on my phone..priceless ❤️❤️❤️ safe to say no one loved hanging out with me as much as he did #excited 🐶🌞 #somuchlove 💛💛💛 #RIPbestfriend ✨🙏🏻 #myShadow ❤️❤️❤️"
6. Timehops that inspire poetry about loving your friend in the moment.
"Not having him here anymore has made me realize that he really was the best dog ever."
7. Before and after photos of a 16-year friendship.
"You have been my best friend for 16 years and you will always be my best friend. I will always love you more than anything❤️ #RIPbestfriend"
8. The phrase "peaceful transition," legit artwork ... and let's not forget how delightfully non-gender-normative cat names can be.
"Today was a peaceful transition. Rest in peace Miss Felix. ❤🐾"
"Day 191 of 366, our kitty cat had a full nine lives. ❤"
9. A TBT capturing baby-cat love.
Pets can really help us humans reflect on the passage of time in some wistful and adorable ways. I remember looking back at my childhood photos with my childhood cats and thinking, "Wow!"
All this magic brought up by spending a life with a devoted pet-friend, and celebrating that life.
There are so many reasons why pets are extremely meaningful to humans.
Some are scientific. (Did you know that the bonding hormone oxytocin is released when you look at your dog?) And some are emotional. (There's power in having a companion completely dependent upon you, who witnesses your life without judgment.)
But looking at the tributes these folks have made to their lost pets, you can't help but think that the world's capacity for love is limitless.
That's the power of pets: They might be tiny, but they make humans bigger, better people.