Since we are working on self love this week, I thought it might be a good time to reframe the way we look at ourselves. How about an experiment? Look at yourself through the eyes of your pet.
If you've ever had a dog or a cat or some other animal that you loved and bonded with, you know that pets can be quite devoted. My little dog, an 8 pound poodle Pomeranian cross, worships the ground I walk on. We got him 11 years ago as a Christmas present for my little boy, and he does love all of us, but he just adores me. That dog would walk on hot coals to get to me, and the way he looks at me is with complete love and acceptance. Do you think it has ever crossed his mind that I am too fat? Do you think when he sits on my lap he is thinking, "Geez, she could stand to drop some of this padding"? How about when I was 278 pounds? Do you think he loved me less?
I've written before about how I was tormented by a bully relentlessly in grade school, but I haven't written about what kept me sane during that time. It was my cat, Puddy. I was probably 8 years old when I found her walking in the tall grass in a field one day, her long brown tail poking up like an antenna so that I could find her in the virtual jungle. I was an animal lover; we had a large dog that belonged to my father, but our landlord had forbidden cats. When I brought the stray home, my parents said we'd try to find her a home but we could not keep her. But I was in love; I waited outside until I saw the old, sun-wrinkled landlord in his overalls driving his rusty farm truck down to the barn to feed his cattle. I ran down to him, half afraid, climbed the white wooden fence and quietly told him I'd found a kitten, and couldn't I please keep her? He glanced at me from under his dirty cap as he swung a hay bale from the barn, and said, "I suppose." That was enough. I ran gleefully to my parents, told them I had 'permission' to keep the cat, and took her out of the box she'd been napping in. "You're mine!" I said as I snuggled her in my lap. "I love you!"
I named her Puddy after the phrase Tweety Bird used to say about Sylvester in the old cartoons: "I tawt I taw a puddy tat!" She didn't mind the silly name; she was just happy to have a home. She was a beautiful brown tabby. We let her in and out as she pleased, as we lived in the country. Every day after school, after the hellish nightmare of being teased and taunted by that bully, I'd come home, walk in the door, and ask my father, "Is the Puddy in or out?" And off I'd go to find my friend... my solace.
She slept on my bed every night, on my feet. She'd purr me to sleep. I'd hold her and sob when I was sad. I'd play with her and she'd make me laugh. And even though that mean girl at school was ripping my self esteem to shreds, I knew I was really okay because Puddy loved me. Puddy didn't think I had a "pale face" and she didn't notice care if I had glasses. She never called me a "four-eyed freak" and she never cared if I was shy. She accepted and loved every bit of me, as I was right then. And since I had such complete acceptance from her... I knew I was not such a bad person after all. Oh the innocence and trust of a child. She was my best friend.
One time we went on vacation for two weeks, and my parents arranged for a neighbor to care for Puddy. When we came home, I ran about, calling, "Puddy! Puddy! Here kittykittykitty!" But she did not come running as she usually did. I frantically searched for her, and then saw the neighbor boy down the road. "Have you seen Puddy?" I asked. And he said, "Oh, I think she got hit by a car." I was hysterical, I ran around screaming. I went in my room and cried like the world had ended. My parents quickly talked to the neighbor who said they had not, in fact, seen anything bad happen to my cat, but they had not seen her in a few days.
Every day I went looking for her. Every day I'd sit and stare out the windows. I'd go out the attic window onto the roof and watch for her for hours. A week went by. My parents gently told me she was probably gone. I started to believe it.
Then one day I was staring out the screen door when I thought I heard a faint mew. I perked up. There it was again! I tore out of the house calling, "Puddy? Puddy? Here kittykittykitty!" and then I saw her up in a tree in out backyard, meowing. The joy was indescribable as I reached up and got her down and into my arms. My best friend was home.
And the years went by, and she adored me unconditionally, which probably kept me from becoming a suicidal child from the bullying. And then one day I came home from school and asked, "Is the Puddy in or out?" And my father said she was gone. He had found her on the road. She really had been hit by a car this time. My mother told me years later how devastated my father was, cleaning up my beloved cat off the road before I'd come home from school and see it. Thank god he did that. I cannot imagine.
Our pets, they are so much more than animals. They trust and love, they see US and not just our bodies. They never put us down or judge us. When we make a mistake they forgive. When we are hard on ourselves they just keep on snuggling up to us, purring or licking us or wagging their tails to let us know we are perfect just the way we are.
Try to look at yourself through the eyes of a pet. See the good in you, overlook the little flaws. Love yourself without fail. Let the criticism go for awhile and just embrace and accept. Be your own best friend.
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