Seeking and finding unconditional love

Published 11, Sep, 2017
Author // Patrick Italo Ettenes

Patrick Ettenes on the healing power of the love between a person and their pet.

Seeking and finding unconditional love

Many of you might have been wondering where I disappeared to in the last few months. Truth be told, after my best friend's death I wasn’t really in the right place. I also gave up TV production to concentrate on my new diagnosis, my early onset dementia. Like a trooper I pushed forward, accomplishing more in four months than I ever did for the entire year. And I still am, but I’ll let you into a few personal secrets, so sit down.

I felt like I’d done enough with HIV work; I was tired of the whole thing. I felt negative, lost, insecure and unwanted. I’d been writing and doing this line of work for seven years and I’m only 34. I have seen things change and progress, sometimes maybe not in the right ways, but nevertheless the environment changes and you change. If you don’t accept that, you become bitter at times, with your views on your work, your writing style, and even your way of thinking in general.

But a couple of months ago three souls entered my life. I had a friend who stood by my side. Bless his soul, he actually put me in my place, pushed me to go away, stop going off the rails and sort myself out. It took some guts, that did and I lost a best friend but what I didn’t realize was that the universe had given me a new one. We supported each other and now I watch him amazingly work at the LGBT Foundation when he thought just a year ago he never would be there. I said four months ago that he would get a job there and so he has. Now I’m officially known as his Oracle haha.

But what the universe also sent me was a gentleman and the love of his life, his dog. Now I know you’re pondering where this is going… you see, its taken me 14 years, to realize the bad habits I’ve had with men and I never really appreciated the good guys until I met him. We aren’t together (though nothing would make me happier), but we are close and we share some good times with each other. He has patience, which you need with me.

But what I didn’t realize at first is that it’s his dog that I’ve secretly grown to love so much.

And this is what my article is about. Pets! And how they can sometimes be your only life line to recovery, companionship, communication and healing.

We all know the stories that having an animal helps you with healing, but healing comes from so many levels. I didn’t like dogs too much as a child. I find them needy and I never really appreciated my own until I met his little dog.

Her name is Mina. Oh, she's a feisty one – her owner isn’t very verbal, but Mina sure is. She growls at everything and she growled at me for months until one day I sat her down and talked to her about all my issues for two hours!

The next day she didn’t growl at me… only when I play with her belly constantly. I’m sorry, but for those who have pets, you know when they look so peaceful and their little tummy shows and you can’t compose yourself – you have to go straight to their tummy and rub it until they’re annoyed. Or is that just me?

Point is, I’ve spent more time with Mina than with him. I’d stay over during the day, take her out, talk to her while we were walking, tell her my insecurities and fears, blame her when I couldn’t find something in the house ( very handy by the way, though she doesn’t know what the hell I’m talking about). I just communicate with her and I have noticed that when I’m sad she will come to me and lay on my lap. She knows me, and knows when I need help.

There is something about animals for those who love them, that strikes a bond stronger than with our human counterparts. Animals reply on us when we have domesticated them but they react to us with such love, unconditional love, that humans are fearful of it.

"She gets me up in the mornings, or I wouldn’t leave the house. Four times a day I get to see sunlight and feel the breeze and see the trees and a park that I wouldn’t go into alone. I only do it because of her."

I know what you're wondering: how does this link in with HIV? There are many studies now showing how animals can assist us with healing. I know this isn't much help, but believe it or not, the idea of this article didn’t come to me with the dog, though I wrote it out in my head while I was walking with her.

She gets me up in the mornings, or I wouldn’t leave the house. Four times a day I get to see sunlight and feel the breeze and see the trees and a park that I wouldn’t go into alone. I only do it because of her. Many of you who have HIV will feel lonely. We search sometimes for companionship, someone that understands us, but maybe what I realized is that we haven’t searched outside of our normal circle. By that I mean animals. I know my publisher in Canada has a few dogs, and I ponder what he thinks of this.

Has your pet ever been there more for you than anyone else? For those who have them, we all know that when we’re at our lowest they, are so responsive and look at you with such care and understanding that no person could match.

You see, humans generally aren’t loyal… we have complications. I like someone whom I’m learning to appreciate whenever I’m around them, instead of jumping into a bowl with them and mixing it all together,

My friend went through a bad patch a couple of years ago and he mentioned that it was his dog that saved his life. I understand now why his pet is all he needs at the moment, why their cuddle times comfort him and why he just walks for hours with her in a park. I get it now because trust is hard, especially when it comes to those who are dealing with a diagnosis. His dog will always be there for him and I might not be. I am selfish at times and we are all hurting from the past. That sometimes trickles into current relationships, but your pet doesn’t care about that. She or he, cat or dog, will always be there and love you for you!

So you see, Mina is the highlight of my article. I look forward to seeing her so much because she’s made me kinda understand that I’m not alone. I may not be with her father, but I’m part of family still. She includes me in her special way. And that’s special and makes me feel something I didn’t know I could feel before.

Accepted, listened to, wanted, and loved. From someone else’s pet.

My advice, for those who have animals, if you are just diagnosed, or still dealing with it, or maybe never had an issue coming to terms with your diagnosis, appreciate that secretly you were never alone. Your four legged friend has stood by your side day in and day out.

And for those who don’t have a pet… maybe it’s time you looked into getting one. They will give you acceptance and reassurance, even pick out your clothes for your date (my cat would sit on the outfit she liked the most).

And they will also give you back that piece of yourself that you feel you lost.

About the Author

Patrick Italo Ettenes

Patrick Italo Ettenes

I was born and brought up in sunny Barbados. I come from a very loving family whom I still to this day adore with all my heart. I'm a very happy go lucky kinda guy. I'm pretty well traveled. I've lived and studied in different parts of the world which I think has made me understand the human race just a tad bit better. My friends are fast from traveling but my heart will always remain where they are. In the Caribbean.

At 15 I received a Scholarship for psychology where I lived in Cuba for about a Year. Moved to England and studied and lived for six years. Lived in Panama for two years and am now back in England, where I've managed to hold a column in OutNorthWest Magazine. I've been interviewed by BBC Out North West Tonight, been on radio with Mike Robinson, been a panelist on HIV matters aired on Gaydio, also in front of a live audience on HIV matters, and was interviewed for Worlds Aids Day for a video.

My blog The Broken Bones

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