Friday, August 27, 2010

Don't lose yourself to the details of life.

"A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born."
~~Antoine de Saint Exupery

Remember when we were kids? We thought our parents were so boring. They were always doing laundry, going grocery shopping, cleaning, going to work day in and day out. They came home, watched the news, maybe had a cocktail, cooked the dinner, then went to bed. Maybe they read for a while. And of course they nagged us all of the time. To get things done. Things that were meaningless to us.

Remember how we thought we would never be like that? That we would be more interesting, freer to express who we were? It all seemed so simple then.

But then we grew up. The details of life began to consume us. We wanted more so we worked harder. We acquired more. We moved to bigger houses with more stuff. We had kids and became involved in parenting 101, almost at a fevered pitch. We joined the TPA. We joined local community groups. We exercised. We did laundry. We grocery shopped and bought organic.

We make dinner. We clean up dishes. We nag our kids to do their homework, clean their rooms. We shuttle them to activities that we hope will enrich their lives and make them happy. We go to bed exhausted. And then we make our to-do lists for the next round of responsibilities that will need to be done tomorrow, and the next day and the next. An endless stream of tasks.

In essence, we have become lost in the details of life, just like our parents did. We have become the person we swore we would never be.

And life goes on.

Until it doesn't.

Sometimes events that we have no control over get in the way. We may be diagnosed with a life ending disease like cancer. Or ALS. Or heart disease.

We don't like to think that these things can happen. To us. We try to shut out the possibility. I know I do. But, unfortunately, I am forced to see it every time I work. People who were plodding along just like you and me are suddenly struck down with this disheartening news.

And how do they manage? Some make to do lists, just like they always did. They look at the details of the disease and try to take control of it. It begins to consume them. Just like life had.

But, occasionally, I meet someone who does not do that. They have an interesting story to tell and it is worth hearing. They step away from details and look inward.

And they are much happier.

One patient, young with three kids, was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer and no treatment options, so she decided to take all of her kids out of school, much to everyone's surprise. She decided to home school them. Her husband took a leave of absence for a year. They rented an RV and traveled the country. They had fun. They were together.

Yes, they let things go. They didn't always eat healthy. They didn't worry about the lawn. As a matter of fact, they let it go, much to the chagrin of their tony neighbors.

They did pay their bills and remained responsible to the important things that keeps life humming along. But they let go of the seemingly endless lists of details that used to bog them down and stifle their enjoyment of life.

"Before I had cancer, I was just an empty shell. Always busy, but busy became me. When people asked how I was doing, my answer? Busy. Sad really."

She went on. "I used to be a dancer when I was young. But my mom said that dancers can't really make any money. So I became a lawyer instead. And then a wife. And then a mom. And I lost myself somehow. I became the details of my life. I wasn't living my life, I was managing the details. Sure, from the outside, we looked great. Nice home. Pretty yard. Well mannered kids. But inside, it was empty. I was empty. I loved my life, don't get me wrong. I just got lost in the details."

"Once I got sick, I realized that this was it. I had little time left. I wanted my kids to know me. The real me, warts and all. Not just mom with the never ending Blackberry in her hand, nagging them to hurry up so we could move on to the next thing. I wanted to just be me, for them to see me. And now I had the perfect excuse. Cancer. But I wish I had realized it earlier."

This patient recently died. In her 40's. It made me cry. A lot. Not just because she was a beautiful person who had to leave this world way too soon, but because she was a terrific role model. A true inspiration. A great mom to three young kids. And a lovely human being.

I learned a lot from her. I may not be able to just pack up for a year and rent an RV, but I can take a day now and again to get in touch with myself. To leave the to-do list at home. To do things that I enjoy that other's may think are crazy. To just be me for a change.

I have also learned that nagging does not help. People hate nagging. If my daughter doesn't have her homework done, all my nagging won't make her a better student. If she fails a test or misses an assignment, she will learn the consequences of her own actions. And that is a much more important lesson that anything I can muster.

I learned from that patient, her name was Eve, that we cannot always shoulder the responsibility for everyone. We may not even be here to always do that. We have to instill in others a sense of themselves. And let them fly a bit on their own.

The last thing she said to me before she died three weeks later was this, "These past two years were great. My kids finally got to know the real me. Not the nagging parent or the lawyer or the household manager. But the real me. I danced for them. We looked at old pictures together. We looked though my yearbooks and I told them stories of how I hated so and so and liked so and so and how certain teachers made me feel bad. I told them how I hated math, hated it. And that my math teacher in High School was an idiot. That I had detention a few times. That I smoked weed. That I thought my parents were dull. I told them how I became a lawyer and thought that I would help others, but instead became part of the machine and ended up worrying more about billable hours. I told them how I met their dad. That I had sex before marriage. That I was a real person, just like them. They were astonished. Maybe even a little uncomfortable. They thought I did not have a clue as to what they were going through. And they began to see me more as person, and less as a role that I played. I am not sure it helped them in any way, but after I am gone, I want them to remember me. The real me. Not just the details I attended to. I know it shocked them a bit. But that is okay. Life is shocking. Get used to it."

God, I miss her.

“Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music.”
~~Angela Monet

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Put the gadget down. Please.

Last week, I was rear ended by a person who was clearly not paying attention while driving. He never even braked. Distracted drivers are becoming the new drunk drivers. It is becoming epidemic.

But I am not upset by this. It was a good wake up call. I have allowed myself to be distracted as well. We all have. We may not text and drive, but we dial and drive and talk and drive and look back at our kids and drive and put on lipstick and drive and eat a burger and drive. I have been known to use the rear-view mirror to check my hair while driving on the Mass Pike at rush hour.

By the grace of God, I have not been surprised by a stopped car in front of me. I have not veered off of the road or into the path of another car.


But I don't want to talk, or write, about distracted drivers.

I want to talk about people living distracted lives.

There is a lot of life around us. But so many of us miss so much of it. We are obsessed with checking our email, texting, playing games on tiny screens and watching TV. We are always in a rush.

It seems to me that the more technology we have to make our lives easier, the more complicated they have become. The more we are removed from real life. And the less in touch we are with ourselves and our families.

We are so removed from real life that we even watch fake real life on TV.

So odd.

But when someone becomes ill, real life makes a sudden appearance. And shakes things up a bit. I see it happen often.

Suddenly, they are forced to slow down. They see things often for the first time in a long time. They talk to people face to face more often. They read more. They rest more. They write more. They spend more time with family. They spend time working on things that bring them joy. Like needlepoint, reading the newspaper or reading trashy novels. Maybe playing cards or board games with their kids. Things they thought were "time wasters' before.

And they hardly ever turn on gadgets. Not even a computer.

"I never realized how alone I was. I thought I was paying attention to things because I emailed a lot and talked to old friends on Facebook. I thought I was connected to my daughter and son because we texted each other every day, sometimes several times a day. My husband and I watched TV together. But the thing was, we were never really together. I really did not have a clue as to how they were truly feeling, how they even smelled anymore. I used to lie down with my daughter and smell her hair when she was young. That to me was heaven. Now, I never do that. I am sad to say it. I am usually yelling at her to brush it or get it out of her face instead."

This is not some dying patient who had a sudden epiphany. She is a youngish 40-something career oriented mom on our bridge program for pain management. She has two kids, a girl who is a "tween" and a teenage boy.

"I see them with their friends. They text one another while in the same room so that others cannot hear their conversation. I understand that all of the kids do this. I get it. But they miss so much. Relationships are so much more than typed words"

She went on to say, "I never really slowed down until I got sick. I thought I was getting so much done by multi-tasking all of the time. Trying to be productive. Trying not to "waste time". But all I did was waste my time on things that really do not matter. I was always so distracted. I want to smell my daughter's hair again. I want to hug my kids more and spend less time doing things that only I see as important. People are important. Interacting takes time. You have to learn how to interact with people. I am worried that my kids won't know how to interact. We really should have a national no-gadget day. People need to reconnect."

Indeed they do.

Connection is a key part of life that many of us think we have, but we don't. Texting and email is a great way to communicate, but it is a lousy way to really connect. Because to really connect, you have to be physically present. Really present. (And to drive safely you have to be present, too. Ahem.)

So that distracted driver really did me a favor. He made me realize how foolish I have been, allowing myself to become so distracted. Distracted to life.

So tonight I will ask my daughter to put down the gadgets. I will shut off this computer. I will reconnect by disconnecting.

And then I will hug her. And I will smell her hair.

And I will drive only to get somewhere safely. I will be present. Cause if I am not, I may never be again.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Life lessons from a kitten.

Recently, we have acquired another pet. His name is Russell, our new kitten. He is just about as adorable as can be. I never thought that I would warm up to him as I have, being allergic to cats and all. But he has stolen my heart.

He has also done something else. He has shown me that I can learn a lot about life from a kitten.

A kitten you say?


I offer the following truths.

1. Purr and sit quietly and people will respond in kind. Scratch and bite and people will put you down and never pet you.

2. Let people know when you are hungry and they will feed you.

3. Sleep when you are tired.

4. Playing with others is fun, but if you are not nice, they will not play with you anymore. Worse, they will growl and bark at you.

5. Go to the bathroom when you need to, but keep it clean. No one likes a dirty bathroom.

6. Groom yourself daily.

7. Enjoy the warm spot the sun makes.

8. Touch people gently with your paws and keep your claws in.

9. Pounce on whatever seems interesting at the moment.

10.The simplest toys are the most fun to play with.

Need I say more?

Living with animals can be a wonderful experience, especially if we choose to learn the valuable lessons animals teach through their natural enthusiasm, grace, resourcefulness, affection and forgiveness.
~Richard H. Pitcairn

Man, unlike the animals, has never learned that the sole purpose of life is to enjoy it.
~Samuel Butler

Everything in life is speaking in spite of its apparent silence.
~Hazrat Inayat Khan

Animals have these advantages over man: they never hear the clock strike, they die without any idea of death, they have no theologians to instruct them, their last moments are not disturbed by unwelcome and unpleasant ceremonies, their funerals cost them nothing, and no one starts lawsuits over their wills.

Having less is the secret to happiness.

When I was a younger upstart with a big job at a big corporation, (yes, I left nursing to become, among other things, the Director of Managed Care for New England, for a large, well-known pharmaceutical company) I met a colleague who worked in New York state. He was different from all of the other sales managers. He was quite simple. The others were showy and talked about all that they acquired and so on, but this guy didn't. He didn't wear flashy clothes. He didn't live in a big house. He didn't have a fancy watch. And yet he always seemed relaxed and happy.

His philosophy was, "live beneath your means." He told that to anyone who would listen. The other guys made fun of him. As they were stepping on each other's necks to get ahead and acquire more, he simply plodded along. Doing his work quietly and efficiently.

He stood out like a sore thumb.

While others talked about a new boat or a Cape Cod second home or a big vacation to Bali, he talked about his family. While the others talked about moving into their dream home, he talked about how his family of 4 shared one bathroom in their split level home in upstate New York. While others talked about the fancy and expensive camp they were able to get their kids into for the summer, he talked about how they went camping or bike riding.

The other guys I worked with, and most were guys, made fun of him behind his back. They made comments like, "low class" and even "loser." But these guys, who were all about getting more, and more and more, were just about the unhappiest guys I had ever met. And they were always stressed. Always fretful.

Even with their fancy homes and watches, boats and second homes.

Today, I go into the homes of many people. Some live quite well, with huge homes amid manicured lawns in upscale communities. Others, live in basic squalor. I see a lot of poverty.

But there is a middle ground, where people live quietly, but well. And I have to say, they seem the happiest to me.

They have just enough. Just enough house, just enough yard, just enough decorating to make their home seem, well, homey. Nothing over the top, nothing to really brag about. Just a warm, comfortable feeling.

Most of these families can afford the additional care that is many times required when you get sick and want to stay at home. Hospice benefits under any insurer only provide 4 hours a day of home health care aid services. The patient and family have to make up the rest. That is 20 hours at sometimes $15.00 an hour. Out of pocket. Sometimes for months.

Many times the ones that live in the big houses cannot afford it. They are straight out trying to maintain all that they have. They cannot help at home to take care of the loved one; they have to work too much to pay for all they have acquired. They are stressed and angry.

But they do have that lovely well-appointed living room that no one ever goes into.

The poor, well, they usually all just pitch in. They are stressed as well, but for different reasons.

The middle of the road folks, the ones that live well but acquired less, they seem to have money in the bank. They saved for that proverbial "rainy day." They are sometimes not working, many having retired at a young age.

They tell me stories of family time and how mom made Sunday dinner for the whole family every single week. How dad took them fishing. There are usually many pictures of family all over the home. The scene is sad, but relaxed.

Now, many of these folks are very successful people. MIT professors, CEO's of companies, people in the finance world, MD's, lawyers. They just decided not to get on that fast track. Not to try to impress everyone.

They decided just to live simply and for themselves.

And they planned out future needs so that they could afford what they needed should disaster strike.

These people never fail to impress me. They are by far the happiest people I meet, even though they are in crisis.

That is not to say that they didn't spend money. They did. They have beautiful art on their walls and pictures in frames of trips taken abroad. Their kids are all well educated. But they kept their lives simple; acquiring less things and spending more money on making memories and living well enough.

"We never tried to keep up with the Joneses," said a lovely 60 year-old patient that I had the honor of caring for recently.

They lived in a very expensive town outside of Boston.

They had a lovely home, but modest compared to all of the McMansions that dotted the neighborhood.

"Most of these new neighbors that built these big homes over the past few years are strangers to us. They are always gone; either working or running around. I never quite understood it. They build these big homes and are never there to enjoy them."

She went on to tell me, "We were always tempted to buy more. But we realized that buying more stuff does not make life happier. As a matter of fact, it makes life harder. Suddenly, you have more to take care of, more to worry about. You spend all of that energy on things. I wanted to spend my energy on people. It made me different, but I didn't care. Having less is the secret to happiness."

She was so right.

I wish I could say that I follow that rule all of the time. I don't. I like stuff. I want things. But I remind myself that things do not make a life. That at the end of the day, when you look back, you think about people and experiences. Never things. I see it all of the time. And I have changed a lot since those "corporate" days.

I see how maintaining things that we thought would make us happy have really turned out to be more of a burden. Costing us time and money and not true enjoyment.

So I do agree with my patient and that colleague from New York state. They are right. Of course they are right. They have always been right.

And that guy from New York? He retired at age 54. I hear he and his wife took a trip around the world.

The other guys I worked with? Still working. Hard. And still stressed, I am sure.

So, I guess it is really true that less is more. That we just need a few things to make us really happy and the other stuff that we do and acquire to impress others only hurts us in the long run. That success cannot be measured by outward appearances.

That experiences, like riding your bike with your kids, trump bragging rights regarding fancy country clubs and camps any day.

It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly.

True happiness flows from the possession of wisdom and virtue and not from the possession of external goods.
~ Aristotle (B.C. 384-322)

Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions.
~Peace Pilgrim (1908 - 1981)

Thousands upon thousands are yearly brought into a state of real poverty by their great anxiety not to be thought of as poor.
~Robert Mallett

Too many people miss the silver lining because they're expecting gold.
~Maurice Setter

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tune in.

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. ~Epictetus

My mother used to say that to me often as I was growing up.

I don't think I really listened much, however. Many of us don't.

We tend to want to tune out instead. We place ear buds in our ears, look at tiny screens and play games or read the news. We think about what we are going to say next when we are talking to someone face to face. We hardly listen at all.

Oh, sure. We think we listen. We email friends, text them, call them briefly on our cellphone.

But it seems to me that the more ways we have to communicate, the less we really listen. The less we really tune in.

It is interesting, isn't it.

When was the last time you just stopped and listened to the sounds around you? When was the last time time you sat silent as you listened to your child tell you about their day? Or listened to a friend tell you about a hard time they are having without a million things you should be doing instead going through your head?

How many times have you taken the time to really just tune in?

We practice tuning out way too much. We need to start practicing tuning in. We are all missing so much.

I can remember having to sit at my aunt or uncle's home when I was young and being forced to listen to the conversations that they and my parents would have. I thought it was so boring. Of course we had to sit there. It was the polite thing to do and besides, there wasn't much else going on. Three channels on TV, no ipods, no computer, no phones. Except one that had a rotary dial. Boring indeed.

But I learned a lot. About them. About life. I heard their tales of woe and of happiness and I knew them better for having heard them. I was part of the conversation. I knew their laugh. I knew when they were having a bad day just by the tone of their voice. And looking back, it was a very good thing.

Now, when I visit my niece or nephew, they may sit there as well, but they are tuned out. Either listening to their ipod, texting a friend or playing a video game.

I wonder if they will even really know me or my husband.

Or anyone else for that matter.

I visit a lot of homes where there are adult children reminiscing about their childhood. There may be a parent who is dying or a grandparent. The one thing I hear over and over is how they wish they had spent more time with them. How they wish they had taken the time to hear more stories, to have more laughs. To just hang out. They may mention wishing for more "quality time," but I think what they are alluding to is listening time.

Tuning in time.

Sure, we can spend hours with someone. But if we are not tuned into them, really listening, do we ever really know them? Do we really know what they are thinking, how they are feeling, what makes them tick? And how may people are so turned off by not being listened to, that they just simply stop trying. They shut down. They are there in person only.

We are missing so much.

So, practice tuning in. And we have to practice in this day and age with so many distractions constantly beckoning us. Practice by first shutting down the TV, the computer, the cellphone, the blackberry. You can't really "talk" on a computer and texting is not the same as listening, not really. Take out the ear buds. And then sit and just listen. Take in the life around you.

You may be surprised by what you hear.

My wife says I never listen to her. At least I think that's what she said.
~Author Unknown

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk.
~Doug Larson

“A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren't we like that wise old bird?”

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Don't Worry. Be Happy.

Who doesn't remember that Bobby McFerrin song. It was a catchy little tune, wasn't it.

But we all have worries. And sometimes they can be quite overwhelming.

The interesting thing about worrying is that probably 99% of what we worry about never happens, or just doesn't matter. But we waste about 80% of our time thinking about it, talking about it, dreaming about it, and sometimes it really interferes with our lives. All for something that will most likely never happen.

I see a lot of people who don't worry anymore. The worst has happened. All the other worries have slipped away as they now face the worst possible news of their lives.

All of a sudden, worrying about people eating on the sofa becomes rather silly. No more cares about small dents in the car from the parking lot, or how much they weigh, or how the boss will react to whatever piece of nonsense they have always reacted to in the past.

All the petty worries of everyday life melt away. Because they just don't matter anymore.

And the interesting thing is this. They never did.

It is a lesson for everyone. We are all going to die one day. It is a fact. You can worry about it and try to prevent it for as long as possible, but it is still going to be there. Worrying about it will not stop it. And the stress may even hasten it.

Think about that.

So, in the long run, is it really worth wasting the time we do have on ridiculous worries? If we spent half the time thinking about and doing things that make us happy, we would be free of many of the worries of life. Not that legitimate worries don't exist. They do. But they are really only a small part of our lives and many of those things we worry about incessantly are really not the most important ones anyway.

I know someone who won't let anyone eat in his car because he is worried about the mess. I know another who constantly worries about her son's safety, almost to the point of hysteria. And yet another who worries about how the house looks all of the time and doesn't invite people over because she worries she is going to be judged.

Well, guess what. You are going to be judged anyway, worry or not. Your son may not always be safe, worry or not. And that car? It is going to get dirty. Get over it.

I know it sounds simple and even naive. We will always worry about our kids, no matter what. We worry because we do not want anything bad to happen to them. Some worry because they think that if they worry, then it will somehow protect their child. Like people who are superstitious of happiness sometimes think that if they are too happy, then something bad will happen. It is strange, but true.

People who have been through a real life crisis tend to be able to place things into better perspective. The worst has already happened. Their child may be sick. They have been diagnosed with cancer. They have lost their home or their life savings.

But many who have survived a life crisis tend to lose that perspective once the harm has passed. They go back to life and many times return to the petty worries once again.

I don't worry so much anymore. Worry to me is a waste of time. I try to act instead. If I worry about my daughter drowning while she is swimming, I watch her more closely. I get her swimming lessons. I never let her go into water I think is dangerous. I don't worry. I act.

And that is what people need to do.

Worrying that your house is too messy? Clean it. Worrying about your weight? Exercise more. Worrying about your health? Eat better. Exercise. Get to the MD for a check up.

The thing about worries is that it is much easier to sit and worry then to actually do something about it. Doing something is hard work. It is much easier to sit and ruminate about it instead.

So make a list of what is really worrying you. Then next to it, write what you can do to alleviate the worry. And cross off the worries that you have absolutely no control over. Don't waste the time you do have on those things.

Then write down what makes you really happy.

Spend more time doing those things.

Plan out how to get more of that in. Fun things. Happy things. Things that will make happy memories.

Worries will always be there, for sure. We cannot make them go away. But we can balance them with true enjoyment of life.

Worries are infinite. Life is finite.

And that makes the song "Don't worry, be Happy" more than just a catchy tune.

If I had my life to live over, I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I'd have fewer imaginary ones. ~Don Herold

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. ~Leo Buscaglia

If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today. ~E. Joseph Cossman

People gather bundles of sticks to build bridges they never cross. ~Author Unknown

For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe. ~Author Unknown

Monday, August 2, 2010

Animals know.

I go into a lot of homes where there are pets. Lots of dogs, and lots of other pets as well. Many times I am told that the family pet is acting differently. Not eating. Whining. Lying about more. Barking at everyone.

And they cannot figure out why there is this sudden change.

But we see it a lot.

It is because they know.

And it is not just dogs. I have seen cats and birds acting quite weird, too.

They know that death is near. They somehow sense it.

Once, there was a home with three small dogs. I went there often to change the patient's dressing. The dogs always greeted me kindly and I brought them treats. But as the man continued to decline, they were less and less friendly. When he was near death, and I was called by the family to see him, they all stood around the hospital bed, growling at me. They would not let me near him.

They knew. And they were going to protect him until the end.

On another day, I was in the home of an elderly lady with a cat that always hid whenever anyone came to the home. As she became more and more bed bound, the cat could be seen curled up next to her all day and night, barely taking the time to eat. The daughters' told me that the cat was 16 years old and had never, ever laid by the mom, not even once that they could recall. Now, when they tried to remove the cat from the bed, she hissed at them.

Four days later, the mom died. The cat would not leave her side even as the funeral home came to retrieve her body.

Animals are funny. We think that they do not have emotions, or know too much. But they sense a lot more than we could ever imagine.

And they bring great comfort to many.

We have a volunteer who brings his mixed breed lab to the hospice house to visit the patients every weekend. The patients love it. The dog, Bruce, seems to linger longer with certain patients, the ones that are closer to death. It surprises us each time. At first we thought it was just a coincidence, but it has happened too many times for it to be explained away so simply. He is always right on the money.

He just knows.

I love animals. We have several pets and they add so much to our lives. I cannot even describe it. And I know they can sense it when any one of us is down or sick or even angry. They hang out more. They seek our attention more. They provide great comfort by simply being there. They know that we need them. And we do.

I guess what got me thinking about this today was a patient I went to see lately. She was a youngish mom with a cat. The cat would sit outside the house in front of the front door. When I came, she would follow me in and watch me from the bedroom doorway for a while, then she would run away. The patient told me that the cat was a stray that they took in about two years ago, who never warmed up to anyone except her. The cat spent most of the time outdoors chasing God knows what. The patient said she fed her every day and tried to pet her, but she wouldn't really allow them to touch her too much. The mom was really the only family member who paid attention to that cat. She called her Bella.

As the patient became more frail, the cat started sleeping in the house, near the bedroom door. She would still go outside, but only for short periods of time now, the family reported to me.

Finally, the patient, a very loving mom of 4 kids, fell into a comatose state. When I went to see her, the cat was now on the bed, curled up next to her.


She didn't stir as I examined the patient. The husband tried to take her off the bed, but she would just jump right back on.

After the patient died, the cat disappeared. The husband said she ran out after the funeral home came and never returned. They have left food outside each day. And each day it is left uneaten. They don't understand why the cat would do that. But it seems obvious to me.

Pets love us for the love we give them. Sometimes, they love us despite the bad or indifferent way that they are treated. But they really only know love. And they seek love. And they are very loving right to the very end.

And they do mourn the loss.

They just simply know.

It often happens that a man is more humanely related to a cat or dog than to any human being.
~Henry David Thoreau

Whoever said you can't buy happiness forgot little puppies.
~Gene Hill

A dog can express more with his tail in seconds than his owner can express with his tongue in hours.
~Author Unknown

There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.
~Albert Schweitzer

There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.
~George Sand

The difference between friends and pets is that friends we allow into our company, pets we allow into our solitude.
~Robert Brault

Be sure to check out your local animal shelter for a pet companion. These places are full of wonderful animals who need a loving home.