Friday, April 10, 2009

The Love of All Creatures

The other day I saw a blind man and his black Labrador retriever guide dog waiting at the light of a busy intersection. I almost had tears in my eyes as I thought of the companionship between human and canine. The dog helps the man live his life even though he cannot see. Together they forge through day to day activities using the different skills that each one has. I have heard that "working dogs" are not to be treated as pets out in public because they are busy doing their job. They are highly trained and enjoy doing what they have been taught to do. Some breeds of dogs like to have a sense of purpose and are happiest when they are fulfilling their duties.

I am an animal lover. I always have been. We had a fish tank, turtles that we would bring home from the pond and feed hamburger meat, rabbits that we bred and sold the bunnies to families. I was given a cockatiel on my sixth birthday, and he lived until I was 28. Chuck was no ordinary bird. He was my best friend.

Everywhere I went, he went. If I left the living room to get a bowl of cereal and he happened to be hanging out on the back of the couch, he flew after me and landed on my shoulder. We used to eat breakfast together before school. I would put him on the table and give him some cheerios while I ate my cereal. Cockatiels are in the parrot family and tend to be smarter than the average canary. But, I like to think that Chuck was special. He used to do tricks and play little games; I took care of him for 22 years. He was a great companion. The day he died I was heartbroken. I lost my best friend, my childhood pet. I was married and in my second house by the time Chuck passed away. He had been a part of my life for so long. It was amazing.

AJ loves his first dog, Punkin. He talks about her all the time and how she played mommy protector around him. She used to sleep under his crib. She was a great dog, and he misses her to this day even though she has been gone 20+ years.

Lucy is our Brittany Spaniel.

Here she is as a pup on her first Christmas.

The day we brought her home AJ and I became a family. We potty trained her, taught her to walk on a leash, doted on her, brought her on vacations and taught her how to be a good citizen. We couldn't wait to bring a baby home so Lucy could be a mommy. As the years went on and there was no human baby, Lucy became more of our baby than ever. She got us through some very rough times due to her natural charm and amusing characteristics. Plus she is the softest dog I have ever met. She makes a great crying companion.

I believe in the healing power of animals. Humans need animals to teach them love and compassion. You can learn a lot by loving an animal. Some people will never "get" that. But, they are missing out. Lucy continues to be a great source of love and companionship for all of us. She is now Min man's sister. It is wonderful to see them together. Finally Lucy has a sibling. And, she acts like most older sisters would. She thinks he's in the way half the time and wants all the attention focused on her. They also fight over food.

I remembered something I witnessed last Fall that is still utterly amazing to me. It showed me just how much animals do feel despite what many people say. As I was driving down a side street I saw a squirrel squirming near the side of the road. I wanted to stop and help move it off the road so it could die in peace; I didn't want it getting run over again. I circled back around to try and help the squirrel. I saw that another squirrel was standing at the opposite side of the road a little skittish as my car inched forward. I kept going and pulled over and watched the squirrel who was now behind me. He went over to his suffering friend and tried to pick him up off the road and move him to a safe spot. I watched his several attempts at doing so. After cars stopped passing by he successfully carried his friend to safety under a huge oak tree. I was fascinated. People may have thought I was nuts, but I could not stop watching this squirrel try and save his friends life. He licked the wounds and hovered around trying to protect him as he clearly was having a hard time breathing. Eventually the injured squirrel died and his friend picked him up in his mouth and carried him up into the tree- safe at last. It was one of the most touching things I had ever witnessed. That may sound silly but it was. I guess it's because you don't expect much from a squirrel. We don't expect a lot of from many animals, but they have a great capacity to love.

I never pegged myself as a big animal advocate. I believe in treating animals humanely and that people need animals, not the other way around. Maybe they benefit from our companionship, but it is us humans that live fuller lives when we co-exist with animals. Whether it is bird watching, having a fish pond in the back yard, visiting the zoo or rescuing a cat or dog. Their presence gives human life more meaning and teaches us that we cannot exist without them.

We will all succumb to the circle of life in due time.


Betty said...

Pets are great campanions. I had a dog named Spot when I was little. She was great I still haven't found a dog that I have truly connected with since her.

Beautiful Mess said...

What a sweet post! I don't think it's silly at all that you watched the squirrel carry his buddy to safety. That says so much about you. I would do the same. Your Chuck sounds awesome! I'm so glad you had him for as long as you did. Lucy is a wonderful big sister. How great for Fyn.

Kristin said...

Oh Erica...what a beautiful post. Animals canteach kids (and people) so much about love, compassion, and even death. I think you are missing one of life's great joys if you don't have pets.

A Mom in Jacksonville, FL said...

Lovely post. And I agree, pets are a wonderful way for children to learn about helping others.

I also dog and his sweet deep brown eyes have been there for hugs and cries many a time. :)

Miss Behavin said...

Hi, thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment at Maneuvering Motherhood. I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely believe in the healing power of animals too. I have seen that in action in nursing homes and the light that shines in people's eyes. Love this post!

Look at your blog growing now! I'm so happy for you!

Stacy (the Random Cool Chick) said...

What a wonderful post! Animals are such great companions, they are the epitome of unconditional love. That's so cool that you had your cockatiel for so long - they are definitely unique pets. We have 2 dogs, a cat and a dove - and we couldn't imagine not having pets as part of our family. :)

Stopping by from MBC's Follow Me Club - I'm your newest follower, nice to 'meet' you! :)

Elizabeth said...

I love seeing those pics of you as a little kid!

AudreyO said...

What a heartwarming post. We too love animals. We've had pets all of my adult life.

Ana said...

New to your blog, but I think I will become a regular reader---that was beautiful & summed up my feelings about our dog (and my long-gone childhood kitty) exactly. Caring for another creature enriches your life in unbelievable ways; though we technically rescued her, she has helped us feel like a family, baby or not, which is priceless.

Lisa said...

Erica, you totally have me in tears re: the squirrel. I don't think it's silly at all that you stopped and watched. I feel so bad for the squirrel, both the one who died and his friend, who likely misses him. :-(.

Just Another Jenny said...

I went through a very rough patch about 10 years ago. I was in my early 20's and had to move back in with my parents. I was depressed. My mom let me get a dog. She later told me it was because she was afraid I was going to hurt myself.

My dog saved my life.

Animals are simply amazing. They are more intuitive and compassionate than most people. No one could ever duplicate the joy of my dog when I come home from work. lol!

I find that I am leery of people who don't like animals. I find that unsettling.


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