I have had three friends lose family pets in the last two months. When I say “pets” I mean babies, familiars, beloveds. Those without animals in their lives or those with no particular affinity for animals may not be able to comprehend this particular grief, but that does not make it any less real or valid.
There are still a few Neanderthals who believe that animals do not have souls. Then there are others who would argue that animals are not as important as people or at least do not matter quite as much. But anyone in love with, touched by or observant of another species would beg to differ—myself included.
On a spiritual level, I believe animals are actually superior to humans. Take for instance the selfless, unconditional love of a dog; the creatures who consider the well-being of the pack or flock over the individual; the non-aggressive nature of beasts who only attack or fight when threatened. Or play opossum. It makes consciousness seem overrated.
For those lacking in basic spiritual evolution who still believe animals do not feel or know joy, I have a few questions. Why does a lost dog travel hundreds of miles to return home? Why would a mother cat nurse an orphaned squirrel? Why do animals get physically ill when not nurtured? What makes a cat purr? Why do birds sing? Those who doubt the profound connectedness between animals and humans need only watch one of the many You Tube videos of a variety of beasts being reunited with their caregivers after being re-released into the wild. Lions, gorillas, and elephants–to name a few–still recognize their people after years of separation!
In the middle of the night on the 12th of December 1939, it was a large mastiff dog that woke the household, including Sylvia, with it’s plaintive howling to announce the death of his human, Douglas Fairbanks. Marco Polo remained at his master’s side for the remainder of the day as Hollywood’s elite paid their respects. Many people commented on the dog’s constant whimpering.
Another thing the unenlightened don’t understand is the reciprocated loyalty that some humans have for their familiars. Animal lovers understand the responsibility and stewardship for and the vulnerability of other species. Animal people are also exceedingly brave. We sign up for “parenting” knowing full well we will nearly always outlive our babies. We willingly accept heartache and loss from the start. Yet we still do it because the short cherished time we have with them is far superior to an existence without their companionship, affection and devotion.
In memory of Gunnie, Bugsy and Audrey