By Thomas Ryan PhD (eds.)
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Most of the women happily speak about ‘loving’ their animals. None of this, of course, is surprising. 26 Jan Fook What is surprising is that a large proportion of the stories speak of a quality or intensity of relationship that goes beyond that of friendship: ‘What Branka and I shared together was much more than a friendship. She was my companion in the saddest time of my life’ (Blattmann, p. 172, Dogs). The word ‘unique’ is a common descriptor of this relationship. Many women speak about a ‘unique understanding‘ that develops between them and the animal, or sometimes of a ‘unique bond’.
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In these types of accounts, the specific meaning of the animal in the woman’s life is spelt out directly. I have grouped the themes that arose into three main categories that I have titled: ‘animals as friends and beyond’, ‘meeting specific needs’, and ‘existential meanings’. These three groupings were reasonably self-evident: the first category includes what most of us might assume are the usual benefits of living with a companion animal, but many women have also extended their appreciation of their animals beyond what might normally be expected of a friendship.
Animals in Social Work: Why and How They Matter by Thomas Ryan PhD (eds.)