To Pet or Not to Pet?

What is it about people and their pets? What's so special about that relationship that make people coo and goo over camera photos and stories? I realize that might sound cynical, but please know that I'm genuinely curious and not trying to offend. I feel like a bad person to say that I can't relate to that mushy gushy love between pets and their owners. I can witness it and understand that it's real, but I just haven't experienced it for myself.

Growing up we had pets. Nippers and Melody were rabbits, and Angel was a parakeet. We brought home the class hamster. Clover, a German shepherd/lab mix, accompanied with us for a good 11 years, but we had to put down earlier this year because of an untreatable tumor. I miss her, and regret that I never took good care of her. I always saw her as a misbehaved dog, and never opened my heart to her until much too late. I loved her when she was little and cute, and then I became a self-absorbed lazy ass of a teenager. What was missing from me that kept us from having a relationship?

There are some days that I feel a longing for companionship, and a little puppy or kitten sounds like just the solution for my problems. But that's not very fair is it. I feel that it's not right to decide to have a pet out of loneliness and dependency, whether that pet be a mouse or a human. And on days that I feel good and solid, a pet would seem more of a responsibility than anything. Something is missing there as well.

Is it because I see animals as animals, and not as humans? It's selfish to say, I know. I'm sorry... I'm just trying to understand. Am I being self righteous, and bigoted? I would love love love to have a friend to listen, to cuddle and run around with -- but it all seems so weird and experimental to me. I know of neurotic pets whose owners pull their hair out over, yet love them to bits. I know of calm and passive animals who become part of the routine, and aren't babied. I know of perfectly co-habitable cats and well behaved dogs.

I don't know what about me is being reflected in my opinion of animals. I do know, that until I figure it out, I can't ever have a pet, and that makes me sad to know that I'm missing out on something.