Life Lessons from Pets

This is a collaboration blog by Erika Del Sordo and Meredith Kimmel, ACC.  This blog can also be found at

Erika and I are both huge animal lovers.  I have two cats and Erika has cats, a dog, and a bird.  Our pets are family members to us, and we both value the importance of having these special furry (and feathery) creatures by our sides.  Our animals teach us incredible life lessons about life, unconditional love, death, responsibility, how to cope, and expecting the unexpected.

I’m going to share with you lessons that I have learned from my pets over the years.  Please share with Erika and me lessons that you have learned from your pets.

Lessons About Life and Unconditional Love

My senior year of college, I adopted an adorable tabby cat at a shelter.  He was slated to be put down the following week.  I didn’t know that at the time.  When I went to the shelter and looked around there were all these cats in cages, and they were all friendly, playful, and essentially asking to be adopted.  Not the cat I ended up adopting, he was shy and just there.  I told the person at the center that I wanted to adopt “Colby.”  She was surprised and even said something snarky because of his quiet disposition.  She then told me that I had saved a life because he was slated to be put down the following week.

How amazing is it to be 21 and saving a life?  I later changed his name to “Gucci,” and he was my best pal for almost 18 years.  He was with me through every transformational change in my twenties and most of my thirties.  He was never all that playful, but he loved me as much as I loved him. 

He was there for me in the early morning hours after the night my mom died.  I got home from the hospital and couldn’t function (I’m still not sure how I drove home). I could tell he knew that I was gutted.  He stayed by my side the entire night until the sun came up, just as he did every time I got sick.  I only got an hour of sleep that night. 

Lessons About Death and Responsibility

A year and a half to the day after I lost my mom, it was my turn to say goodbye to Gucci.  Making the decision to put him down was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Couple that with the fact that the same weekend was the midcourse evaluation for the Coach Training program I was taking. 

I learned yet another lesson about responsibility.  I took him to the vet to be put down as he wasn’t eating, drinking, or walking, and I gave myself the rest of the day to grieve.  But I had to be responsible and finish my four-day exam, so I went back to it on Sunday, and I passed with flying colors. It was only then that I allowed myself to grieve.  

Lessons About How to Cope and Expecting the Unexpected

After losing Gucci, I said that I would never have another pet.  It was just too hard.  At the end of December 2019, a friend of mine and I went out to lunch to celebrate her birthday.  During the conversation she started asking me questions about having pets and the next thing I knew we were wrapping up lunch and heading over to an adoption center. 

After plenty of convincing, I ended up adopting the two cats you see above, Felix (black and white) and Juliette (black).  I took them home with me on December 31, 2019.   They were five months old at the time and wild kittens.

Little did we know that three months later we would be in lockdown due to a pandemic. 

Having these two wild kittens with me was a new experience.  As I said before, Gucci was quiet and shy.  These two were/are not.  They play off each other.  They also always want to be by my side.  I call them “my glues.”  Felix is Super Glue and Juliette is Crazy Glue.    

They helped me to cope with the fear of the virus, the isolation from the lockdown, and how to get back into society as the pandemic is waning.  My pandemic experience would have been so different if they weren’t here. 

I hold so much gratitude for them. Erika, what lessons have you learned from you furry (and feathery) friends?

Oh my gosh. I’ve learned about true, unconditional love, responsibility when you have little mouths to feed and take care of, I’ve learned about grief and loss, and I’ve learned how to say goodbye while your heart is being ripped out and you’re not sure it’ll ever be the same.

Putting Your Heart On The Line

I had never been a cat person. I was deathly allergic, I didn’t like to get smacked with claws and I grew up with dogs so I just didn’t know any better. Well, Fall of 2008 this little kitten was crying next to a dumpster because he was so hungry. He weighed a pound and he looked like a little Snowball, so you guessed it, I named him Snowball. For the first 5 years together I went through allergy injections and a lot of allergy medication to live with my new baby kitten. He was the best cat. He was like a furry son.

Twelve years later, Snowball suffered a massive blood clot stuck in his heart and I did my very best to get him to emergency services, but they couldn’t save him. That will forever haunt me and rip my heart out like no one knows.

Snowball’s death also taught me a lot about health. I watched what Snowball ate, only feeding him expensive food from a pet store and giving him only a few treats a day. All of that healthy eating only to lose him to a blood clot. Snowball’s life and death taught me a lot.

Teaching You The Values of Living

This is exactly what our pets do. When they’re alive and thriving, they teach us to live! My dog Marley barks in my face until I get up and ask him what he wants. Sometimes we go outside, sometimes we play ball, sometimes he walks me to the kitchen because he wants to be fed yet AGAIN. Our pets keep us alive. Even if you really don’t want to step outside today, well, they’re going to make you.

I recently went through a bout of Covid. Not fun. But the animals still had to get fed, poop boxes had to get scooped, water had to be refreshed… having them kept me moving.

Plus, there’s a level of tolerance you develop when you have pets. What on earth do I mean by that?? Well, I know some people who dislike animals. They’re allergic, or they just don’t like animals and I can just tell that there’s something missing from their lives. I truly wish everyone knew what it meant, what it was like to have a pet. Even a pet fish can be fun to watch and feed. They’re so good for your health.

I recently found this kitten at a listing of mine. The sellers told me they found a litter of baby kittens in their shed. After a couple of attempts to get mama cat to take her babies, she relocated four, but left the little fifth one behind. She was the size of my thumb, eyes weren’t open yet and she was cold, crawling around this dirty shed floor. That tiny baby is now that three-month old kitten pictured above. I can best describe her personality as a mix between a flying squirrel and a monkey. But what a love. It’s like she remembers what happened that day I saved her.

All-in-all, all of my pets, both past and present, have taught me so incredibly much about life. How to love and how to live. Marley, Spice, Lily, Meow Meow, Petrie and Bird – the bird, have all made their way into my heart with unique stories. My parakeet was actually found outside. Animals hold such an unconditional love and joy that it’s hard to not be a good human when you own a pet. So get out there and adopt your new best friend who will teach you about unconditional love and living life to the fullest!

Join the discussion

Further reading