This will start serious and end funny, so follow to the end, it will be worth it.
Many of us have learned that people are dangerous. As a result, we are busy trying to people please or avoid conflict, because we desperately just want to be safe and be ourselves. We are secretly on edge underneath our cloak of competence and no one would be the wiser, even our loved ones. We are just trying to be good enough, worthy enough, ….enough of whatever we learned we are supposed to be in order to deserve and be safe, emotionally and physically.
Pets provide safe intimacy, especially dogs and other highly empathic mammals in particular, like dolphins. Since dolphins are a far less common pet than dogs, we will stick with dogs for our purposes.
We get to practice loving something else without being harmed with pets. We get to safely feel we are loved in return without strings attached with empathic animals especially, like dogs. It is safe practicing and an adaptive attempt to get just enough intimacy or connection that we NEED biologically to survive.
Pets also offer us common ground. It is even called the “Pets and babies principal”. You can talk to just about anyone’s pet or baby as as way of testing the waters to make small talk, so they are safe built in common ground to connect with others. Also if they are not on board with pets and babies, they are likely not open for intimacy business at that juncture anyway.
Here are a few very short and funny videos to illustrate my point. So if you are wanting some practice either with unconditional love or with the pets and babies principal, you may want to look into a pet.
Finally, I didn’t talk about it here, but there is a vast amount of research supporting the therapeutic benefit of pets with almost any form of mental illness. This will of course depend on your history, so it is definitely not for everyone, but most people benefit under the right circumstances. Pet therapy is also shown to improve outcomes in most physical illness too, raging from pain to autoimmune ailments). Enjoy!