Animal Healers


Recently I babysat a precious golden retriever puppy for three days so my son and his wife could give her to their sons on Christmas morning. During that time she developed some “digestive” issues and by Christmas day she was in obvious distress. Was it my fault? Had she eaten a poisonous plant in our yard or swallowed something she couldn’t pass? The thought that I might be responsible was agonizing and I wondered for the umpteenth time why we get so attached to animals and experience some of our greatest joys and deepest sorrows because of them.
Certainly mammals have body structures, nervous systems, organs, instinctual needs, and even DNA very similar to ours. So when they’re sick, wounded or in pain, we know how they feel. Moreover, although most animals can try to flee from danger, there are always forces—including humans and Nature herself—that are far more powerful. Knowing our own fears and vulnerability, we can relate to that aspect of animals too.
Then there’s the unconditional love some animals give us. It’s so comforting when your dog follows you around, your cat purrs contentedly in your lap, or your horse comes running at your approach. You feel known, appreciated, valued and of value. A happy, thriving pet reminds you that you can be loving, nurturing and morally responsible. We crave these good feelings and love the animals who elicit them, so it’s only natural that we get emotional when they suffer or die.
Repression and projection have something to do with this too. All of us deny some of our unwanted qualities and project them onto people and animals. For example, you might repress feelings of sadness, loneliness and self-pity and dislike people who are always feeling sorry for themselves, yet you can feel painfully sorry for sad-eyed animals who are lost, neglected or abused. And let’s face it: feeling sympathy for an animal is better than feeling nothing at all!
The bottom line is that we all need humanizing and healing, and for whatever reason, animals have an uncanny knack for helping; especially with emotions like love, pain, and grief. For instance, when my parents divorced I cried my heart out. But when my father died three months later I didn’t shed a tear. I was so traumatized that I shut down emotionally so I wouldn’t hurt any more. Denying pain became so important to me that I even refused novocaine when I went to the dentist! For years I couldn’t cry for myself, and my obsessive stoicism wasn’t always easy to be around, but I could practically use up a box of tissues watching an animal movie. I still can!
Over the years Miss Lottie, a sensuous siamese cat; Peri, a perky little chihuahua/terrier mix; Shadow, an elegant, high-strung thoroughbred gelding; and Bear, a handsome and gentle golden retriever, have been my teachers, therapists and healers. Training and caring for them taught me patience and respect for the ways of others. Their simple joy in being alive taught me greater awareness and appreciation for my body and the life in it. Their love and devotion to me helped me feel and express more tenderness and love to everyone, including myself. And the tears I shed at their deaths softened my heart and taught me more compassion.
By the way, Isabella, or Izzy as Matt’s family calls their new puppy, is fine! Apparently her problem was caused by the supposedly “safe” puppy chews I gave her to keep her from chewing on the furniture! So it was my fault. This is tough for me to take, but being the sweet little love sponge that she is, I know she wouldn’t want me to blame myself. I’m trying not to…

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0 Responses

    1. Thank you, Victor. You are very kind, indeed. I feel the same way about you and your work.
      Have a blessed, healthy New Year, my friend.

  1. I have just finished reading The Bridge to Wholeness and really loved your description of Miss Lottie.
    Our animals might once have gotten us burned as witches; indeed, my rapport with my shaggy black cat William was considered sinister by some when we were at theological college, especially when I told him to see off a visiting busybody and he attacked her legs and shredded her tights. That and other things almost saw us thrown out.
    I miss my dog Holly a great deal at the moment; she had a gift for silent sympathy, and of companionship that went beyond walkies.
    I was going to email you, so I shall write more in that.

    1. Thank you, Viv,
      Miss Lottie was a real sweetheart, and I learned a lot from her! You gotta love that William! Maybe there really is something unusually knowing about black cats when it comes to the “Hidden Arts!” I do know that animals have a knack for “reading” us far better than we read ourselves; they’re like mirrors that way. (Or maybe “books” would be a better metaphor.) I’m glad I didn’t live in the days when having a sensitive cat could have gotten me burned. And yes, I would say that Bear’s silent sympathy and companionship were his greatest strengths too. I still miss all my animals…they added so much to my life. I look forward to your e-mail.

  2. Very well said Jeanie. You’ve always been a woman I look up to and I’m excited to read your other posts. I would even love to hear more about your experience with the animal communicator.
    Great seeing you and Fred last week. Happy New Year!
    p.s. I tried to respond to you on Twitter but it wouldn’t let me.

    1. I’m so delighted to hear from you, Val. I loved seeing you and Mark last week too! I’m glad you like this post and appreciate your comment.
      I can’t imagine why you couldn’t respond to me on Twitter! Maybe you have to come directly to this blog to comment?
      I’ll be happy to tell you my experience with the animal communicator one day. We can do it by e-mail!
      Love and best wishes for a wonderful new year,

  3. I have had at least four dogs over the years, each one taught me how to be a better pack leader. I am grateful to my canine teachers. Some people look at my dog and think she is said because she is so laid back. Some people think if a dog is running around hyper and barking that means joy when according to my hero the dog whisperer Cesar Milan that is not the case. But then, maybe, they are just projecting. 🙂
    btw, I moved my site to a self hosted site and my wordpress subscribers did not transfer over. So, if you still want to follow my blog you will have to go to the usual place and click on the email subscription thing. Apparently, the follow link you get with is specific to I am sorry for the inconvenience but I would be honored if you wish to continue to follow my blog.

    1. Yes! I hadn’t thought about the pack leader lesson but you’re absolutely right. I did touch on that subject in an earlier post about my horse, Shadow, who taught me to be extremely aware of my body language and tone of voice, and how to use these things effectively in positions of leadership. It’s always amazing to me how receptive animals and children are to this wordless language.
      Thanks for the heads up about your blog. I have moved my subscription successfully! I, too, am feeling honored by your interest in my blog.
      My best,

  4. Well, yes. You’re right, of course. But that’s the logical response! I was responding emotionally, not logically. I was so attached to my image of being her protector that I couldn’t view the situation with detachment. A protector’s supposed to protect those more vulnerable than herself, no? Sometimes we perfectionists, even reformed ones, have a hard time forgiving ourselves for being human! 🙂 Jeanie

    1. Yes, I understand and even felt a similar way just this past week. Many years ago, with regard to some particular piece of inappropriate self-blame, a therapist said to me, ‘Oh, Ashley, it’s not your fault. And you are not that powerful!’ Her point being that my ego claimed omnipotence as a counter to a sense of helplessness.

      1. Thanks for that. She’s absolutely right! It’s a form of ego-inflation to assume we should be able to control everything and then beat ourselves up all the time when we can’t. The ego’s so darn sneaky that way!! It will go to any lengths to bolster its sense of self-worth when all it really needs to do is to let go and forgive itself for being human! Jeanie

  5. P.S. In essence, I was projecting my own vulnerability onto her, then blaming myself for not protecting the most vulnerable and unformed parts of myself from being hurt by my ego’s thoughtlessness, inattention, or whatever. Again, an emotional response to an unconscious projection by an overly scrupulous self-critic! Welcome to my world!

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