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The Chicken or the Egg? The Dog or the Cat?

Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Often, I debate whether a dog makes a person kinder or whether it’s kind folks who care for dogs? Or cats? Or horses? Or, well, any animal that needs tending to and love. When I was a young gal, I always thought I’d be a mom someday and when that maternal feeling set in, I wanted a baby. When you have a child, your life is no longer yours alone. You share not only your body with a baby but your wants, hopes, fears, food, house, car, friends, and kin. Even your pets. To me, having a child made me into a more caring person than I had been before.

Having a pet as a five-year-old changed me, too. I loved Mittens, my cat, I had to beg Mom for. I cared for her, and I loved and kept her litters of kittens. She changed me early on.

Then again, not everyone wants a puppy, a kitten, a responsibility. Are these folks less self-sacrificing? Not sure. Maybe, we who are selfish need to adopt a fur baby to get in touch with our more responsible side. Maybe, some folks are born naturally kind and altruistic. Perhaps others must learn to be so by taking care of pets, later children, and ultimately their elderly parents.

Once when going on vacation, the kennel owner where I lodge our dachshunds shared a story with me. She said a young, tough police rookie stopped by her kennel after work to sit and pet the animals. She asked him why. He said it relaxed him. After dealing with some difficult folks, tiresome duties, and horrible situations, cuddling a dog gave him relief and hope. “Besides,” he said, “the folks bringing their pets here are nice people, and after the day I’ve spent with folks who don’t care about others, it’s good to be around this sort of human being. It restores my faith in the world.” This anecdote reminded me of my original premise: the chicken or the egg? Is it that nice folks have pets or is it that having pets makes folks nicer?

I read an article today written by a young woman who suffers from eating disorders. She’s been in and out of treatments which she feels are part of an industry that perhaps doesn’t want to cure the problem. So, she has decided to change her routine. She now spends time at the Atlanta Humane Society. “To be able to walk the dogs I must stay healthy. I know they need me, and I can’t let them down.”

Sometimes, you rescue the animal; sometimes it rescues you. Some children have dander allergies; some don’t have parents who can afford the expense of pets; some live in places non-conducive to animal care because of busy streets or cramped apartments. I realize that a wonder-fur ball is not a possibility for every youth. Yet, for those without these restraints, I think there’s nothing better for a child than to love and nurture an animal. A living creature. (Not a character in a video game!) Besides learning responsibility, you discover how to love unconditionally. And that is something hard to acquire in school alone or from watching TV. Furthermore, when you become old and no longer are chasing after the next best thing, that loving animal cozied up beside you on the couch keeps loneliness at bay. You are his world.

Not only do your pets become your family, but also, they become your teachers, your healers, your counselors, your entertainment, your best friends; life without these dear blessings misses something. When you’re very young, you need their companionship, and when you are very old, the same holds true.

Some of my favorite people have been pets. Here’s to my long line of beloved animals. Most were dogs or cats, but a few were hamsters and parakeets. I don’t know which came first – the chicken or the egg, but I firmly believe that these animals taught me how to love at an early age. They helped form me. I remember them all. I miss them, too. And somewhere over the rainbow, I pray we’ll reunite again.


  1. Spot on Erika! We love our family of 4 footed furries. Our kiddos have grown up and moved out, only need us occasionally. The furries depend on us daily.

  2. Cynthia again. Meant to add this before I sent the previous comment. We love our kiddos unconditionally, the furries love us unconditionally.

  3. Love is love, two-legged, four-legged and even no-legged! My son rented a RV camper to transport his family across country for their recent move because my grandson’s inseparable love for his pet goldfish! God love them! And so do I, furred, feathered or finned but most all familied and friend!
    Thank you for another way of reminding me, Erika.

  4. Erika, I love the way your essays always broaden my thinking. I either learn new words, decide to try your suggestions, or see new possibilities. I don’t know if the chicken came before the egg, either, but I agree that having a pet teaches life lessons. As a farm child surrounded by animals, I developed respect and love for them and learned the responsibility of caring for them. As you so beautifully inferred, they make a person feel needed.

  5. Another great essay from Erika! Loving an animal humanizes us, and I’m willing to bet that the conduit is love. So, if you ask me, love is the egg, and it comes first.

  6. I enjoyed reading your story. My family has had dogs in our family when we were growing up. Then later, I did get dog for my stepson and little girl. That was the last dog I had in my life, although my stepson and daughter have a dog in their life at each of their homes.

  7. Which came first? Good question! Not sure it’s either/or – the innate kindness of a person or the compassion that pets bring out in their humans – but perhaps more of a synergetic relationship that brings out the best in both. Also not sure it really matters. Regardless of which came first, the human/pet bond enriches the lives of both “parties.”

  8. Two-legged, four-legged or no-legged, pets hold special places in our hearts and homes. Our son rented an RV to take along our grandsons’ beloved goldfish with them to their new home across country. Whether feathered, furred or finned, these critters become family!

  9. Sometimes I let my arm fall from the arm of my chair . I know it won’t land on Daisy’s head anymore, but the action is part of lovingly remembering my sweet girl. We are so lucky to love a pet that accepts our comfort and gives back tenfold!
    Loved your essay, Erika.

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