Goodbye Bear

When we first decide to invite an animal into our life, it’s usually more impulse than conscious choice.

Oh sure, we may tell ourselves that we’ve thought it through, weighed the pros and cons, been reasonable about it, but in my experience that’s mostly a line of hooey. We are naïve to think anything else.

We animal lovers are suckers for a ball of fur stumbling across the floor to us on shaky, new legs.

One look into those big, wide eyes and we’re goners. We’re hardwired to react to eyes and faces, so don’t be tough on yourself, if you can relate to what I’m talking about.

Or point us to an animal in need–one that’s been abandoned or abused–and pros and cons fly out the window. All we can think about is rescuing the sweet thing and giving it a good, loving home.

Right?

Most of the time we fail to take into consideration the externals.

The hundreds of pounds of food you will run through your bank account and then lug into your house. The vet bills. Arranging for care if you ever want to take a vacation. The times you leave meetings or parties early because you need to get home to your animals. The hair on your clothing, the pile of toys in a basket in your living room, the poop scooping or litter box cleaning, the chewed up shoes or scratched furniture, the endless walks in inclement weather, early morning potty calls, late night potty calls, interrupted sleep, cleaning up accidents, grooming, and on.

And on. Be honest with me. Do you think of any of these when cuddling that adorable kitten or puppy?

I thought not.

Those may be the cons, and any reasonable person would agree that they are considerable, and worthy of second or even third thoughts before making the commitment to an animal.

But then there are the pros, which crush the externals into oblivion.

Because here’s what happens: You start out feeling enchanted with your new puppy or kitten. “Isn’t he adorable?” You ask everyone that you meet. “Want to see photos? I have them you know.” And then, you fall down the rabbit hole. With every day you love your animal more. They suck you in and then stick to your heart like they were super glued to you.

In a way, they are.

Professionals call it bonding, and it is powerful, powerful stuff.

We come to rely on our animals. They become our cherished companions, giving us something we humans yearn for with every fiber of our being: unconditional love. They don’t give a whit about what we look like, how much money we have, what we do for a living, what our spiritual beliefs are, our politics. They simply and utterly accept us for who they know us to be.

And that is healing salve to so many of us.

That tail-wagging greeter at the end of a hard day is pure magic. To have a purring cat snoozing on your lap is better than anything big pharma can concoct to alter your mood.

Our animals help us be better humans.

They require little of us, but the few things they do need, make us organize ourselves. We become routinized for them. We have to get out of our own buzzing heads long enough to remember to buy food, take them out for those walks, tend to their needs.

And if we’re lucky, they remind us about other very human traits that we sometimes forget.

Things like joy and playfulness; loyalty, commitment, tenderness, compassion, and trust. We learn about aging–how to go into that twilight time with grace and courage.

Then because their lives are much shorter than ours, they teach us about saying goodbye.

We learn about loss and grief when it’s time for them to leave us. We learn that even though it may feel like we are drowning in sadness, we will recover. We will swim to the other side of sadness and find that the sweet memories remain, and they sustain us.

What a gift that is!

 Goodbye Bear and safe journey. Your people are missing you terribly right now. You were a much-loved part of their family.

If you get the chance, will you say hello to Bud when you see him? We’re thinking of him this week as the anniversary of his death is upon us. And thank you for walking Rebecca’s mom to the other side.

And you might give a tail wag to Pete Seeger. You left this earth in good company dear one.

 

Mitakuye Oyacin (Lakota)

“We are all related”

 

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