One of the great gifts animals give us is helping us learn to be vulnerable, and to love without reservation or fear of loss.
I was chatting with a friend who had not had a pet in many years, and he explained to me that he had owned a dog, it had died, and he had been devastated and decided he would never again set himself up for that sort of pain.
For me, the lesson is just the opposite: each animal I have loved has grown my capacity to love with abandon—to know that there is an end coming and that the loss will be profound, but to leap in anyway, to savor every moment, pour everything I have into every second I get to share with another, and to build memories that will endure. I do not know what comes after, but in life our connections are transient, fragile, effervescent; but they make us complete. They fill up our hearts and make it all worthwhile.