Skip to main content

Seven Lessons We Learn from our Animals

Here's a  Buddhist parable about the inevitability of death. A woman, angry that her son had died, demanded that the Buddha restore him to life. He agreed to do so on the condition that the woman find one person in the village who did not know the sorrow of death. She went on her way, determined to find that person, but weeks later returned after visitng every house, finally understanding no one s untouched by death. This is the one constant, in the world.
There are those few who have been fortunate in their lives not to have yet experienced the loss of a loved one  but we all eventually will. The only certainty of life is death.  However, some of us experience it more frequently than others,each time  just as painful as the last: those of us who choose to live with pets. If we are fortunate,  we share their companionship for a full 12 to 14 years....but the physical separation between us inevitable.  This is the equivalent of a parent losing a child about five times during a lifetime, such short intervals for such deep sorrow. How ironic is it that our greatest love is so concentrated and stunted.  Is it a cruel universal joke or a catalyst for our most important life lessons?
While there is no compensation for multiples losses, In hindsight, once we sustain distance from our emotional pain, we can identify and count the gifts and lessons they bring us in those short lives.  

1. Unconditional Love.  The one lesson most pet owners agree upon is that our animals teach us to love unconditionally, and along with that, to forgive. They ask little from us but give us enormous rewards with sheer presence, demonstrating the consistency of love.
2. Selflessness.  They teach us selflessness. The dog eats before we do. The dog gets vet care before we get medical care. We take days off work to nurse an ailing animal and in some cases our dogs eat better than we do and eat before we do.
3. Accpetance.They teach us to understand and accept impermanence. While this life is temporary, Divine love lasts forever. We learn to extract the greatest parts of ourselves, to joyfully love and willingly. And as painful as the letting go is, the experience opens our hearts to love another four legged arrival....each new four legged guide expands our capacity for love.
4.  Release.  They make it impossible for us to hold grudges.  Yes, we get annoyed if they chew up our shoe or  prefer to urinate on the coffee table instead of the shrubbery.  Yes we are furious when they swallow part aof a q squeak toy that requires a $3000 surgery, but the emotion is fleeting and reverts very quickly to love and care.
5. Spirituality.  They help us understand that we are not alone. They speak to the greater essence of our total being with accompaniment that is way beyond the physical. In fact, despite our trips to the animal shelter or a reputable breeder, we really have not chosen our dogs but they have chosen us.  They descend from higher planes to guiide us through ouroften flawed human struggle.
6. Sacrifice.  They show us the meaning of sacrifice: because the love we have for them is so pure, they become our first consideration when the end of physical life approaches. If we are learning as it is intended,we face no dilemma of whether to release or clutch our ailing companion. We allow ourselves to part with great love at our own emotional expense, putting love before desire.
7 . Renewal  They allow us to heal from all forms of hurt: romantic, loss, anger.  By the simple gift of their presence,a paw on our leg, a head on our shoulder,  our vibration is raised and our capacity for love is expanded.   Each time we bring a new animal into our lives, we are energetically mended.  

I wake up every day with four animals, three who paw at me, bringing me closer to them so I can receive their kisses, and one who just chatters away, yelling "Come!"  For me, every day starts with these gifts.  It makes being human more bearable.


Popular posts from this blog

Living with an Old Dog: Every Moment a Blessing

This morning I thought my old girl, Ingrid, had died, and I was stunned as I tried to lift her head and leg and they just fell, heavy, onto the bed. I didn't even see her breathing. It felt as if there was no life in her body at all. I surrounded her with my body, thinking she was gone, calling her name.....and then she moved. :-'(. I thought, "this is the way I want you to leave," peacefully, without drama. Maybe she was practicing. I cried much of the morning. But she's still here....a blessing.

She turned 14 last week and quietly enjoyed a small birthday party attended by her two housemate dogs and three other dog friends.  She was subdued but enjoyed enough birthday treats to the point of vomiting them up onto the couch at midnight.  
She can no longer climb into the bed and anxiously paced back and forth along the foot board until I lifted all 50 pounds of her and she curled up and slept till morning.  On occasion I would awaken in the middle of the night to f…

Ingrid the Ghost Comes Back to Visit

I would like to show you where I used to live. I don’t live anymore in the sense of physical life as you understand it but I live in another dimension that gives me some flexibility of movement. From here I can gently re-enter the earth plane, almost like a whisper, tugging at my mom until she is still enough to sense me. 
I share this not for her but for all of you who seemed to know so much about me from my mom’s words and pictures. I read the good words you wrote when I left and was touched because I was not a famous dog or a winner or a champion of any sort, just a deeply loved girl who had the luck to land in the right home. I want to show you the best parts of my life, which means where I lived because my home was my life. Take a look around the room - the living room, the kitchen, the family room –all those flaws you see in the walls and ceiling are really welcoming caves where my spirit has settled. I’m in every crack in the wall, every fold of fabric, every scratch on the fu…

God's Covenant with Animals in the Old Testament

What is our human responsibility to the earth and its non-human inhabitants? Traditional Biblical scholars would say one of master-servant and ecologists would say one of caretaker. However, using either frame, neither movement has responded in full view of the evidence presented throughout the Bible that God clearly included animals in covenantal relationships with Biblical scholars neglecting the sanctity of animals and secular environmentalists neglecting God. A closer look at the Old Testament reveals that God designed humankind’s role in relation to the animals as one of stewardship rather than domination. Traditionally religious people often cite Scripure justify a master/servant relationship between humans and animals rather than one of partnership, but deeper investigation invites us to see texts rich with references, both literal and figurative, to the partnership between humankind and the animal world. From Genesis through Prophets and Wisdom Literature, the writers of the O…