To paraphrase a popular quote, that we are “spiritual beings having a physical experience”, sounds profound. However, in many ways, it is a vastly oversimplified concept. There is so much that goes into both the spiritual and the physical, that to break it down to this common denominator barely scratches the surface.
Nowhere does the formula become more complicated than when we are trying to fit our animal companions into a human lifestyle. In Through Their Eyes, The Nature of the Beast, I cover a number of issues where our human expectations are at odds with the animal nature of our pets. It is always helpful, in such situations, when we can step outside the people-perspective and try to see things from the point of view of the beast within our beloved friends.
I frequently run into situations where lovely people have their feelings hurt (and even their hearts broken) because their furry and feathered friends have done something primal. Our own human nature is to take things rather personally. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can sometimes add tension to a situation, and damage emotions. It is by trying to step outside the relationship, and remember that inside every soft, purring kitty is a tiger (or at least the DNA of an ancient wild feline), that we can get a better perspective toward solving problems. We can look at situations that break our hearts, and feel slightly less hurt by seeing that our pet was not forgetting the love we share, but simply responding to instinct.
Yes, we all, regardless of species, are spiritual beings first. We exist on a higher plane, as well as on this physical one. We should, however, consider that (from that higher plane) we chose the bodies we currently inhabit. When we made that choice, we also opted in to the physical aspects of those bodies. In addition to the obvious limitations (sorry, fellow humans, as much as we might like to, we are not going to be able to fly without mechanical assistance), there are many subtle, ancient issues that come with the package.
Modern science is just beginning to scratch the surface of that master of biological mystery, DNA. One thing they do know for a certainty is that the hereditary code that exists in every living cell is as ancient as life on earth. (Ancient Astronaut Theorists believe it’s much older than that. ::smile::) All of our modern domestic animals have within them the genetic programming of their most ancient ancestors. The ten-or-so thousand years since we humans began to invite them into our personal space is but a drop in the time-bucket compared to millennia of evolution and survival. The very instincts that allowed species to survive, change and progress are still there, sleeping (often restlessly) in the heart of every cat, dog, horse and parakeet.
When our pets do things that worry us, our own first instinct is often to ask, “Why?” It’s so easy to forget that they are very frequently responding to an instinctive drive. The cat that pees on the sofa cushion is not being spiteful because you bought a new couch; he is responding to insecurity in the way that his ancestors would respond to a territorial threat. The dog with separation anxiety is not punishing you for leaving him; he is reacting to deeply ingrained survival instincts that tell him the puppy abandoned by the pack will die. So often, if we examine our problems with our animal companions from the perspective of their wild ancestors, we will see causes and solutions that would not have presented themselves otherwise.
Does that mean their love for us is not as important as their ancestral DNA? No, of course not. It simply means that sometimes it’s very hard for them to override the internal physical natures they have chosen to work with in this lifetime. It has nothing to do with how much they love us. Always remember, regardless of what bodies (complete with their own rules, restrictions and drawbacks) they chose — they chose us, too.
If you follow me on Facebook, or have been peeking in at my Twitter updates, you will know that, once again, my website was the victim of a cyber-attack. Thus, I bit the bullet, cancelled the hosting account I have used for many years, packed up the whole kit and kaboodle, and moved to a new home. You can still find me at gazehound.com, though it now points to a much more secure location. One significant change, however, is that the old gazehound.com email addresses are no longer the primary way to contact me. My gmail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) is now my main address. Of course, you may also always use the contact form on my website. Thank you for your patience as I rebuild the site content in the new location.
Helping The Animals
If you would like to support a not-for-profit organization that does a great deal to help animals, please consider making a donation to New York Wildlife Rescue/Northeast Llama Rescue. Wes Laraway and his family and volunteers help hundreds of animals every year, with no funding except your donations and what comes out of their own pockets. You can support their efforts by visiting their website and clicking the “Donate” button. You can also look at their “Other Ways To Help” page (found under several of the top level drop-down menus) for more ideas. They can’t do it without the support of friends like you!