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What animals can teach us about relationships 

by Coco Helado

An English artist from the early part of the century, Louis Wain, used to create pictures of cats engaged in a variety of human-like pursuits. One painting would show several of them wearing top hats and playing a game of cards; another would depict kitties attired in summery dresses, as though preparing for a Sunday afternoon picnic. Louis Wain eventually became quite mad, and his works became increasingly bizarre. His felines took on wild-eyed, maniacal expressions, and had vivid colors and patterns emanating from their heads, like rock stars in psychedelic-era concert posters. The artist eventually died in a lunatic asylum, proving that anthropomorphizing our pets is a dangerous pastime indeed. Animals don't-and shouldn't-possess human qualities; instead it is us who ought to try to become more like our pets.

Yes, in the scheme of things, cats and dogs get little respect. On the rare occasion that we humans do acknowledge our animal natures, the animal in question usually winds up with little respect, as proven by a rundown of the pejorative terms we use: "Dumb animal." "Brute." "Bitch." "Dog." "Catty." But most people fail to realize that our relationships with one another would be much improved if we would only behave a little more like cats and dogs! Cats and dogs can be wonderful teachers, especially with regard to relationships. 

For instance, women often complain to one another, "Men are dogs." If only we were so lucky! Ladies, we should pray that our men become as loyal and selfless as canines. Do not malign this noble animal with a negative comparison to your man. Instead, encourage men to embody dog-like qualities. 

To start with, dogs are honest. They don't hide their feelings. They don't voice "harmless" little lies or tell us they've been somewhere when they haven't. We don't expect dogs to remember our birthdays and anniversaries because we know from the start that they are simply incapable of doing so. But we also know that whenever there is a celebration, they will enthusiastically join in the fun. And if ever they do something wrong-and they will-they look guilty and beg desperately for our forgiveness with such sad sweet eyes we are compelled to reach down and give them a pat on the head. One cannot hold a grudge against a dog. 

But perhaps the most marvelous characteristic of dogs is that they absolutely live to serve their mistresses. Nothing makes them happier than making you happy. They are eternally loyal, and their lives are given meaning by ministering to others. 

In fact, dogs make us remember what it is to be simply, perfectly happy. They charm and enchant us, lifting our spirits effortlessly. Walk down the street with a dog and the most dour faces light up instantly. Even a few minutes spent playing with a dog removes us from our hectic routines and burdensome responsibilities and into a world of joy, inspiring us to play like children-without regard to the adult world's cutthroat rules and competitiveness. Yes indeed-they say that dogs are "man's best friend," but really, they are women's! 

Men, for their part, dismissively refer to women as "felines" and deplore what they term "catty behavior." A woman who succeeds in a corporation is sometimes said to have "clawed her way to the top." And then, of course, there's that problematic term, "pussy," sometimes used affectionately, but frequently deployed as slur. 

But men should hold up cats as their feminine ideal. Consider the facts: Men often complain that women can be nagging and emotionally pushy. But cats are nothing if not sensitive to emotional and physical boundaries. They have the most carefully attuned sense of balance in all things, making them the perfect household companions. And cats have a certain keen intelligence that causes you to feel they are one step ahead of you at every turn. 

Cats have a marvelous sense of discretion. They endure the company of others until it is boring, and not one second longer. It's not that they're snobbish, but they make no bones about how they really feel. One could never imagine a cat faking...anything! 

Cats are never unpleasant, merely, at times, uninterested. And why not? They don't suffer fools gladly, preferring their own serene company to second-class companionship and clumsy attempts at affection. They are supremely secure beings who teach us that striving for a little bit of solitude is natural and desirable. 

From a cat one learns grace, silence, and contentment. When stroke a purring cat you nearly begin to purr yourself! In fact, cats are incredibly tactile and sensual. Rub a cat the right way and she will truly appreciate your touch, stretching out and smiling to show her pleasure. 

So here it is: the truth about cats and dogs. If we really did behave like them, perhaps the relations between the sexes would be a lot smoother. While the word on the street is that cats and dogs don't get along, anyone who has ever lived with both knows it isn't always the case. Cats and dogs can make the most charming companions. Perhaps there is no sight sweeter than that of the canine and feline sleeping together with a tender, quiet affection.

How to learn the wise ways of animals? Have a pet! After all, both having pets and having a partner offer similar benefits. Studies show that people in either situation tend to live longer, healthier lives. They keep us active and give us a sense of pride. We want to walk around with them and show them off! So the next time someone looks at you with disdain and says, "You're an animal," bow your head modestly and reply, "Well, I try." 

Meet your "mate for life" at !

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