The Magic of Animal Companions
It was clear from the first moment she was introduced into Harry’s life that Hedwig was special. In Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling describes,
Twenty minutes later, they left Eeylops Owl Emporium, which had been dark and full of rustling and flickering, jewel-bright eyes. Harry now carried a large cage that held a beautiful snowy owl, fast asleep with her head under her wing. He couldn’t stop stammering his thanks, sounding just like Professor Quirrell.
Anyone who has brought home a new pet for the first time can relate to this euphoric feeling whether you’re an 11-year-old wizard with a snowy owl or a 23-year-old Muggle with a puppy.
Hedwig added a new dimension to Harry’s life. At Number 4 Privet Drive, he had no friends and no hobbies outside of the Dursleys’ chore work. With Hedwig, he found a companion. While a silent companion, Hedwig had a personality all her own that was perfect for a growing teenage wizard. She was sassy, gently nibbling Harry’s fingers if he was too distracted to pay attention to her. She was loyal, delivering secret messages between Harry and Sirius, despite the danger that she faced. Hedwig was there for Harry until the very end.
When I think about Hedwig’s relationship with Harry and her role throughout the series, it is difficult not to compare her significance to my own pets. I’ve had pets my entire life, and each of them has had a different impact on me. I’ve had four unfailingly loyal dogs and two extremely sassy cats. Currently, I have one unfailingly sassy and extremely loyal dog. I believe that animals bring a certain magic into the lives of their human companions. They give love, affection, sass, and protection when you need it most, and they know you well enough to recognize exactly when that is. Wizards and Muggles alike take great joy in animal companions. I personally believe that no matter how much we adore our pets while we have them it can never compare to the love they give us. I wonder if Harry felt the same pang of guilt in his stomach when Hedwig died that I felt holding onto my cat of 19 years as she breathed her last—the feeling that many pet owners around the world can, and did, relate to when they read and witnessed Hedwig’s death on page and screen.
The most beautiful thing about pets, though, is they have no expectations of us. We can compare our love to theirs and fall short every time, but they don’t see that. My cat purred for me one last time, and Hedwig was willing to die protecting Harry. Their love is unconditional, as well as unmatched.
Cheers to all wizard and Muggle pets alike, for bringing a little magic into our lives.