We call them 'pets', and we pamper them and fuss over them and sometimes think that they are in some way a status symbol.
They love us unconditionally (though perhaps even more deeply when food is involved) and ask in return only that we be their Alpha dogs or -cats and provide them comfort, protection and affection.
In almost all cases, we are the gainers.
The worst thing about them is that they have such heartbreakingly short lives, and the puppy or kitten that rolled across the floor and hurried clumsily to you is suddenly the white-muzzled dog who lifts cloudy eyes to you and thumps his tail on the floor.
Dogs or cats? I have both. They both give love.
And they both die too soon.
Last night I bade farewell to a boy I have owned and loved and laughed at for nine years. It was hard, but he was surrounded by those who loved him as he slipped away.
You never get used to it, but truly, it is a small return for the unquestioning, generous love they give us.