My View, Mel Hewitt: Why we’re such a nation of animal lovers

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We are a nation of animal lovers.

Spend 20 minutes on any social media or current news stories and there will be something related to animals. Whether a skateboarding dog or a parrot that can whistle the hornpipe, they’re all there. Owners share the latest pictures of their dogs, cats, hamsters other assorted beasties. I too have posted a picture of my daschund Dumpling ‘resting’ after his birthday celebrations – so I can’t complain. I know – I can see eyes rolling upwards in mock horror. Well, sometimes you just have to go with the flow and he did look cute.

There’s something gloriously dotty about how much we love our animals.

A friend once joked she wanted to come back after death as one of my cats, as she would be guaranteed fine food and cosy places to sleep.

It all started with Disney for me. My childhood is signposted with hand-drawn animation, bringing to life the most adorable characters. From Bambi to Dumbo, Thumper to Baloo the Bear, animals in childhood stories think like us and feel like us. I know for some the attribution of human thoughts, actions and sensibilities to animals is silly or even distasteful. But to many the companionship of their pets is something very special.

They are a source of comfort and solace to many people who live alone. They greet you with joy and unwavering loyalty on your return home and instinctively know when you are down. After all Fido, from the Latin fidelis, meaning faithful, is most commonly associated with dogs.

One of the remarkable things about animals for me is their unrelenting optimism. From Thomas Hardy’s The Darkling Thrush to DH Lawrence’s Self-Pity, the selflessness and inability of animals to feel sorry for themselves is highlighted in beautiful poetry.

Whether as part of a campaign to highlight cruelty, a request for a donation or to help reunite a lost pet with their owner, there is evidence on an almost daily basis of man’s inhumanity towards those we are lucky enough to share our planet with.

There are of course many worthy causes deserving of our time, money and attention. Each of us will be pulled in many emotional ways and for very valid reasons to support particular charities.

Perhaps just as important though is to behave in a honourable and kind way to those who rely on us, whether human or animal.

A year before he died my father – who once described our much-loved cat’s eyes as ‘like lamps from heaven’ – was chatting with a vicar who declared that as animals didn’t have souls they would not be admitted to heaven.

“Then I don’t think I’m bothered about going there,” was my dad’s reply – and I’m sure he meant it.