By Julia Williams
I read a thought-provoking post recently on one of my favorite pet blogs, 24 Paws of Love. She wrote of having a day where things were going from bad to worse and just as she was about to “lose it,” the sight of two dogs instantly calmed her down. Mind you, these were not her own dogs, who were at home while she was out and about. She wrote, “I didn’t need to touch them or have any major connection with them, their presence was enough to settle those frayed emotions. All it takes sometimes is a glimpse of an animal, whether it be wild or domesticated, to feel back in touch with myself.” She went on to ask if others felt this same connection with the animal world, where just seeing them could elicit comfort and a sense of belonging.
Oh yes, I thought to myself…all the time. I understood this feeling completely, having had similar experiences time and again, for as long as I can remember. But what surprised me is that several others said they felt the same. I’d always thought it was somewhat uncommon to feel so innately and intensely connected to animals, even (and especially) those that are not your own. I now realize I may have been wrong about that. There are others like me, who would not really know how to live in a world without animals.
In the presence of animals, I feel more grounded and more comfortable than I do with people. I empathize more with animals than I do with humans, and feel as though they are somehow more like me than any human I know. Developing a deep bond with an animal is second nature to me, but to feel a meaningful connection with another human takes a lot of effort. It can be done, but it doesn’t happen nearly as naturally for me.
I’ve long held the belief that you are either born an animal lover, or not. Further, that this sense of connection to animals is not hereditary or a product of our environment. I really think it’s either there at birth, or it isn’t. Now, sometimes we can suppress this love just as we can also amplify it by our life choices. In other words, if our parents were not animal lovers and did not want a pet, it may take being out on our own before we realize that we don’t feel the same way. Conversely, we might know that we love animals and love having a pet, but it takes a certain pet coming into our lives to make us realize how vitally important they are to us and our sense of well-being.
Why some people have this innate, intense connection to animals and others don’t is likely not something we’ll ever be able to figure out. It doesn’t really matter anyway. I just know that for me, living in a world – or a home – without animals would feel so empty and unnatural. It would be a living nightmare, which I’m sure seems extreme to people who are apathetic about animals, like my mother. When I asked her to imagine what it would be like to live in a world without animals, she said she wouldn’t miss the dogs that are always barking, and pooping in her yard. She said she wouldn’t really care if there were no animals in the world. It seems so strange to me, to think that a mother and daughter could hold such disparate views, and yet we do.
I couldn’t imagine not seeing that first robin in the yard each spring. I couldn’t imagine going to a park and not seeing squirrels scamper up and down the trees. I couldn’t imagine walking around town and not greeting at least two or three dogs or cats playing in their own yards. I couldn’t imagine coming home to an empty house, devoid of the calming presence of my pets. And I’ll tell you what – I am just so thankful I don’t have to!
Photo by Patti Haskins
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