When my daughter took care of me during a fairly serious illness, she would sometimes go home for a few minutes to watch her kittens play. It was her way of handling stress. Being with pets is apparently one of the best possible meditations when you are worried about your mom. That was quite a while ago but I thought about it recently when she gave me an old magazine article about what people learned from their pets.
Everyone has heard by now that people who live with pets are healthier, happier and live longer. Until I read the article in the July issue of Simple Life magazine, I had never thought of pets as life coaches but why not? Learning life skills makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Doggies know a lot about love and fish know a lot about setting boundaries.
The author of the article, Silas Neal, cited stories about pets that taught their owners all sorts of wonderful life skills. They ranged from cats teaching assertiveness training to a parrot that cured his owner of cursing. Seems the bird pronounced a “choice” word during the minister’s visit.
My favorite story was from the woman who learned not to be a materialist. Her puppy chewed up her shoes and she told herself that, “stuff is just stuff.” I don’t think of myself as a materialist but my home is so filled with “stuff,” that I think maybe I ought to get a puppy.
I won’t really get a puppy for two reasons. First – I live on a very busy street and my yard is almost impossible to fence. The other reason I don’t have pets is my “tragic history”. Growing up, my father was very enthusiastic about having pets but had absolutely no interest in training them. His taste ran to the exotic and pedigreed kind of animals. He would introduce them to the household and then move onto a different hobby.
The memorable Siamese cats were called Sue Lin and I forget her brother. I’ll never forget Sue Lin who jumped from the floor all the way to my shoulders and then dug in hard. She did this amazing athletic feat on an hourly basis. Her brother was a hunter and brought dead birds in to lay on my pillow in the morning. He was the affectionate one, and except for bird carcasses, easy to get along with.
My Dad also raised fancy Weimeraner dogs for a while. We sometimes had as many as seven roaming the house. They chewed up all my best shoes but that didn’t teach me to be a non-materialist . Nor did I learn to put my shoes on a higher shelf. I reacted by feeling more like a victim than ever. That victim response increased when the dogs dragged embarrassing trash through the living room when my boyfriends came to call.
These teenage tragedies were more than 60 years ago and I still retain the scars and grievances. While I don’t actually dislike animals, I’m not emotionally equipped to learn from pets. I prefer to stick with my gurus, Ernest Holmes, Carol Carnes, and Maxine Kaye.
I have actually owned pets twice. I tried to keep cats but my neighborhood teems with coyotes and rattlesnakes. After a couple of heartbreaking and expensive incidents, I gave up so you might say I did learn something from those pets. I learned to quit while I was money ahead.
For a very short time, I had a cute little dog named Sigmund but he ran away so often that I stopped chasing him. He reminded me of some of the men in my life and it was not a happy memory. I guess I may have learned something about letting go from Sigmund. Or not.
I’m perfectly happy for my daughter and son-in-law, (who live right up the street) to have pets. I enjoy visiting them and when their old dog, Jack died, I mourned him for months.
I also had a niece who lived with me for quite a while and she had a dog “with issues”. That worked out because she was in charge of her pet. The dog was neurotic – he would stand in the hall and bark when he saw me but after about a year, we managed to establish a truce.
I had a different roommate who had a bird. She walked around the house talking to the bird who sat on her shoulder. I think the bird could fly but I never saw it actually do it. As far as I know, my roommate was the only one who could talk in their conversations; I never heard the bird answer her.
My niece may have learned patience from her dog. Perhaps my roommate developed her psychic powers from her bird. Do you have a pet? Have you learned anything from your pet? I’d love to hear from you.
Sometimes I daydeam about getting a pet even though I know it’s not a great idea. My sister has had a series of darling little doggies. She also has a nice little park in which to take her doggies for walks. Sometimes I think I suffer from pet envy. It is probably not pet envy – just delayed sibling rivalry.
I’m also a little jealous of the attention some people give to their pets. One of my best friends acquired a puppy a few years ago and she and her doggie came to stay for a few days. My friend talked to her doggie more than she talked with me but then, her doggie was cuter.
While I may not be much of a pet fancier, I do like to play mental games – especially when I am leading workshops. One of my favorite sets of questions goes like this… “What kind of flower are you? What kind of color are you? What kind of music are you? What kind of dessert are you? What kind of fruit are you? What kind of animal are you?
My answers are; tulip, orange, old time blues, peach pie, apple, and elephant,.
What would be your answers?
I suppose I could use my workshop questions the way some people use their pets. My elephant answer could teach me to know myself better. An elephant is steady, strong, slow, empathetic and magical.
And what is your animal like?
What have your pets taught you?
Why do you think pets help people live longer and better lives?