Can Animals Teach Us to Be Better Humans?

Animals whether pets or in nature have a way of teaching us compassion, patience and mindfulness. Through their innocence, curiosity, and mindful pursuit of survival they show us through their uncomplicated example how to be better humans.

Pets are a great way of learning to nurture another living being. Growing up we had a poodle, Gigi who was very affectionate. Although my mother was the primary caregiver for our adorable pooch, we all participated at some point with her feeding and walks. While our kids grew up we had a goldfish, beta fish, a budgie and lovebirds. The birds were fascinating as they talked to us and the lovebirds were exceptionally affectionate. Our children learned how to be gentle with our delicate birds, feed them and clean after them.

I often see people take on pets for support and to feed their need to nurture another creature. Pets can support people of all ages in offering unconditional love and comfort. Therapy dogs are now widely recognized beyond seeing-eye dogs. It is now fairly common to see dogs given special recognition as emotional therapy support. In addition, I have also seen a number of couples after moving in or marrying deciding that they will take on a dog before having children. It seems that learning to nurture a dog is becoming a preliminary training ground for couples preparing for the responsibilities of raising children. This blog post by Lexi Marietti is insightful and will bring a smile.

Experiencing animals in nature is another wonderful way to open our minds and hearts. When I was 17 my parents bought land and built a chalet in the Laurentians, just north of Montreal. This year-round city getaway was cherished by everyone until it was sold almost 30 years later. During this time we encountered a variety of animals. Every spring we dealt with a few resident mice. When walking or skiing in the forests we came across beaver dams, and we would see foxes, moose, deer, heard coyotes, a variety of birds, butterflies, fish, frogs, and other rodents. We learned to live in peace and harmony with these creatures.

Except, that is for the battle that ensued between my father and our local squirrel. My parents would spend their summer weekends and holidays at the chalet. During these visits, my father would busy himself with a variety of handyman and maintenance projects and his obsession with Sassy-Frass.

Pretty much every visit he seemed to be irritated by the resident squirrel. He learned that squirrels are territorial. He figured out that there were probably one or maybe two squirrels that dominated our family property. My father decided to name the squirrel Sassy- Frass. When he did work outside we could hear the squirrel clucking and initiating a type of squawking. He could see it bouncing through the property seeming to be making a statement to my father.

Over time my father would complain about the mischief this squirrel created such as knocking over an object on the railing. He found Sassy disturbing his hummingbird sightings when Sassy would lick up the remains of the sugar water that landed on the railing, from the feeder installed above on the balcony.  He was particularly annoyed when he was certain that Sassy got into the roof attic and was bouncing around. My father would say to everyone that his enemy was this squirrel and he was out to get it.

We all responded to my father’s combative attitude in horror!

Eventually, my father, despite his dramatic outbursts, declaring that he was going to ‘get Sassy’, relaxed and accepted that this little rodent was not waging destruction and war but just being a cute squirrel. My father needed to learn that he didn’t have to be right and win over this squirrel. Sassy was just being a squirrel, existing to survive without a hidden agenda.

The following summer I was inspired to write Sassy Frass. It is a story that conveys some of the tension between Sassy and my father. I wrote the story so that Sassy teaches my father a lesson and becomes the hero of the story. Last year I did the following YouTube reading of this story written 25 years ago.

I think this quote sums up this blog:

Animals can inspire us to be less busy, more present, less worried, more joyful, and more passionate about life. They will never judge us for the things we do or don’t do.

Kristen Moeller, Waiting For Jack