I love my dog (not like that, you perv :D). Her energy and earnestness are endearing, and her expressions (she’s a Boston Terrier) are very adorable. She is beholden to a daily routine of walks that keeps me regimented, and I appreciate her for that. I also enjoy playing fetch with her, or wrestling with her on the ground. I think of her truly as my “baby dog”.
And she seems to return the affection. When I sit on the couch or sleep at night, she curls up next to me. She wags her tail and jumps for joy when either I or my girlfriend come home. If I lay on the floor, she is almost certain to either greet me with a toy, a lick, or sit on me.
Yet I suspect that the cynical among the Dope will say that is not based on love, but rather the fact that I provide her food and walks. Sometimes I wonder myself if her interest in me isn’t merely predicated on the fact that I give her release from the house (if licking me to get me to wake in the morning doesn’t work, I do get a paw to the back of the head, and it isn’t exactly loving). Perhaps the joy she expresses when we come home from work is the same joy she expresses after getting medicine - it’s the anticipation of a treat.
I still contend, though, that my dog has a higher degree of appreciation for me. She considers me a “family member” in the same sense that I do her. Yes, she expects me to feed her and take her out, the same way I would expect any other member of my immediate family to provide care and comfort. But our relationship is more than that: we also play together, and we also “hang out” together.
Human’s wouldn’t have successfully domesticated animals if there wasn’t a degree of reciprocation. If your pet didn’t love you back, it never would have become domesticated to be a pet. It would have remained a work animal, or, barring that, food.