Rescue Journal

Relationships with other species

Alison  ·  Sep. 20, 2006

People get mixed up about animals and where they belong in our lives. This is why they end up in rescue. There are people who abhor the "humanizing" of other species and the attributing of human thoughts and feelings to them. There are others who truly believe that animals do not think or reason at all and do not have emotional lives. And there are those that cannot differentiate the differences between animals and people and believe that animals think and feel exactly like we do, or how we think they should.

None of us will ever know the true depth and complexity of another species. We can pretend that we are knowledgable and experienced and have all the answers. We are frankly incapable of even understanding others of our own species (or even ourselves) so how we think we have another species figured out is beyond me. But some do have more accurate understandings than others and it depends more on our openness to possibilities. and our flexibility in "seeing" from more than one perspective than it does to how many answers we have accumulated.

My relationships with the animals is one of trial and error and a meeting of individuals of a particular species on a middle ground. I am lucky that my memory is so poor that I fail to remember too many preconceived notions or too many hard and fast rules. I have few expectations on how they are supposed to be and mostly just go with the flow. I do believe some pretty consistent things tho, I believe other species do have emotional and thinking lives, and I believe this occurs in context of their own species and experiences, not mine. I do believe there are things in my human life that the animals really enjoy that may not be a natural part of their natural peanut butter cookies, warm, soft fleece blankets, cut up first quality grocery store apples and vegetables. I think some, (not all) of the animals here like the occasional kiss, Jenny likes them, her son Winston does not, some of the animals like the feeling of human hands stroking them and others find it threatening. Some like to lay in front of the fire, and other prefer to lay on the cement outside. All of them seem to enjoy being chattered at, and none of them walk away when I am blabbing away at them. So communication and interaction seems to me to be a universal thing. These animals, are not my family, my children, or my partners. I do consider them to be my friends because like any friendship, our relationships are based on respect and concern and caring and cooperation. But mostly until their adoptions or their deaths, they are my companions. They live and walk this life with me, never more, never less, than any other. I never forget that we are different, and there in lies the beauty of our friendship, it is our differences that make our relationships so special.I will probably never know even a millisecond of the true meaning of anothers life, but even the opportunity to participate in a neutral ground meeting between the species for me is a gift. I have met and loved some really incredible people and animals, maybe I haven't really known or understood them to any great degree, but I knew enough to see their intrinsic value and that is where respect begins.

Most animals who were truly respected in their previous lives, would never end their lives here. There are a very few, who are here thru no fault except a life gone wrong, and will end up here, but those ones are few and far between. Mostly they are here because humans did not understand what was required of us in accepting them into our lives in the first place. And when humans don't understand, we shut the door and walk away.



I, too, believe they have emotional and thinking lives, and it always puzzles me when I meet someone who doesn't think the same.
I don't think their emotions and thoughts are necessarily the same as ours might be under similar situations, but sometimes they are. I think the challenge is in learning how to listen to the animals so that we hear them, so we can understand their emotions and thoughts and needs as best as we are able. I am still a long way from being able to do this, and even though I have had dogs in my life for over 30 years (and other critters for over 50 years), it has only been in the past two or three years that I began to realize that listening must be done with the heart as well as the ears. And that applies to listening to any species. Sometimes I find it very hard to listen with my heart even when I really want to.
Just as we learn from our human relationships, we learn from our relationships with other species - but, just as with human relationship, we have to be open to that learning. And some critters are better at teaching than others - they communication more clearly or more persistantly until we finally "get" the message. Others, no doubt, feel as frustrated with humans as I feel when I'm working with a student who just doesn't "get" it - either because I'm not teaching it well, or because he/she doesn't want to learn or doesn't have the capacity to understand.

I do believe that Isaac experienced joy and thought "oh boy she's home!" as he bounced down the hall to greet me this afternoon - there was no questionning the happy expression, the wagging tail held high, the play bow motions, the wiggle butt and the life in his crippled old self. I would be hard pressed to think of any person in my life who has ever made me feel so warm and happy just by communicating their own happiness. Thank goodness other species do have emotional and thinking lives!