I was in EMDR training (a technique for working with trauma) and participants were asked to train by trying out the technique on each other. To begin, it was suggested people use memories that, on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being neutral in level of disturbance and 10 being the worst imaginable, to pick something less than a 5, and someone mentioned something about a pet. The trainer jumped in, saying, “Oh no, no pets. Pets are going to be above a 5.” People murmured or chuckled, resonating with agreement. It struck me how meaningful our pets can be to us, from our early years into old age. I have a patient who talks about one of her dogs that was her soulmate, that she felt understood her on a cellular level as no human ever had. Another person I know of grew up feeling that the family dog saved her sanity in a crazy-making household in which only the dog was experienced as trustworthy and constant. In a DVD, “Sparky the Service Dog,” the training of Sparky and his human are chronicled. Sparky enabled his owner to leave the house and function normally after she had been housebound for years because of crippling anxiety and phobias resulting from multiple traumas. The dog’s consistent equanimity was the only thing that the owner could count on to sooth her and, in essence, protect her from her own feelings. There is a special bond, a comfort and love that we can experience from our dogs that is indeed satisfying to the soul. For further fulfillment, sure, we need our more complex human partners, who may provide a lot more excitement, growth, interest, sexual and other gratification, and companionship, but are also bound to supply more conflict, tension, unpredictablility and needs for personal satisfaction which may clash with ours, as compared to our dog (with the exception of when he has to go to the bathroom).
Furthermore, as you know if you have ever tried, our partners are a lot harder to teach tricks.