Any animal lover will attest to the importance of pets and other beasts to the spirit of Man. Throughout history people have recognized the unique place these creatures have in our world. Indeed, cultures in every corner of the world have wondered at, celebrated, worshiped, loved, admired, worked and used them for food since the beginning of time.
Countless religions give thanks to the Creator for having populated the world with animals, and some rituals give thanks to the creatures themselves for being such blessings to Mankind.
The Christian Bible book of Genesis 1: verses 24-31 detail the creation of animals happening on the same day as the creation of Man, and the animals came first! Most, if not all North American Indians feel animals have spirits that are connected to Man, all of Creation and to the Great Creator.
The sight of a Bald Eagle, a majestic elk, an elegant leopard, a giant elephant or a tiny hummingbird sends a thrill of delight through anyone. We feel an even closer connection to our domesticated pets, horses and livestock. For the sake of this article, horses and select other animals will be included with dogs and cats as pets in the following comments:
What is it that makes our domesticated animals such a part of our hearts?
Through the observation of pet owners and their pets from infancy to end of life, including my own personal experiences, some thoughts have come to mind.
For one thing, (our pets love us unconditionally), the way God does. If some do not wish to include a particular Creator in the equation, it cannot be denied that love exists and in a very special way. Some may believe that pets like us because they see us as the pack leader or the best provider in the world, but that touch of a paw, bump with the head or nuzzle with a muzzle belies mere “animal needs.” Pets therefore teach us about unconditional love. People need to learn about that.
(Heroism) comes naturally to many animals, and is well documented in dogs and horses trained for police, military and service organizations. Even “untrained” pets will sometimes throw themselves in the line of danger to protect us, even if it is just from the mailman.
(Devotion) is another gift that seems to come naturally to pets. They wait for us, try to please us, communicate with us and mourn with and for us. They are natural companions and are truly our best friends in many ways. When my children were younger, our herding dogs would not relax until everyone was home. Our farm cats frequently deposited offerings on the doorstep for us to admire. Our horse nickers a greeting when he hears my voice.
(Pets connect with us). We are our pets’ favorite play thing. They share our joys. They instinctively know when we are ill, sad, happy, lonely or content. They worry about us. They try to “fix” us if something seems awry. If we are sad or sick, someone is on the lap or nearby. If we are content, they rest comfortably. When the children left for college, our pets watched us and worried over our inexplicable sadness. When the children return, they rejoice with us.
Possibly the best attribute pets have is that (they are unaware of the future). They have no idea that someday they will move more slowly, not feel as chipper, possibly get sick, and thankfully, they don’t realize that life is finite. For all my old dog knows, everyone feels like him, even if it is not quite the way he remembers feeling when he was a puppy. Those memories come alive when he dreams. Pets truly live in the moment and that is a good lesson to owners. Of course, as owners, we need to be protective of our friends to lessen the impact of disease, injury and Father Time.
I believe that last point helps at the time of final goodbye to our pets. Would I give up having loved and known my beloved to have spared myself the pain at his loss? Not on your life. Those years are filled with some of the most precious moments of life experience for both of us. They have filled out and shaped my heart and the way I live in this world. I believe those spirits live on.