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Why Have Animals In Your Life?

By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.  

"Until a person has loved an animal a part of the soul remains un-awakened." ~ Anatole France

People who love animals know that there are many very good reasons to have animals in your life.

Love and Presence
Animals who have been loved love back in a pure and profound way - a way that awakens a part of your soul like nothing else can. When my puppy greets me after I've been gone a short time, I am overwhelmed with his wiggles and kisses! When I walk into our barn to feed the horses and my horse Stryder whinnies to me, my heart melts. No walls, no manipulations. Just pure love. How can that not awaken a deep part of the soul?

Having this aspect of your soul awakened is just one aspect of why having animals in your life is profound. I recently finished a great book called Zen Mind, Zen Horse, by Allan J. Hamilton, MD. Dr. Hamilton is a renowned brain surgeon, as well as a renowned horse trainer. He uses his experience with his horses as his spiritual path. Horses help us to learn to be fully present, not only because they are fully present, but also because they react negatively when we are in our head rather than in our heart. "The quiet, gentle way of the horse encourages us to hear the music that follows after we learn to silence our ego's voice."

"The horse brings us its uncanny ability to peel our egos back, to strip the layers away like an onion, until we find ourselves awkwardly naked and vulnerable. But the horse also shows us the joy that comes from living with the bare truth of our selves.

Physical Health
In her excellent book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome," Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride states that one of the top ten influences that boost health and immunity is "Contact with animals: horses, dogs, etc."

We don't generally think of having animals as a way of boosting immunity, but I can tell you from personal experience that they do. Animals help our immune system by exposing us to microbes that support our health.

There are good reasons that dogs and some other animals, such as miniature horses, are used therapeutically. Many dogs and horses, and some cats and other small animals, are very sensitive to our emotions. When they feel us hurting, they sweetly and gently come to comfort us. Many times when I've been sad our golden retriever, Merlin, has come and curled up next to me to give me his love and comfort. I find wrapping my arms around his big body and nuzzling in his soft coat to be very comforting and healing.

There is something about horses that I also find comforting and emotionally regulating. Many times, when I feel my body deregulated for some reason, I go to the barn and lean against Stryder's big body, burying my face in his coat and smelling his wonderful horse smell. Immediately, I feel my whole body relax and regulate to his steady breathing. He stands perfectly still when I do this, knowing that I need his calmness and steadiness at that moment. Once I've breathed in his healing energy, I come around to his face and he gives me a big wet kiss!
What could be better than all that love!

Are You Ready to Welcome a New Pet Home?

By Susan Mohr  

Everyone mourns the loss of a beloved animal in a different way. For many people, the mourning process is unexpectedly painful and long lasting. Many pet parents find the prospect of mourning an animal even more challenging than mourning the loss of another person. After many years spent in the company of a special animal, the idea of sharing your home with another pet might be difficult to think about. How do you know when you are ready to make this important step?

Identify Your Hesitation
Before deciding to adopt a new pet or not, try to get to the heart of your hesitation. What exactly is holding you back? Why precisely do you feel reluctant? These are some of the reasons that pet owners are hesitant about bringing home a new animal:

  • They feel disloyal to the memory of the pet they have lost.
  • The do not wish to replace the memory of their lost pet with the presence of a new one
  • They do not want to open themselves to the experience of loss again
  • They want to feel completely prepared to care for a new animal
  • They are not certain they can find an animal they are compatible with
  • They are concerned about the compatibility of a new animal and other pets already in the household

All of these feelings are very natural and should even be expected. Choosing to bring home a new animal is a complex decision and it should not be rushed into. At the same time, it is important to identify what your concerns actually are. If you wish, you can take steps to resolve these concerns with the help of a sympathetic friend or family member.

Keeping Animals in Your Life
People who have lost a pet may desire to have animals in their life but do not yet feel up to the responsibility of having one in their home. If you miss having the company of a special animal, you might consider spending time around four footed friends that have yet to find a forever home. Animal shelters, rescue groups, and other volunteer agencies are always in need of helping hands. Just a few hours a week can go a long way to providing animals with the care, affection, and socialization they need to stay happy and healthy. Even if you do not personally feel up to caring for one on a full time basis, every pet owner has the skills and love required to help animals waiting for their forever home. This small effort can be a great source of emotional comfort.

Participating in donation drives is another way to provide help and support for animals. Humane groups often hold supply drives around the holidays though they are likely to be in need of donations year round. Consider donating a few dollars, some bags of pet food, hygiene supplies, or even just old towels and blankets. You can also speak with a shelter worker to find out what supplies they have particular need of.

Pet parents have a lot of love to give but after losing a special animal, the idea of loving another can seem very painful. Even so, there are ways to keep animals in your life until you are ready to share your home again.