Libby Robertson
Libby Robertson, DVM, with Mickey, witnesses the highs and lows of the human-animal bond at her veterinary clinic in Kansas City, Mo. Photo by Dan Videtich

Revealing human nature

In a world where we’re inundated with bad news about crime, politics and war, Robertson says the bond reflects positively on society and people. “When you see people with their pets, and you witness that giving nature—that they will sacrifice some of their disposable income to make sure Buddy has good food—it proves that they care, they love,” she says. “You can’t have a pet and be a cold, nasty person.”

The amount of love and care people give their pets can mean when a pet dies, it can be like losing a member of the family. Robertson plays a big role in helping her clients keep that bond intact—she is also there to witness when it ends. “It’s exhausting,” she says. “I look at it from a practical perspective so I can survive those moments. We’re blessed with the ability to give a dignified ending to our pets that have given us so much.”

In those situations, Robertson says her job is to provide comfort for the pet and emotional comfort for the owners. She and her team alter how they handle the situation based on the family’s need. “She sits and talks to children to help them deal with the emotional impact of losing a pet, which is different, she says, from an elderly person who thinks this might be his last pet. “The spectrum of emotions and needs is different for each person,” Robertson says. “It’s one of the toughest things to deal with as a practitioner.”

What pets think

Human relationships often come with a lot of emotional baggage. But the human-animal relationship is different—pets don’t talk back. They are loyal, honest and they don’t put up a front. “There’s a deeper trust we have with our pets than we even have with our spouses or children,” Robertson says. “Pets have no motivation other than survival, food and love.” Humans tend to override some of the simplest primal instincts with societal needs, but pets don’t have those pressures.

“I can tell my dog anything, and he’s not going to tell the neighbor,” she says. “Pets give people a clean and honest relationship, which is sometimes lacking in our society.” Our pets are a reminder of the simpler things in life, Robertson says. They don’t care how shiny the car is or what it looks like—they just want to go for the ride.

After the wedding, Olivia Ryan, Eric Wieman and Tayto settled into a comfortable routine, but it needed a little tweaking. While she was growing up in Ireland, Ryan’s dogs lived outside, and they were rarely in the house. She says since moving to the United States, pet ownership has been an adjustment from what she was used to. Until recently, Tayto, now weighing 60 pounds, slept on the bed. “It was like having another person in bed with us,” she says. “Now Tayto has his own room.”

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