THIS I BELIEVE.
I believe in companionship between humans and animals. As long as humans have been humans, they have had a working relationship with other species, whether it was to gain help in the hunt, or help in catching rodents and other pests. Somewhere along the line, that pragmatic relationship became more personal.
People the world over keep pets of all kinds. In my case, my family consists of two humans, eight dogs, and two potbellied pigs. The joy that our pets bring to our lives, whether delighting us with their playful antics, or comforting us by lying asleep close by, cannot be measured. Then there are the wild birds who visit our yard and feeders. They are probably unaware of it, but they too are important members of our extended family, and their company is appreciated more than they could ever know. Even beyond our yard, I enjoy the companionship of animals. There are the birds who chirp and fly all around me as I do my morning jog. Squirrels scamper in the woods beside the road, and flocks of hen turkeys shepherd their gaggles of unfledged chicks across the open field. And there is the little dog, who loves to run with me on the quiet road where I jog. Each day she is waiting for me. I have never said a word to her, yet she always greets me happily, whining softly, her tail wagging. She zigzags across my path, investigating this or that, and when I turn around and head back home, she stops at her driveway and says, with her tail, “See you tomorrow!”
As I think these things, my dog Biscuit lies beside me, her head in my lap. We are driving from our home in Alabama to New York City, where Biscuit will receive experimental therapy for her Malignant Melanoma. At times I give voice to my thoughts. She listens, without comment.
At the Cancer Clinic in New York, Biscuit is very nervous. She insists on climbing into my lap. For a moment, amusement at the sight of a fifty-five pound lap dog relieves the tension that grips the other humans in the waiting room.
I believe that there are spiritual benefits in the companionship of humans and animals. When we let an animal into our lives, we are acknowledging that we belong to something much bigger than ourselves. Many poets and philosophers have pointed out the terrible spiritual vacuum we create when we separate ourselves from the rest of nature. I believe that animals can help to fill that void.
On the way home from New York, Biscuit lies beside me, her head resting in my lap. I stroke her long floppy ears, that feel like velvet, and I feel a joy that I can only express by telling her, over and over, “You’re my good girl!” For now at least, she is free of Cancer.
I believe that our pets gain much from sharing their lives with us: shelter, free meals and health care, and something less obvious, but just as important – personal attention. What we get out of it is less easy to define, but it does provide us with both physical and spiritual sustenance. I believe that, all told, we get the better end of the deal.
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