A question I hear now and then is “how do animals perceive the world”? Phew, that’s a big topic! Are we talking physically? Emotionally? Spiritually? All three? I’m no scientist, so my perception of what they perceive is based purely on observation and conversation. Totally my opinion. Which is what you’re going to get.
When I started down the path of doing what I do (talking with animals, spirit guides, angels and the like, and oh, yeah, I coach too) (all that esoteric talking is quite handy when coaching, actually…), my view of animals was based on how I was raised – mostly. That animals were animals and humans knew best. So it took me a while to fully embrace the animal equality thing that was taught by my mentor, Joy Turner. It’s a tough line to traverse. On the one hand, we humans want to protect our beloved pets. On the other, they have definite opinions about what they want to have happen in their lives. Is it up to us to be the great god Hu-man and decide for them?
Animals can have great lives, like when they live with me and Glenn and most of the people we know. They can also have what look like crappy lives, being abused, misused, over-worked, ignored, shot at, killed, treated like a commodity, and eaten – by humans, not by other animals. But – are those lives actually crappy, or are they fulfilling a deeper purpose for that animal’s soul? Yes, soul. I believe everything has a soul. We’re talking dining room chairs here, those molecules who have chosen to be fashioned into a chair so we don’t have to sit on the floor. Wouldn’t that be an interesting experience, to be someone’s chair…? But I digress.
Back to fulfilling a deeper purpose. I remember when I first met Joy, she was a vegetarian. At some point, I believe as she went deeper and deeper into the mystery of the animals’ purpose, her opinion shifted. Perhaps that Thanksgiving turkey wanted to be dinner – maybe that was its purpose, to understand what it meant to provide sustenance to others. She taught us, her students, to honor each and every animal, and thank it for being our dinner, or whatever other behavior it was exhibiting, for making that choice. It all has a purpose.
There are other animals who, I believe, allow themselves to be part of the larger stage to make a point, and to promote change. I reflect on the sacrifice of Cecil the lion, who was killed by an individual during a trophy hunt – the public outcry was extreme, and because of it, millions of people became aware of the waste in killing an innocent animal for sport (yeah, I’ve got an opinion about this), and as I recall, some laws were changed. I’ve always felt Cecil sacrificed himself for the greater good.
Our domestic animals have no fewer rights. We have a number of house cats, and have made a “catio” for them to go outside and enjoy fresh air, sunshine, and a view. But for some of them, that’s not enough. They insist on going out the front door. For a couple of them, who were barn cats before they came to us, it was easier to let them do that – but my heart kitty, Ry? Oh, no! I had to protect him, and his younger brother Jackson, too!
However, the more I resisted, the more insistent they got. “Trust us,” they said. “You have to learn to trust us.” I first took Ry out on a harness and leash. We had some exciting trips around the house, him scurrying from bush to bush, and me trying to keep from getting too tangled up. Eventually, I let him out the door on his own, keeping a close eye on him. He never went very far. Now he goes out on his own, and he mostly goes under the deck, and sometimes explores the foliage right by the front of the house. He always comes in when I ask him, and it’s gotten to the point that sometimes he has to ask to be let in. He still is not allowed out at night. That’s our compromise (although he does try to make me change my mind). They can go on the catio at night when the weather is warm enough for the door to be open, but otherwise, after dark the less experienced of the felines stay indoors.
Sneaky little Jackson slipped out several times, quite gleeful, the little scamp, and after a few chases around the house we came to an understanding – he could go out. I think he won that round. He never stays out long, and is always happy to come back inside.
We have, indeed, learned to trust one another.
We also adopted two barn cats, both feral, over the summer, spayed females who did not know one another prior to living in our barn, and, quite frankly, had no desire to know one another once they were part of the family. The barn is huge, 80 x 140 feet, with lots of places to hide. We set up two water bowls and multiple feeding stations, well separated within the barn. Did they learn to get along? No. And after several months, when they knew where they lived and where to get food, we made an opening so they could get outside.
They hung around for a while, but in the past week, first one disappeared and then the other. They said we were just an interim place for them, somewhere to catch their breath before they went back to being wild, which was their preference. That is hard for me. Even though we couldn’t pet them, it was a delight to see them in the barn and talk with them. Cassie, the larger and possible slightly older of the two, was particularly vocal, always telling us off. Saucy, the younger, smaller one, just looked miserable. Cassie hassled her mercilessly. Our neighbor saw Saucy in their machine shed, just once, and I suspect she is still over there, well hidden and keeping their mouse population down. I think she felt as though anything was preferable to living with Cassie.
Animals are like us (and wait a minute, aren’t we animals? Yep). They have opinions. They have feelings. They have preferences. It’s up to us to recognize those preferences, and respect when their idea of a good time is not necessarily ours. We can also learn to compromise, like I’ve done with Ry and Jackson. My heart goes in my mouth every time I let them out, but they have kept up their end of the bargain. It’s up to me to keep mine. And it’s up to you to keep yours.