The other night, sitting around the Thanksgiving table, surrounded by friends, I got to thinking about the ways we reach out to others and seek affection. I am so lucky I married someone for whom the act of making connections comes naturally. I am not that person, and if my husband Sam were not in my life, my community would be a much, much smaller circle, and my life would be much poorer as a result. Even those friends who haven't come to me through Sam have often come into my life because Sam has helped me become better at reaching out and connecting.
As I contemplated this reality over Thanksgiving dinner, it struck me how much I am like a guinea pig. I have a guinea pig as a class pet in my 3rd grade classroom. Sarge is his name. He doesn't like to be picked up. However, he is, by nature, a social animal. So, although he is reluctant and often seems to run away from contact and affection, he truly needs it and he is a sadder guinea pig without it. It takes a bit of an effort, and a strong sense of self, to love the Sarges of this world.
Some people are more like dogs. Dogs joyfully seek affection at every turn, sometimes shamelessly courting it, always giving it with undying loyalty and unquestioning belief that the person receiving their affection is, de facto, worthy of such affection. They are sometimes wrong about that. It rarely deters them. They are the hopeless romantics of the animal kingdom. I'm not sure I want to be a dog, though they are to be admired. My pride perhaps prevents me.
I think I aspire to be more of a cat. Cats appear to be loners. However, when once they connect with you, they willingly seek affection, but only and always on their own terms. They don't run from it, but they won't sacrifice their sense of self to receive it.
With apologies to dog-lovers everywhere, I here end my ruminations on the cat, the dog and the guinea pig. Feel free to add your own thoughts on other members of the animal kingdom.