One of the hardest parts of owning a pet or pets is watching them grow old. You picked them out when they were small, and as the years passed by, so much changed in your life, but they stayed the same. For those with a family pet that they brought home when they were a child, while you are growing up, you expect that dog or cat to always be there. You rarely think about its age until their fur begins to grey or they begin to walk slowly up the stairs. You wonder how you never noticed all of these things before they became impossible to overlook, and all of a sudden it hits you: your pet will pass away soon. While their lives are just a small fraction of yours, you are their whole life and are there for every part of it. It isn't easy to accept, but it is a part of life if your family bought a puppy one day when you were little and that dog grew up alongside you. The love shared between a pet and its family is proof of just how special it was, but that's not all it gives its family over the years. Over the course of a family pet's life, the way it lives can teach you what it means to love others well and live life to the fullest.

The tacky quote "At least my dog likes me" is actually true. If we're half of the people that our pet thinks we are, then we are difference makers, life changers, and thoroughly amazing. Our pets teach us the meaning of unconditional love because, despite our own shortcomings and self-perceived flaws, our pets will always look at us with love and see us as we are. This quality is truly something we can all work towards embodying.

If you aren't laughing, you aren't living. There's a saying that goes "If you are too busy to laugh, you are too busy." No, dogs and cats can't laugh. However, they do bring so much pure joy to a family that laughter follows them wherever they go and happiness follows. Family pets can remind us of what truly matters in life - spending time with family and friends and genuine laughter. You are never too busy to laugh, and you should never be too busy to spend time with those you love or to throw a tennis ball for the family dog.

One of the most important values one can have is to place importance on treating others with compassion. Your family dog doesn't see physical differences or choose to treat some with more kindness or respect than others. Your family pet has never met a stranger and never deliberately hurt someone. In all honesty, our pets can treat people with more compassion than some humans.

Lastly, family pets always forgive. When your dog is just a puppy or your cat is still a kitten, and they make a mess of the furniture or destroy a pair of shoes, being yelled at as a result, they always forgive and forget. There is a lot to be said for choosing to take the high road instead of lashing out in retaliation, and forgiveness is instrumental in doing so.

In the end, through unconditional love, laughter, compassion, and forgiveness, family pets model so many of the traits that people should work on. When all is said and done, family pets not only enrich their owners' lives, but they teach them a few lessons too. Whoever said an old dog couldn't be taught new tricks never saw a family pet teach its family - through its life - what it means to love others and live life well.