Hello! My name is Maria Llantada. I was born in Mexico City, Mexico, at the tender age of zero. I moved to Wisconsin when I was 3 years old, and have been here ever since.
To start off, I want to introduce myself by talking about my dog Chico. I wouldn't say he's incredibly integral to who I am, but my connection with him is very special and has helped me grow spiritually.
The reason we had decided to get Chico, is that in 2016, our dog Mac died. He had been in our lives since I was 2 years old (He's was a bit of an immigrant dog as we had to move him from Mexico to here!). Mac was, above all, my Mom's favorite dog- out of all that she's ever had (And that says a lot, considering she's had around 100 or so dogs in her life). It hit my mother pretty hard, as animals give her a great sense of happiness and fulfillment. We were dog-less for about a little over a year, and through the course of the year, our family had gone through traumatic experiences that left my Mom pretty emotionally drained. To her, getting a dog would provide, once again, a sense of joy.
She quarreled with her fiance for a month, in sometimes, pretty intense confrontations in persuasion to be able to attain one (He's never been that big of a dog person).
Finally, realizing that having an animal in the house would help my Mom emotionally heal, he compromised. To be frank, I wasn't too keen or excited to have a dog in the house either, as I knew I would have to be the one primarily taking care of him despite being "Mom's Dog". That meant having to take him out to use the bathroom in freezing winter weather or getting up early to allow him to go out; Two ideas that utterly turned me off from the fun idea of having a dog.
Plus, I never really had the intuitive connection my mother had with animals. She had taught me since birth to have compassion for them- to even put myself out on a limb to fight for their lives (For example, even in busy highways or intersections, she would inconvience to help a turtle cross a street). And although I loved animals, I didn't care enough to take care of one directly in everyday life. Not only that but at the time I was a very selfish teenager who didn't want to have added responsibility, to my "heavy" load of things I already had on my plate *eye roll*.
I loved Chico right away when we got him. The first week of having him, I would have some late homework assignments at school as I'd have time mindlessly slip away as I cuddled and played with him whenever I was home. He was an absolute heartthrob, and everyone on my neighborhood street adored him, But things were rough. I'd get into confrontations with my mom as to who was responsible to feed him or chase after him whenever he got out.
Overall, I felt there was something off about how I interacted with Chico. There were times in which I would have a sense of guilt about why I liked him. I'm not sure why I had this guilt build up in my mind for so long- almost to the point of anxiety as I'd question whether or not I was a good person. Especially since sometimes I was selfish and wouldn't put in my full effort in taking care of him.
One night, as these thoughts poked at my mind, I confessed to my friend Grant about my internal worries.
"I feel guilty about Chico. The only reason I like him is because he's comforting.", I said.
Grant looked puzzled after I said this, and after a short pause, he opened his mouth with a voice that started with hesitation.
"...Maria, that's totally okay.", Grant said.
I was slightly confused. Wasn't it selfish to only like an animal for this reason? I asked him this.
"I mean, in some sense yes. But overall, no. Think about it, Maria. If we let dogs, or cats, or whatever the fuck run out into the wild without our supervision, they'd quickly die. We spent time, hundreds of years of evolutionary domestication to design them to be companions. It's human to need and want companionship. Humans are social animals, and we need some sort of connection. It's an inherently human need to want to love and be loved. And you shouldn't feel guilty over this".
"That's beautiful" I replied.
After that night I threw myself into putting my best effort into Chico, understanding that it was okay to love someone for this reason.
Ever since then, when I find myself feeling guilty over meeting someone that I find comforting, or having pride because I provide comfort to another, I unravel my thoughts and realize the sacredness of the interconnectedness of life.
And overall, that's a pretty integral part in everyone.