Pogo is thrilled to be back in our neighborhood to explore his old haunts, no longer tethered to a leash. It’s not necessary at home; the woods are familiar territory since the days he eked out a life before choosing me as mom. For a month the little guy was lost, or abandoned, and became quite successful at rooting out small furry ground creatures and bugs. He considers the wooded neighborhood his backyard and leads the way on our walks announcing every car, person and animal before they barely come within view. He’s fiercely loyal and protective of me and our bond runs deeper than any other relationship I have.
It’s always been that way with animals and me. When I was nine my best friend was the collie around the corner, Bow. She’d wait for me on her front yard and then together we’d crawl into our fort among the bushes and tell each other secrets about our day, some of which made me cry. I’m convinced she understood my tears, her chin resting on my knee cooing her soft soothing sounds of compassion while she stared sadly into my eyes. I always felt better afterward.
My life is filled with stories of serendipity involving animals; most of my pets have happened into our family over the years, rarely invited but always welcomed. I need them for soul survival. Never had kids. Must have animals. Right now we have five cats and Pogo, my first-ever dog. Somehow this 25 pound feist terrier didn’t cause the typical allergic reactions that plague Rick around dogs and horses. Go figure; just one more example of serendipity. Lucky Pogo and very, very lucky me. We’re inseparable.
There are a lot of life’s lessons to be gleaned from animals if you’re quiet, observant and receptive. They’re much more authentic than people, in fact, they have no capacity to be otherwise. They have a smaller pre-frontal cortex, the brain part that allow us to reason and plan. They don’t manipulate or have ulterior motives. They teach unconditional love. Their emotions, pure and concentrated, ooze out of their being – love, fear, anger, hurt, sadness, joy, loneliness – you just look into their eyes to immediately understand their feelings.
There are few animals I don’t instantly feel attracted to. They have an uncanny ability to open my heart wide, drawing me into conversation while the owners stand outside our circle disconnected from our secular communion. The animal and I become immediate friends. Humans don’t have the same effect on me. They’re usually armored with defenses, allowing the approved facade to engage in superficial conversation that rarely leads to any true knowledge of one another. But animals – the more open you are, the more honest and love filled they become.
I recently read a book by neurosurgeon and horse trainer Dr. Alan Hamilton called “Zen Mind Zen Horse: The Science and Spirituality of Working With Horses.” He too recognizes the spiritual magic transpiring between human and animal once you let down your defenses, open to your vulnerability and invite the connection. Dr. Hamilton harnesses the energy or chi emanating between trainer and horse to non-verbally communicate instructions for the horse to follow. And this guy’s a scientist.
James Cameron created Avatars to become divine examples of their human counterparts. Animals serve as my avatars. Life’s answers can be found during quiet meditation, interaction with nature and communion with animals. That’s where my joy is born.