What ill cannot find relief in the wet nose of a Labrador? What question cannot be answered by the irrefutable weight of a lap-curled Tabby? What problem cannot be solved with the undulating song of a budgie?

Pets have much to offer the flesh-covered companions with whom they share their lives, all of it gloriously intangible. In their company, we can transcend the surly bonds of our earthly existence and somehow find passage to more ethereal realms. Animals teach us about nature, about affection. And, endlessly, about ourselves. They grant us the ability to stretch our consciousness beyond a narrow human viewpoint to a place of sincere spiritual wholeness. Thanks to our relationship with animals, we become something better than we might otherwise be.

From the first time a bounding doggie delivers a tossed ball back to our hands or a snuggling kitty runs a rough tongue across our knuckles, we are blessed with a new kind of knowledge. In a perfect world, we would extend that revelation into all the corners of our lives.

Pets are uncomplicated. They will go for that ball as many times as it’s asked of them. They nudge our thighs when they’re hungry, go for their leashes when they fancy a walk, claim the neighbouring couch cushion when they want love.

And speaking of love, pets have a boundless capacity for the stuff. No matter how many times their human roomies reprimand them with fierce words, they return, all lolling tongues and leaping paws, for more of the same. They bear no anger, they have no regrets, they hold no grudges. They never question their worthiness of the love they demand. And they accept its delivery without question.

Through our interaction with pets, we learn the value of living in the moment. Rather than obsess over some future event or past grievance, we participate purely in the present. We glory in the blissful abandon with which animals live their lives and focus on the (big, wet) nose in front of our face alone. It’s a helluva lesson to take on board.

Animals have walked alongside us since the first moment anyone starting jotting notes on the phenomenon. Drawings on 20,000-year-old cave walls tell the story of our Cro-Magnon ancestors hangin’ with four-legged friends. In the years since, humankind’s intimate relationship with animals has been reflected in art, mythology, all manner of tripped-out religious analogies. People have drawn connections between their beastly buds and supernatural forces, guardian angels, even gods.

For as long as we have shared the planet, we have enjoyed the graceful, seriously joyful company of pets and, through our relationship with them, we understand a part of our buried selves. Animals carry our living history in their genes. Within their primordial, bum-wagging existence are stored our most essential memories; our most furious, fantastic talents for living. In the end, human beings’ own savage beasts, long obscured by the layered acquisition of civilized behaviours, find glorious release in spending time with the modern, domesticated versions of same.