A Shared Heart: How Animals Open Us To Love

Santafe.com | Santa Fe Monthly - February 5, 2013

"Animals are a rousing healing balm for our hearts. As their sacred guardians, each one of us makes an enormous difference in their lives"

Debra's dog Lilly.

"The soul is the same in all living creatures although the body of each is different." - Hippocrates

Animals are a perfect gift from the gods. Our relationships with creatures great and small, wild and domestic, call us to a higher purpose— to be better human beings. Animal kin call us back; call our blood to wilderness and wildness.

We have much to learn from the animal kingdom. When we recognize, and value, the interconnectedness we share with all species, their worth takes on a new meaning. The natural world, which includes all the animals, continuously offers us gifts of inspiration, rest and refuge. Earth scholar and cultural historian Thomas Berry said, “In reality there is a single integral community of the earth…in this community every being has its own role to fulfill, its own dignity, its inner spontaneity. Every being has its own voice.”

The love we share with our four-legged, webbed, winged and finned friends encompasses patience, compassion, empathy and a deep respect for who they are as individuals. Our pets embrace our compassionate hearts because they give us their unconditional love. As caretakers, our job is to nurture them in every way possible. Animals are highly sensitive, spirited beings and their psychological and emotional needs are just as vital to their well-being as high-quality food and a safe environment.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that many people neglect, abandon, exploit and use violence in their treatment of domestic and wild animals. When we can’t express empathy and compassion for our animals, and each other, we tend to lose our nbsp;way. The extent to which this is happening in our world breaks my heart, daily. That said, for the purpose of this article, we look to the lucky chickens, dogs, cats, horses, hamsters, pigs, birds, fish, and other domestic animals who do live with LOVE!

We show our love in many ways. I went to great lengths to keep my little soul dog Lilly, who crossed over three years ago at 18 years of age, emotionally, physically and psychologically healthy and happy. Lilly enjoyed fresh, home cooked meals that I prepared for her every day. Her side of the counter often had more supplements than mine. Over the years, we shared thousands of hours playing with toys, amusing ourselves with chase games and taking nature walks. When greeting friends at the front door of our home, Lilly always asked to be held so she could make eye contact with our guests, her way of feeling included. The great philosopher Martin Buber was so accurate when he said, “An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language.”

I bought Lilly the cutest yellow rain slicker and red wool coat in New York City, so she would look great while protected from the elements. Lilly didn’t like the rain, even with her slicker on I had to hold an umbrella over her so she would step outside. Yes, some might think all this was a bit over the top. Trust me when I say that most of my friends expressed interest in coming back in their next life as my dog! Was this love, you bet! Was this crazy, no…not in my world. I admit that the love I shared with my dog Lilly was the most precious relationship of my life. 

Consider for a moment the guardians who take their canine friends to doggie yoga classes (doga), or compete with them in country western dance competitions. Some dogs thoroughly enjoy these activities, not to mention the extra special bonding time with their people. Okay, some of us go this impassioned distance, but it is all in the name of LOVE! 

Love is always in the air when we meet our animals with compassionate presence, quality attention and empathetic relating. The love our animals give us is so pure; we are immeasurably fortunate to share in these bonds. A reciprocal relationship with them, in turn, feeds our own soul. The way we love and care for our animals speaks to who we are, as individuals and a culture. 

Animals are a rousing healing balm for our hearts. As their sacred guardians, each one of us makes an enormous difference in their lives. May we humans rise up to meet them!