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Mindfulness, Plus Fur

Posted by Eliza, September 18th, 2015

photo 3-8Like many of you, animals have been an important part of my life since before I can remember. When I was four or five, we had a lovely cat (with eyeliner Liz Taylor would have envied) named Sheba.

I still hold onto the guilt I felt after she ran away: I was sure it was because I tried to feed her the cornflakes into which I’d experimentally dumped a little orange juice. As an adult I know she probably was reacting to our impending move, but part of me still wonders why she left me. Our animal companions become such a part of our inner as well as our outer lives that we often hold their memories tight, and long after they’re gone.

Today, though, I want to bless them, to thank them and to sing praises for our fellow animals, especially the ones who humble their wild selves to live with us. They love us, forgive us, and most of all, remind us of the time.

I don’t mean dinner time, though that’s of vital importance: the dog stares hauntingly into your eyes, the cat rubs her whole self along your legs, and the guinea pigs squeal their lettuce greeting. And they let us know that they have hungers, just like we do.

No, I mean time, as in what little we mortals have upon this earth. My little dog turns nine in a few weeks, and I’m delighted with how well she’s doing. Sure, she has a bit of arthritis, and she’s carrying a bit of extra weight because it curtails our walks sometimes. (So am I, for that matter.) But she loves to chase balls, play “catch me” with her stuffed toys, and chase squirrels and cats away – you see the theme. She revels in stinks and pee mails on our neighborhood rounds. She’s feisty when she feels threatened, and so loving when we settle in for the night. She’s alive!

And I treasure each day, each moment, each moonset and sun rise because of her constant reminder to enjoy it. Now. I’m more alive thanks to her.

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Who Gets Love?

Posted by Eliza, July 6th, 2015

IMG_2163If we are awake to these troubled times, filled with examples of humans’ inhumanity to humankind, we are shaken. We question human nature and, if we are people growing in spirit, our own natures. We look for ways to mend what is broken. We look for all the ways in which the tragic taking of lives DOES NOT tell the whole story, indeed CAN not.

Some people have gently questioned me about why we should care about animals when human beings suffer so, when human lives seem to mean so little and need so much. This is a very important question.

Volunteering at the reception desk of a local animal shelter, I am often witness to deep joy and unimaginable sorrow. People who come to adopt animals and leave with a new companion smile and receive the congratulations of the staff much like a newborn’s family leaving the hospital.

In another nearby room, too often people come to surrender beloved animal companions for a wide variety of reasons: illness or incapacity, moving, death of the owner, allergies. And all too often the reason is homelessness, poverty, or the lack of resources to take care of a medical condition. A few years ago, right after Veterans’ Day a tearful middle aged woman surrendered her two little dogs because she had lost her job and feared she would lose her home. She wanted to do the right thing for them. I later learned that she was a veteran.

All our lives intertwine and matter greatly; that animals offer connection and comfort, emotional nurture and healing to ALL people, or should. One more sign that something’s gone terribly wrong in the way people have access to basic needs is that animal companions are fast becoming a privilege reserved for those who can afford them. Those with limited means struggle to feed, get medical care for, and – all too often these days – house their companion animals.

The loss and the pain are mostly invisible, privately enacted in shelters across the city. We judge those who abandon their animal companions, and certainly some are irresponsible. Others suffer the shame that comes from not being able to give care to those they love. Compassion for their suffering calls us to act.

If you can, consider giving both human and cat and dog food to the your local food pantry this summer before you go on vacation. People experience food insecurity for their pets as well as for themselves. And you might consider donating to your local shelter to help cover their costs, including medical expenses.

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