Are We Normal Yet?

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, we seem to have been living in a state of suspended "normalcy." Parts of our lives have returned to something resembling that long ago world of Sept. 10. The debilitating confusion has receded, and has been replaced with patriotism, determination, but an undeniable level of uncertainty and fear.

We're all waiting for … something. News of U.S. retaliation, perhaps. Confirmation that we're either in recession or not, and whether our jobs are safe. We're wondering if or when another terrorist attack will take place and where. It's as if we can restart the calendar, beginning with Sept. 11 as Day One of the New Year.

Things indeed have changed on a massive scale in ways we haven't conceived yet. Somehow, even taking our dogs to the park has a different feeling. A common question has been to ask, "When can I be happy again?" What this question really asks is, when will even walking the dog feel normal and right?

Along with taking care of our pets and reaffirming the human-animal bonds, the concept of "being normal" applies to so many other areas of daily life that somehow feel diminished in the wake of Sept. 11. Our children need to be loved, work still needs to be done, the grass needs to be mowed, the pool cleaned … and our pets cared for.

Cherishing Daily Chores

Time magazine writer Doris Kearns put it succinctly when she wrote, "Terrorism seeks to turn ordinary life into a battlefield, and the bravest act Americans can undertake in the coming weeks is to go about their daily lives."

For those of you who were only a step away from the attacks, either physically or because you knew someone involved, this is obviously far more difficult. If you need help, seek it. If you know someone who needs help, offer it. But remember, experts say that as the weeks pass, it will be easier to return to something that can be recognized as normal for most people.

Putting off your normal routine – that evening walk with your dog, playing regularly with your cat – is a vital part of that. The best thing you can do is go back to the routine that you and your beloved pet had.

That may mean pulling away from news on television or the computer, or putting off worrying about the economy for a while. It means, basically, being happy again.

It also means not putting off daily or periodic mundane tasks, such as cleaning the litter box. It means taking your pet to the veterinarian, as scheduled, feeding your pet a healthy diet and finding that perfect toy.

Your pet hasn't forgotten how to have fun, but in case you need a refresher, here are some articles that may help.

Playing with Your Pet. This article gives a good overview of why playing with your pet is emotionally and physically healthy for the both of you.

Fun at the Park. Winter is not far away, so it is important for you and your dog to enjoy the weather now. This article will give you tips and ideas on how to make the most of your outing.

Five Games that Will Delight Your Dog. From the traditional game of "fetch" to hoops, this article will show you how to teach your dog new activities.

10 Games to Amuse Your Cat. Cats are usually pretty good at inventing games to keep themselves amused, but sometimes their creativity needs a boost.