Having a friend, as with any other household pet, must be regarded as both a pleasure and a responsibility. A friend can in fact be much more rewarding than most other pets but you must be prepared to play a part in meeting the needs of your friend.
THE ADVANTAGES OF A FRIENDOne of the most important advantages of a friend over and above other pets is that most friends will already be house-trained by the time you acquire them. However you should not take this for granted and the first time you bring your friend to your house, you must take care to show your friend where the toilet is and make it clear that you would prefer them to use it.
A properly trained friend can be relied upon to always provide a sympathetic ear, a warm lap and a caring heart. Again, you can’t take this for granted and some more will be said on this subject under the heading the Training.
There are some other points you should consider if you are trying to determine whether to obtain a friend in preference to a dog, cat, or goldfish. Friends only need infrequent feeding and can generally be relied upon to forage for themselves most of the time. Normally, friends will also be able to house and clothe themselves. In regard to veterinary care, most friends seem to have an uncanny instinct for their own health and are able to find a suitably curative doctor or pharmacy when they feel off-colour.
Finally, you will find that a friend is a remarkably intelligent and communicative creature. Most friends can be made to understand even quite complex concepts if you take care to speak slowly and use simple words of few syllables. Similarly, many friends also exhibit an uncanny ability to make themselves understood to the caring owner. This has led to speculation that friends may have psychic abilities. There is no scientific evidence that this is true and it is more likely that the friend uses gesture, facial expression, and other means of communication to make themselves understood.
This last is potentially the most rewarding aspect of having a friend, but it can also be the hardest to master. You must speak to your friend often and you must also strive to understand when your friend wishes to respond.
DISADVANTAGESThe very factors which make friends so rewarding can also present certain problems. Some people find it difficult to adjust to the relative independence of a friend. It is unlikely that your friend will be content to be exclusively your friend and it will probably cultivate other friendships. This means that from time to time your friend may not be available the moment you want them and you will have to exercise a little patience until they are. For this reason, many people who have friends have more than one friend.
If you require constant companionship, a simple and mindless devotion with few demands in return, you should give serious consideration to owning a dog instead of a friend. Similarly a contented friend is less rewarding to hear than a contented cat. Cats purr pleasantly whereas a friend will only sigh or perhaps groan depending upon the degree of pleasure they are experiencing.
Being a relatively intelligent creature, a friend can also be unpredictable. This is particularly true of a poorly trained friend. The training of a friend is crucial if you are going to have a rewarding relationship with it. Again, your attention is drawn to the section on Training.
It has already been mentioned that a friend is capable of communicating with you. This can be a problem as well as an advantage. If your friend is taking the trouble to communicate with you then it will expect you to at least try and understand what it is trying to say. If you don’t have the time or inclination to listen to your pet when it wants you to know something, then the chances are that your friend will gradually drift away.
There are some other things that need to be borne in mind when assessing how suitable a friend is for you. Friends have a long breeding cycle. This makes it difficult to breed friends as either a hobby or a commercial venture. Friends are also not as pretty or entertaining to watch as birds or tropical fish. Finally, if you make a mistake in acquiring your friend, then the problems can be considerable. You cannot just have a friend put down by the local veterinary surgeon. Putting it in a bag and throwing it in the river is also likely to lead to trouble with the local authorities.
Do not be misled by the relative independence of your friend. It is essential that you provide for the needs of your friend. As previously mentioned, your friend only needs infrequent meals from you. Nevertheless, such meals are an essential part of building and maintaining a friendship. They provide a neutral territory over which you can practice talking to your friend and learning to understand what your friend is trying to say back to you. This is particularly important with a new friend as you learn to get used to each other.
Your friend is not entirely dissimilar to a dog. It will need you to show some affection from time to time. You must also teach it where it stands in your life. Just as a dog can be a problem if it has an inflated feeling of its own standing in your family, a friend can also cause problems. While a friend is a docile creature and is unlikely to bite your children, it can certainly put the bite on you to an excessive degree if it is allowed. A friend is putting the bite on you if it starts asking for money, a place to stay for the night, food, etc. Your friend must learn to pull its own weight in your relationship.
Your friend is also not entirely dissimilar to a cat. It needs its freedom. If you do not give it that freedom, your friend will probably eventually leave you in preference for another owner.
Remember that your friend is not exclusively your property and at any time it will have a choice of owners. Also like a cat, your friend will sometimes want to spontaneously demonstrate its affection for you. You must learn to accept these shows of affection and not brush them aside or busily do something else. Some owners are embarrassed by the affection of their friends and allow this to interfere with the rewards which can be gained in having a friend.
It is also a good idea to keep an eye on the health of your friend. As mentioned previously, most friends have a good instinct for their own health. Sometimes, however, you will encounter a friend who seems unable to assess the state of their own health. These can be a problem as they may not be prepared to accept your concern for their welfare. In any case, your care and concern for your friend’s health will serve only to strengthen your relationship with it.
In closing this section, here are some comments on some common conditions you may observe in your friend.
This is normal. A dry nose in a friend does not indicate ill health. You will also not improve your relationship with your friend if you insist on regularly feeling its nose. Some friends are sensitive about the size or shape the their nose and it is important that you should never feel the nose of such a friend.
LOSS OF FURProviding this is a gradual process you need not be concerned. It is a natural consequence of ageing. Male friends will tend to exhibit this condition more strongly than female friends. It is important not to make a point of mentioning this to your friend as they may be proud of their pelt and may be sensitive about its loss. Sudden loss of hair is a cause for concern and you should attempt to learn its cause.
COLOUR CHANGE IN THE FURAgain, providing this is a gradual process you need not be concerned. It is also similar to thinning of the pelt in that you should be careful of showing that you have noticed it. A sudden change in fur colour can indicate a problem or it may mean that the friend has voluntarily undergone a colour-change. You should attempt to learn the cause.
SHIVERING AND REDUCED TEMPERATUREYour friend is cold and/or ill. A frequently effective approach to this problem is to warm your friend by placing your arms around it and holding it close. Take care when administering this treatment as not all friends will receive it well. An alternative approach is to offer additional items of clothing, hot beverages, or even a spot on the bed. Most friends are quite happy to curl up at the foot of the bed beneath a fold of your quilt. Be careful of inviting your friend beneath the covers of your bed as this can cause problems.
EXCESSIVE SWEATING AND ELEVATED TEMPERATUREYour friend may be ill. Give some thought to your own condition. If your temperature and condition is normal then your friend is probably ill. You should seek veterinary advice. If the sweating and temperature are accompanied by shivering and moaning then you should seek veterinary advice immediately. Alternatively, if you also are sweating and have an elevated temperature then it probably means that you have a very close friend and there is no cause for concern.
CHRONIC TIREDNESSThis can be a sign that something is wrong. Many things can disturb the sleeping patterns of your friend. These include stress, depression, overwork, or too many parties. Any of these can be a problem and your friend may appreciate your concern if you are sincere. This condition can also be caused by too much excessive sweating and elevated temperatures. In this case, your friend is probably fairly contented and you need not be too concerned.
Friends are timid creatures and you must exercise care in training one. If you adopt a commanding tone and attempt to dominate your friend, it will probably react badly and eventually leave you. You must also regard the training process as an opportunity to assess your friend just as your friend will be assessing you.
Sometimes a friend will turn out badly and will attempt to use you or may even become violent or threatening. Unfortunately there is little you can do to correct these faults if they are happening. There are legal problems in having your friend put down but there are alternatives available for disposing of problem friends. One popular method is to invite the friend for a picnic in a remote place. Then, when the friend is asleep or otherwise occupied, you can merely drive off and leave it to fend for itself. Do not be concerned for the survival of your ex-friend, your biggest problem may be after it follows you home.
If your friend is a registered pedigree, it is sometimes possible to sell them for their breeding potential in spite of the defects in their character. There are also authorities which involve themselves in caring for hopeless cases and in the last resort, you can always try the R.S.P.C.A.
You should conduct the training of your friend in a number of careful steps. This will assist you in finding a rewarding friend.
This should always be conducted in a neutral place. Do not be in a hurry to invite your friend to your home. If things do not go well, you may not want it to know where you live. Speak slowly to your friend and try to understand when it tries to communicate back to you. This is a process of gaining the trust of your new friend and learning whether you can trust them in return. If you try to assert control over your friend, it will become frightened and unresponsive. Try a number of meetings of this nature. Do not take the plunge of committing yourself after only one or two meetings.
It is important at this stage of training to make it clear to the friend what is expected of it and those things which you cannot tolerate.
DEVELOPING THE RELATIONSHIP
If all goes well, you may try offering your friend a meal at your home. If you have a particularly timid friend, it may initially decline your offer. Do not be disheartened. Perhaps your friend has had bad experiences with previous owners. Be gentle with your friend and occasionally repeat the offer. Sooner or later your friend will understand that you are sincere. Again, do not attempt to pressure your friend or it may become frightened.
Keep the meal simple or your friend may be daunted by the efforts you are taking for it. Again, speak gently with your friend and be responsive to its attempts to communicate. Sometimes your friend may wish to initiate communication. This is an important sign and you should be alert and responsive if it happens.
It is a good sign if your friend voluntarily helps with clearing and washing the dishes. If it does not help but leaves or watches television while you do the work, you should carefully assess the suitability of this friend. You may wish to give the friend another chance but you should also start giving some thought to ways of getting rid of it before you become too attached to it. Again, the picnic is suggested as being a good approach that does not involve having your friend put down.
TRUSTThis is an essential ingredient of your relationship with your friend. It is also the hardest to establish. A dog will trust you if you pat it. A friend may or may not respond favourably to a pat but it is unlikely that you will win its trust by such a simple method. Remember that your friend is a complex creature and can be unpredictable at times.
The best approach is to break your friend in gradually. Offer small confidences to your friend. It will be flattered by this show of trust. Make sure that you do not initially tell anything to your friend which could damage you or your reputation. If you start to hear these confidences back from other people, it means that your friend is breaching your trust and you should get rid of it. Try to be diplomatic in this case, just because it can’t be your friend doesn’t mean that it must be your enemy.
If your friend respects your confidences and responds by confiding in you, you must reciprocate by respecting its confidence. Just as you are learning whether you can trust your friend, it is also assessing you.
THE SIGNS OF SUCCESSIf you are careful in training and assessing your friend then you will have a long and rewarding relationship with it. Dogs and cats can be relied upon to live only for twelve years although some have been known to live twenty or more years. A well-trained friend can stay with you for nearly a century.
A good friend will always be responsive to you regardless of what you need. You will also feel comfortable in responding to your friend’s needs because you know it will return your affection and concern. If you are not intimidated by the challenges and complexity of acquiring a friend, if you are not discouraged by the possibility of mistakes, then you will learn what a charming, fascinating, rewarding and satisfying creature a friend can be.