How amazing are the dogs that save their owner's lives by sounding the alarm or even calling 911? There are so many extraordinary stories about pets, like dogs that guide the blind, provide comfort to the sick, protect us, or help us go for walks. Then there is the cat who lived in a nursing home we volunteered in. It would always go to lie with someone shortly before they died. The cat knew before the doctors did.
Our friend Gina told us how her husband, Joseph, had a heart attack and died in their living room. When she returned from the hospital, Blackie, their dog, had taken one of Joseph's dirty shirts from the laundry basket and was lying on it in exactly the same place where Joseph had died.
Paris Hilton has 13 dogs that live in their own mansion; we see many celebrities who parade around with their dogs in designer bags; or we hear of heiresses leaving millions of dollars for their pets' upkeep. What is it that bonds people so deeply with their animals? Why do some say that they love their pets more than they do humans? Is it the unconditional love that animals appear to have for their owners?
The communication with humans runs deep. Friend Biologist Rupert Sheldrake has been featured in a documentary and written extensively on how, for instance, many dogs know the moment when their owner has left the office and the dog is waiting, ready to greet them at the front door when they return, often as much as an hour later.
We don't think our two cats would be as tuned in as they are far too self-absorbed, but they do keep us very entertained. This morning, Rani (little queen) apparently told Ed that she wanted to go swimming at the reservoir and so she needed us to get her a bikini, and would it be alright if she went with a friend or did she have to go with us the first time? Meanwhile Raji (little king) apparently wants to train as a pilot and needs us to pay for him to go to Aviation School. They have taught us not to take ourselves too seriously!
Due to a past history of not having an easy time with cats, Ed had told Deb that he was allergic to them. Then, a few years ago, we were keynote workshop leaders in Sweden at the No Mind Festival, and the program ended with firewalking. After Ed walked on the hot coals all his fears dissolved and, astonishingly, his first thought was to get a kitten. We came home and Raji was waiting for us at the Humane Society. A few months later Rani found her way to us, and we all, including Raji, immediately fell in love with her.
We have learned how dogs need masters and cats needs slaves, or dogs look up while cats look down. But what do our pets teach us? As animals are immediate, present, unconditional, forgiving, and can bring tremendous healing, so the lessons are endless.
Waylon Lewis, publisher of ElephantJournal.com and a fellow HuffPo blogger, told us about his mutt, Redford. "I have an issue with temper tantrums and just being a real jerk. For generations my family has had problems with anger and inappropriate behavior with younger family members. When Redford does something wrong or inappropriate there is no way I can blame him as he is entirely innocent and doesn't understand my upsetness. In this way he is a perfect mirror for my aggression and makes me realize it is my issue and not his. Whatever he goes through it passes very quickly; he is very patient with me and immediately forgiving. So he is really taming and training me!"
Guillermo Romero agreed with how healing a pet can be when he told us: "Our dog came to us from the streets in Mexico and decided to stay with us. It has been over five years now. He became a profoundly healing asset when we lived with young people with special needs. It was as if his own background enabled him to understand these beings even more deeply than we did."
Animals give us companionship: Deb's cat Ziggy used to accompany her on walks up the hill behind their house and would sit with her at the top gazing over the valley below. And they give without judgment or discrimination. This can teach us to become both more trusting and more loving ourselves.
Roberto Arjona, Chief Executive of the Rancho La Puerta Fitness Resort and Spa, told us how: "When I met my future wife she already had Samson, who slept each night on her bed. This was a very different scenario than I was used to! But I was surprised to find that, after a few months, I not only came to love Samson but that he was more than welcome on the bed. I have learnt from him that I can fearlessly accept new situations. In the process he has taught me to trust myself and others more deeply."
Animals live in the present moment; they do not cling to the past or to hidden grudges. Filmmaker Ken Green's beautiful lovebird Monet has no self-consciousnesses. "He is totally himself with a purity and directness, living in the moment and clearly expecting that from me as well. He is a teaching of nowness and brings that to anyone who is willing to join him in the present moment."
A dog whisperer told Waylon that almost any problem with an animal means that it needs more exercise, more discipline, and then more affection. Which sounds pretty similar to how to deal with our own problems. Whether we are Paris Hilton or not, we all feel better after working out, when we address our addictions, and when we are loved!
What have you learned from your pet? We would love to hear your stories. Leave a comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs every Thursday by checking Become a Fan at the top.
Ed and Deb Shapiro's new book, BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You And The World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors such as Marianne Williamson, astronaut Edgar Mitchell, Byron Katie, Michael Beckwith, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jane Fonda, Jack Kornfield, Ellen Burstyn, Ed Begley, Dean Ornish, Gangaji, Russell Bishop, Andrew Cohen and others, will be published November 3rd 2009 by Sterling Ethos.
Deb is the author of the award-winning book YOUR BODY SPEAKS YOUR MIND. Ed and Deb are the authors of over 15 books, and lead meditation retreats and workshops. They are corporate consultants, and the creators of Chillout daily inspirational text messages on Sprint cell phones. See: www.EdandDebShapiro.com