Pets Could Teach Us To Be Better, True Friends

“That’s What Friends Are For”, “You’ve Got To Have Friends”, “You’ve Got A Friend”, “With a Little Help From My Friends”, and “Thank You For Being A Friend” are just a few song titles that come to mind with “friend(s)” in the title.

On Facebook, we can have hundreds and thousands of friends and really only know them from their status updates and posts.  In life, we have friends that come and go and some that remains friends from childhood to death.

I’m thinking about “friends” because I made the decision yesterday to “unfriend” my best friend from childhood.

We’ve been through the good times and bad times and we’ve always kept in touch through the miles.  I’ve lived all over the country since leaving my hometown of Mayfield, Kentucky: Kentucky (Murray, for college),  Wisconsin (Milwaukee and Rhinelander), Texas (Lubbock), Ohio (Youngstown and Mansfield), Maryland (Salisbury), and Illinois (Moline and, twice in, Chicago).

Regardless of where I was in the country, my best friend and I kept in touch the old-fashioned way through cards, letters, and phone calls.  In recent years, we’ve added sporadic emails and Facebook messages to the communication chain.  With modern technology, there’s no reason to lose contact.

I know that friendships evolve over life and “real life” can get in the way of being as close as you once were.

I consider myself blessed to have a number of people who I correspond with online through email and Facebook, friends that I socialize with locally in person, and six people that I value as “close friends” or “best friends”.

Of those six, Ray, Gretel, Tammy (my sister), and Betty (Mom, but not my “mother”) and I are very close.  In love, I can tell Ray anything and even if we disagree on things (life, politics, parenting, etc.), we’re there for each other.  I’m glad my sister lives in Moline now and I don’t have to worry about her hundreds of miles away struggling to make ends meet.  And, Betty, who I call “Mom”, will never replace my mother, but I’m so blessed to have her in my life.

My other two friends and I are not as close as we once were.  One is going through changes brought on by poor decision-making and a lifestyle change that isn’t for the better.  I have hope and I still have faith that he’ll turn things around and life will be good again.

And, this brings me around again to my friend that I chose to “unfriend”.  Since he moved back to Kentucky from Chicago last October, I’ve heard from him twice.  Once on the phone when I called to ask why I hadn’t heard from him and once, through Facebook, when I asked for him to return two television series that I had loaned him.

I didn’t get a birthday card last October, I didn’t get a Christmas card or phone call at the holidays, and most agitating and sad, I didn’t get a “sympathy” call or card when Miss ABBA died three months ago.  Of all the selfish or insensitive things that friends deal with with best friends, that was thing that bothered me the most.  It’s been three months now and still nothing.

I think about the true meaning of friendship and the one that could teach us humans that “know-it-all” a thing or two about unconditional love and compassion is from our pets.

Miss ABBA was seven-years-old, just entering her senior years, when Mr. Panda, the shar-pei from Chicago, was adopted at the age of four, from an abusive life of neglect and starvation in the spring of 2007.

While they didn’t live together, they did spend time together several times each year when we’d visit Chicago to doggie-sit or Panda would come to the Quad Cities for a doggie vacation while his dad went on trips.

The two of them got along very well.  Miss ABBA was always full of life and energy, but she loved to sit and watch the world go by.  She would tolerate Panda’s playfulness when he thought it would be fun to bite at her legs or her ears.  When he would cross the line, she’d get feisty and fight back.  It was always fun to watch them wrestle with each other.

When Panda developed glaucoma two years ago and lost his eyesight, it seemed like ABBA knew something was different.  He was still playful and would still bite at her legs, but she sensed the handicap.

In the spring of 2010, Panda was with us for about a week or two.  One day while I was walking the two of them, Miss ABBA decided to just take his leash out of my hand and start walking him.  Much to my chagrin, I didn’t have my camera.  But, the sight was so heartwarming.

I started carrying my camera with me on every walk and sure enough, she did it one more time!  I got pictures of the amazing act of kindness.  While Miss ABBA’s legs were much longer than Panda’s and his sightlessness slowed him down, he trotted right down the street with her at her pace.

That turned out to be my favorite picture of 2010.  My friend, Dan Dauw, a sports writer for the “Geneseo Republic”, an Illinois newspaper, published east of the Quad Cities even wrote a story about it and featured a picture.  Miss ABBA and Mr. Panda made the newspaper!!  (Miss ABBA’s picture with Santa was also featured in the holiday edition of “Chicagoland Tails” in 2003.)

Looking back at the pictures reminds me that as humans, we have a lot to learn from our four-legged friends.


10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tammy Ridpath on May 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Wow, that is powerful. ABBA was so special. I totally understand that sometimes you have to divorce certain friends. After several years of friendship, sometimes it turns one-sided. I have had a few difficult years lately, caring for my Mother who has dementia and I wouldn’t change it for anything, but people have abandon us, some her friends, some mine, however our neighbor dog, Phil has adopted us and is such a blessing and helps the both of us. He saw a need and didn’t look away. He lives here half the time, always walks next to Mama so she doesn’t fall. Brings her his toy when it is time to get her up in the morning and he will sit by her in the bathroom. I just can’t praise him enough. I know you understand that Anthony. I love reading your posts.


  2. Tammy,

    Thank you very much. Miss ABBA was a sweetheart. Phil sounds like a cool pup,too. I fully understand that and I’m glad you’re there for your mother.



  3. Posted by Margie Goodman on May 1, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    It is a shame how real people friends act over time. I have lost a good number of people so called friends over the years.
    As usual you touched my heart with Dear Sweet Miss Abba! She still warms my heart, along with the things you share about her. I always enjoyed hearing about Mr. Panda equally. How is he doing? Have you seen him since your little angel went to heaven? I wonder how he is going to react the next time when he comes to your house, and is looking for Miss Abba. This is just about making me cry! Our pets hold such a dear place in our hearts. Sometimes, I say I would rather be with my pet than some people! Thank You again for sharing her with us, and Mr. Panda as well!



  4. Margie,

    People are interesting creatures. As for pets, what sweet beings.

    Mr. Panda is doing well in Chicago. He’s been here for a week since Miss ABBA passed, but he had his golden friend, Big, that used to live with him in Chicago here, too.

    I still have many ABBA stories to tell. 🙂

    Take care, my friend.



  5. Awww. that brought tears to my eyes. That is so sweet, kinda reminds me when Scamp became diabetic and lost his eye sight. Even though he cant see he gets around pretty good. He also lets the other 2 know who’s the “Boss” but he is real protected of them. Yep Love the 4 legged peeps a Man’s best friend for sure:))


  6. Wanda,

    Thank you for sharing the story of Scamp. Mr. Panda does alright being blind. He’s loved and that’s the main thing.



  7. Posted by Tressa B. on May 1, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    I agree with Margie, it is a shame some families have the same issues. Perhaps, we all need to learn more about unconditional love from our furry friends. My Dad had a lab named Chocolate Chip-aka “Chip”. After my Dad passed away, my Mom would put on my Dad’s watch and Chip seemed to pick up my Dad’s scent. Chip passed away while my Mom was still alive. We put Chip ashes in Mom’s casket. His final resting place is between my Mom and Dad.


  8. Posted by Kathy Markham McCoy on May 1, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Oh Anthony, I just love hearing Miss ABBA tales, & you know I love the pictures of her & Panda. I agree, we could learn a lot from our furry babies. And Tressa B’s story of Chip resting between her parents brought tears to my eyes too!

    I had to let my best friend of over 20 years go last May/June, due to a betrayal from her that still stings. I know my life is much better without her in it now, but it still hurts at times. I also am gradually seperating myself from a relationship with a friend I have known since grade school (!), sometimes friendships just become more toxic than supportive. I wish him well, but it’s time to move on.

    You have such a loving family, you really are a blessed man. And a blessing to know 🙂


  9. Kathy,

    I have more stories to share as the days goes on. Great therapy.

    I do have a loving families and great friends like you.



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