Sunday, September 4, 2011

Just an Animal

Sometimes, I think that we "pet people" unnerve others.  Not everyone, of course... you don't have to have pets of your own to understand love for animals.  But I know that I at least encounter several people who have never had pets, will never have pets, and it has probably never occurred to them that they could have pets.  Which is fine, actually, because we don't want people who don't really, really love animals having pets anyway.  I think that's probably often the biggest reason for animals being left at shelters, or worse, because someone didn't actually, deep down, care to have the responsibility of a pet.

I know, Annie.  Hard to believe, but true.

The attitude that I frequently see from some of these types of people (and I seem to encounter a lot of them) is honest puzzlement for how much of my life is now taken up with my own pets, and as if that isn't enough, how much time I spend volunteering in order to get homeless pets adopted by someone else.  The attitude is, "it's just an animal..."  

And I'm not here to be critical of these people, even though I find them as bizarre as they seem to find me, but to show how some of these creatures that are "just animals" have really changed my life, and I think for the better.

First, they've taught me to slow down.   I will admit it... I am one of those Type A people, who always has a goal, or a project, and am pursuing it full steam ahead.  I will work at my job all week, and then throw myself into weekend projects, and am very bad about not giving myself any downtime. But how can you not slow down when Charlotte is on the bathroom rug, showing you her expanse of white belly...  or Maera comes up and nuzzles your elbow for attention... or Argos leans up against your legs...  or Bit trills at you and then races to the bed, in an obvious attempt to get you to nap with her...  or Annie climbs onto your pillow JUST as you were thinking of getting up to start your day?

And sometimes, you just need to slow down and enjoy those around you.  My animals have taught me this lesson, one that I may have never learned without them.

Yeah, Mom, slow down and smell the Christmas tree!
Second, they're teaching me how to trust.  Trust is something that does not come easily to me.  There were some wrongs done to me by people who should have been friends that quite honestly had me very bitter and untrusting of people in general.  As a general rule, I expected to be betrayed.  I expected for friends to randomly inform me that they were sick of me.  Or that I had some huge flaw that suddenly made me not good enough for them. Which meant that I was prickly, difficult to get to know, and reluctant to trust.  While I'm not saying that I've "arrived" and suddenly trust all people, the animals have really taught me to open up.  They provide companionship without judgement, they never talk about me behind my back, they don't lecture me on my "odious" personal habits, they don't try to correct any perceived bad behaviors with long-winded lectures.  They just love.  And trust.  And they're teaching me to do the same.

Patience.  Really, does anyone that reads this blog need to have explained how an animal can teach you patience?    I've become much more patient with the humans in my life too, and it is thanks to my animals and the lessons they have taught me.

Selflessness.  Not that I was little Miss Selfish before the animals, but I have made decisions that I never would have thought I'd be making...  decisions that hurt my pocketbook, compromises on household decoration, doing activities that I knew the animals would enjoy even when I really wanted to stay in bed.  I sometimes even let the dogs take over the couch, something that maybe some dominance-styled trainers would cringe at but meh.  It makes them happy, so it makes me happy.  If I needed to sit, one of the doggies would get gently ejected.

Argos is so worn out from today's Hound Hike that he can't support his own tongue....

But the most important thing that my animals have taught me is the Art of Joyful Living.  I was happy before I had them, don't get me wrong, but watching them live in the moment, to truly express JOY undamped by worry, anxiety or anger is an inspiration to me.  I resolve to myself every day to approach life like they do - to live in the moment.  Obviously, I have to plan ahead and be responsible, etc., something that they don't have to worry about, but I can still put my worries on hold and experience the joy when I see Argos and Maera frisking across the dew-soaked yard.  Or when Charlotte makes eye contact with me and "gronks" her morning greeting to me.  Or when Bit folds herself around my foot and "hugs" it.  Or even when Annie sits on my head to wake me up in the morning.  Or when the fosters greet me with a cacophony of loud, Siamese-like yowling (Mitchell) and tiny little baby mews (Patches) when I go into their room first thing in the morning.  

You got all of that out of a gronk?  Weirdo...

And THAT is why I look at them like I think they're crazy when they say, "But it's just an animal..."


  1. I had a boss who wouldn't have pets 'cos they were "too messy" yet had two children that ran wild through her house.

    To me, there is nothing more satisfying than Harry half on my lap, purring away, or Frankie taking up my side of the bed or racing me up the stairs for a drink from the sink, or Sophie putting her paw on my cheek if I stop petting her. My husband wasn't an animal person (despite being raised with dogs) and certainly wasn't a cat person, but all it took was one and now we're up to three. It would be more if I could convince him, but for now we're happily three cat crazy. :)

  2. I encounter the same thing. One pharmacist I worked with was horrified to hear that the dogs sleep in the house. Imagine if she knew they occasionally slept on the same bed as me!

    I also constantly get asked, "Do you win money?" when I tell people I compete in obedience/agility/etc. A friend from class finally asked someone if she wins money going to her son's soccer games. I think it's a perfect analogy.

  3. We couldn't agree more. Tucker, Olivia, Tanner, Phoebe, and Finn give me more joy than almost anyone or anything else. I dearly love my human friends and family, but there is something these five animals give me that I just don't think humans are capable of. Our relationships with them seem purer somehow. Either way, the humans I'm closest to also have a genuine love for animals ... not by design, but I just don't seem to be able to relate in any but the most superficial of ways to someone who is not an "animal person."

  4. Today I met a greyhound who was in the greyhound sanctuary at the same time as me last summer waiting for our forever home.

    Her owner told me that the lady who originally reserved her said at the last minute...."Of course, she'll only ever be allowed in the kitchen. I can't have her going anywhere else in the house."

    Needless to say she wasn't allowed to go and live there and she went instead to her lovely forever family where she is now so happy.

    Love and licks, Winnie

  5. Great post! Essentially my whole family feels that way about animals. When I declined going on a 2 day trip over the summer, I got a few comments about "the dogs." The fact is, my dogs are one of the most important parts of my life, and people need to accept that part of me. This one definitely hit home!

  6. Well, people who say 'just an animal' ARE crazy!!

    I agree with you, especially about all the things animals teach us. I tell people that my first greyhound kept me sane for five years when I was having a hard time for various reasons. The only time I felt truly free was when I took him out for a walk and was able to let go alongside him and enjoy the walk, and his pleasure in the walk, and his company.

    Some people will never understand that in a million years, and it's their loss.

  7. I can relate! Jen's father had never had animals and then one day he came to visit and one of Jen's cats wouldn't leave him alone. The cat insisted on sitting in his lap and he eventually began petting her. Not too long afterward he was living with a dog and has had pets ever since.

  8. Yeah, I can relate! I've found that over time, I have mostly surrounded myself with people who have somewhat of a like mind and "get it" and I really don't bother with people who don't.

  9. You got that right! Animals are much better teachers than humans and even love you with every mistakes you make. I can completely relate with what you are saying.

    And while I'll never know why other don't get it, I feel pretty special that I do. It's like discovering all the secrets of the universe in these little bundles of fur and maybe for some that's just a little more than they want to know. :)

  10. Hurray for pet lovers and too bad for everyone who's not :) Great post! Enjoyed every syllable! :D

    Waggin at ya,

  11. Perfect post. I am with you in every single word. In complete delight. Bugs is actually yowling at me at the moment, to get me to stop enjoying myself this way and do things his way instead. I don't care. I still feel in complete delight. With everything.

  12. My pets have also taught me how to open and close doors at a tremendous rate...and that alarm clocks are overrated :)