There lies in the deepest reaches of our heart and soul a special place for all animals and our personal pet babies in particular. No love is so pure. No dedication is so strong as that we share with our beloved pets. It has been said many times that our dogs, cats, birds, fish and other blessed creatures are the role models for living a life of kindness, friendship, loyalty and unwavering support. It is indeed a symbiotic relationship like no other in our lives. The loneliness of the darkest hours can be brightened by a lick, a nudge, a bark, a purr or a tweet.
I often wonder how it is that these angelic creatures can read our emotions, sense our moods and interject themselves into our present reality at the most meaningful and opportune moments. We tend to learn many life lessons from our pets if we are attuned to their actions and attempts to offer unconditional love into our lives at just the perfect moment. Are our pets perfect? Not by a long shot and we most likely have the chewed up slippers or scratches on our furniture to mark the moments of their boredom and possible discontent.
Having a loyal dog that greets us at the door or a cat that provides free “scans” is a unique show of affection and equates to having an ever present best friend. Our pets serve to provide company, entice play, provide comic relief, guard our space, and willingly share the highs and lows of our daily life. Dogs by nature tend to ignite energy into our routines, while cats provide the smooth laid back tempo to life. Each animal and their personality are as unique as we are as humans.
In my personal household, we have three loving and comforting felines that basically “allow us” to share their home. Each has their own appearance, personality and skill set that sets them apart and makes them special to us. When not engaged in their obligatory twenty-two hours of daily sleep, they talk to us, direct us on the finer points of food and water and let us know when the restroom facilities are not up to standard. Their never ending curiosity leads them to some interesting and entertaining situations. With three fur babies, we are, at times, literally herding cats.
Dogs exhibit that high energy switch that can be flipped on at will with a propensity for slobbery licks, uncontrolled tail wagging, and infectious eagerness. Cats tend to exhibit a more even and often aloof temperament and tend to operate on their own schedule and agenda but covet the moments of shared close time and belly scratching. Whether the pet of our choosing is a canine, feline, bird or reptile, they all quickly garner a special place in our hearts.
Our pets are often our greatest teachers in life and the most pure example of many characteristics that many humans would be well advised to adopt and practice. The greatest and most important lesson is to honor and protect all living things. Throughout the years my pets and other animals have provided many lessons that I might not have otherwise been subjected to. My first view of how life begins and the nurturing of newborns came from watching my pet dog give birth and care for eight puppies when I was a young boy. My first emotional brush in dealing with the pain and loss of death came a few years later when that same faithful friend took her last breath and passed over the Rainbow Bridge.
Having pets gives us a laboratory and opportunity to discover and study the microcosm of life. It also provides a captured daily lesson on how our own love, attention and care can impact other living creatures. We learn that shared love, even with a pet, can fill the emotional hunger in our soul. We learn that giving love, attention and care can make a meaningful difference in life…even to our pets. I find myself having two-way conversations on life and captured moments with my cats. I of course, assume both speaking roles as I pretend to respond what I think they might be thinking when I share my thoughts. It often makes for great humor as they stare at me like I’ve lost my mind.
I believe that our temperament and that of our pets is a product of our environment and our personal interactions. Abuse, neglect and cruelty can breed anger, hurt and psychological scars in both people and animals. Fear, and aggression can become the only defense for a wounded or neglected soul be it human or animal. I believe that how a person treats animals is a high indicator of their past experiences, their perceived self-worth and their ability to both give and receive love. Compassion, love, empathy and attention are the same formula to provide happiness and a sense of importance to all.
You have only to walk into a shelter kennel or local SCPA to see the eager anticipation of an animal who is desperately seeking someone to love them. Unfortunately, you can also see and feel the emotional exhaustion and heart break of a spirit that has been troubled, beaten down and forsaken in the sad tearful eyes of those who have given up hope after being passed over time after time. The crushing truth is that we have humans on our street corners and under our bridges who also feel lost, forsaken and forgotten. Above all, we must learn to be kind and compassionate.
Our pets ask for very little…love…attention…food…shelter…protection. In return, they love us and don’t judge. It is in that framework that I’m sure homeless people often have a pet. They, like their pet, crave love and companionship even in hard times. Our pets seem to sense our moods and often seek to comfort us. They are willing to share the good and the bad.
In a world of increasing division, hate and tragedy, seeking asylum in a sacred space with our pets provides us with the opportunity to decompress and to rise above the fray and into the unconditional love and acceptance of our pets. Nothing eases our physical illness or pain the way our pets can when they cuddle up with us. The pure and loving soul of our pets is on full display as we stare deeply into their eyes. I often feel as the saying goes, that “the eyes are the window to the soul”, even in our pets.
The simplicity and richness of our relationships with our pets lies in the willingness by both to provide unconditional love and support rarely found in our human relationships. Our pets pass no judgment on us nor try to manipulate our lives in some manner. They love us just the way we are. I want to share these insightful words by the renowned Dr. Louis J. Camuti. Camuti was a New York City veterinarian for over sixty years. His practice consisted of cats only and he only made house calls. He also co-authored two books, Park Avenue Vet and his autobiography; All My Patients Are Under the Bed: Memoirs of a Cat Doctor: “Love of animals is a universal impulse, a common ground on which all of us may meet. By loving and understanding animals, perhaps we humans shall come to understand each other.”
If we can learn to see the world through the eyes, heart, emotions and soul of our pets, we will recognize that love, hope and goodness abounds. If we learn that all life is precious and worthy of our time, care and attention as displayed by our pets, then we will have mastered the key to Divine Love, understanding and service. Those who teach us the most about life aren’t always human. Many have fur, feathers or fins, but above all, unconditional love.
Fred’s latest book is The Divine Order of Our Random Life: A Collection of Teachable Moments and Human Observation. He is also the author of The Fork in the Road Leads Home: Reflections From My Life's Journeys...A Collection of Essays and The Essential Elements of Successful Coaching