Valentine’s Day is every day
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”—Anatole France
If you were to look inside my heart, you would see a pair of dark eyes that pierce your soul. A pure white blaze runs between those all-knowing eyes. Perched on his head is a set of the biggest bat-like ears one has ever seen. My heart’s desire answers to the name Koa—that is, when he wants to. I do not have to tell him that he’s perfect, he was born knowing that.
I know that I am not alone. If you were to look into the hearts of the people around you, your neighbors, your co-workers, the person driving ahead of you, you would see a spot deep inside their being that is reserved for a very special non-human friend. I know this because I see this love in humanity’s heart, not just on Valentine’s Day, but every single day.
Yes, I see love every day. Yesterday, I walked passed an exam room. An elderly widower was waiting to take his aging poodle home. The assistant carried the poodle into the room and placed him into the man’s arms. When the assistant left, I saw the man give the poodle a quick kiss on the head and say, “let’s go home.” A tender gesture, not meant to be seen by anyone, but one which tugged at my heart.
Today, I saw a beautiful purebred for her yearly wellness exam. A year ago, this dog was covered in dirt and grease, rescued from a parking lot by a man who had just lost his own canine friend. Her new family brought her to us in the middle of the night. We gave her the first bath she had ever had. Now, people often mistake her for a show dog. Of course, the food that her new family gave her nourished her body, but it was their love that saved her from that parking lot.
The refrigerator in our hospital is a testament of love. It is filled with containers of boiled chicken, hamburgers, and cheese.
I know this food has been lovingly prepared by anxious owners, hoping that their hospitalized furry companions will eat. A look of relief on an owner’s face, when their finicky feline eats his first meal in days, tells of the angst and worry that has been weighing on them ever since their cat became sick.
Yes, I see love every day; perhaps not in the grand gestures of romance that we see on Valentine’s Day. I do not see dozens of red roses or big stuffed teddy bears. Instead it is love in a very uncomplicated and pure form and that’s the best love of all.
General practitioner and emergency veterinarian at Valley Cottage Animal Hospital since 2005, Dr. Jessica Downing grew up in upstate New York. She completed her veterinary education at the New York State Veterinary College at Cornell University and was awarded her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 2004. Dr. Downing’s professional interests include emergency medicine, ultrasonography and surgery.
When she’s not busy with her duties at the hospital, Dr. Downing enjoys running, hiking, gardening, personal fitness and going for walks with her two French Bulldogs, Koa and Dakota.