Don't you just hate it when you come home from work and find a circle of dark dog or cat hair on your white duvet cover or sofa? Does it drive you crazy? Do you spend all of your spare cash on lint rollers?Do you get tired of finding drifts of it under beds, on clothing and along skirting boards?
Don't. Treasure it instead. Be overjoyed that you have a live, happy cat or dog to leave those cat or dog-shaped shadows on your furniture that look like a crime scene chalk outline. Be proud that there's a deep drift of pet hair on every surface in your house. Learn to love the deeply alarming vacuum-cleaner-in-reverse noise that heralds a hairball being coughed onto an expensive rug (never the laminate flooring next to the rug. Never the tiled floor. Always the expensive rug).
You won't though, because- like everyone- you take your living, wriggling, cheeky, naughty, tiring pets for granted. Mild irritation is a natural response to your home being coated in hair, fur, saliva and - occasionally- poop. We get annoyed because a) hairballs and poop are messy and b) despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, we pretend our pets will be around for ever. Sadly, that's just not true.
Personally, I would love to hear my 19 year old cat's vacuum-cleaner-in-reverse hairball noise one more time, even if it is 3am, and even if the rug is Persian and quite expensive. If I found him asleep on my laptop today, I'd leave him there and let him enjoy the heat instead of moving him, even if he did delete the article I'd just written. I'd be overjoyed to find opportunistic tongue grooves in the butter I carelessly left out of the fridge. If I woke up in the morning to find a house (and kitchen work surfaces) covered in lumps of soggy, clay-based cat litter and dainty red paw prints ("WHY DO YOU NEVER CLEAN YOUR PAWS?"), I'd dance instead of swearing loudly.
I also wish I'd had the chance to spend another £50 on his monthly kidney medication, £50 that I occasionally watched leave my bank account while imagining it turning into electricity, wine or clothes instead. "I could practically keep a horse for that", I'd say. "I could ride a horse around. I can't ride you, because you're a very old cat." Instead, this month that £50 was spent on a final visit to the vet and a dose of anaesthetic that righted the final, deadly wrong that those expensive kidneys of his had caused.
You wouldn't think I'd have taken a 19 year old cat for granted, but I did. He seemed so robust, so solid, so good at getting on my nerves with his 5am wake up yowl (which sounded like a dolphin gargling with marbles, or occasionally a haunted baby) - not to mention his habit of knocking over half full glasses of water for his own amusement ("OH WHOOPS SORRY WERE YOU DRINKING THAT?")
There's no way that our pet's bad habits won't irritate us at times: we're only human, after all. But today- just for one day- be happy when you come home to find that crime scene outline on your duvet. Smile when you step backward from the sink and fall over the hopeful animal who is standing right behind you in the hope that tripping you up will somehow make food happen. Be happy when they want to go out, then immediately come inside again, then go out again.
And- most importantly- give them a big hug and a fuss, because you can.