What does your choice of animal family members say about you?

How often have you seen people with pets who resemble them? Some pretty funny photographs show this phenomenon in books and on the Internet. If you’ve lived with an animal for a while, you may have noticed that animals also reflect your qualities, characteristics, and personality traits. A depressed person has a sad-eyed dog. A chatty guy has a talkative parrot. The animal companion of a gentle woman is a kind and affectionate cat.

We are finding out how much of this is true with our animal family members.

When we take our dog for walks around a nearby lake, we often pass a mild-mannered man with a timid gait who always averts his eyes. A little dog runs alongside him, growling and showing her teeth to everyone. This dog could be a mirror for the man’s excessive fears.

As people tell us about significant animals in their lives, we’ve observed how the animals often serve as spiritual report cards. More often than not, memorable spiritual experiences with animals chart a person’s progress toward or away from having more love, peace, and fulfillment.

What does your choice of animal family members say about you?

Our Dog Has Trained Us Well

Leaf

Leaf

Okay, we have a question for you folks who love to train dogs – Who does the training, the dog or the person or both?

We ask, because our cocker spaniel Leaf, smart little adolescent boy that he is, seems to be training us and everyone else as much or more than we’re training him.

Example: At doggie day care this week, we hear that Leaf scratches with his mighty paw on the gates to let the staff know whether he wants to play with the big or the little dogs. They come running to fulfill his request.

Example: We use our trainer’s suggestion for how to get Leaf to stop trying to lick dirty dishes in the dishwasher when the door is opened. We say, “Leave it.” When he stops, we’re to give him a treat and say, “Take it.” Get the picture? He’s trained us to give him treats by licking the plate or threatening to do so in hopes that we’ll say, “Leave it” followed by “Take it.”

Example: Leaf loves to beg at the table when we eat. Rather than hassle with him at every meal, we put the gate up between the hallway and dining room. He’s trained us to give him a kong that occupies his little mind and focus while we eat in peace.

Example: Leaf has trained us to give him a treat so that he doesn’t go into overprotective mode when an invited guest comes into the house. The guest gets trained, too, to offer him a treat.

So you tell us, who is training whom?

What ways do your cats show their creativity and resourcefulness?

Cuddles

Cuddles

This week, we took Cuddles and Speedy for their annual veterinarian visit. When they see the carriers come out, they know that it’s time to hide in whatever corner will best serve their escape.

After scooping them up, putting them in the back seat of the car, and driving to the vet to the chorus of their protesting mews, we arrived at last.

Speedy seemed to take it more in stride than Cuddles. She was quite vocal, letting everyone in the waiting room know that this was the last place she wanted to be.

In the vet’s office, after enduring the indignity of weighing in and being examined, Cuddles jumped off the table. Speedy had been attempting to hide behind Linda’s purse and in her coat pocket but to no avail. But Cuddles had a better plan.

Speedy

Speedy

After Speedy was placed on the dreaded examining table, Cuddles managed to jump onto a high wall shelf where the vet kept samples of medications and other items. The vet was so astonished at Cuddles’s agility that he stopped Speedy’s exam, called for his assistant, and asked her to get his camera. He wanted a picture of this cat going where no cat had ever gone before.

This is Cuddles — fearless, resourceful, and able to leap tall buildings. She had her picture taken, posing from the top shelf. She overlooked us all, while Speedy trembled below on the table and endured poking and prodding. Catch me if you can!

What ways do your cats show their creativity and resourcefulness?

Dog Park Relationships

Leaf

Leaf

It is a delight to take your dog to the dog park where all sorts of people mix with a variety of dogs. This often causes the most interesting moments, collaborations, alliances, and spiritual growth experiences. It’s been our experience that closer relationships between humans and dogs develop at the dog park.

One recent afternoon we were rushed and had little time to spare. Yet we knew our black cocker spaniel, Leaf, needed at least a short time to get some exercise. We raced over to his favorite play place — the dog park.

This time, we forgot Leaf’s favorite red and white rubber ball. He loves to chase, catch, and bring it back to us. Assuming a ball is just a ball, we thought it would be okay to throw old tennis balls that were lying around in the park. This one change would turn out to bring about an enlightening experience for us all.

Over the past few months, as we’ve gotten into our routine visits to the dog park, we would always bring Leaf’s favorite ball to throw for him. He had picked out these balls at pet supply stores. It was amusing to watch his focus on the checkout process, keeping an eye on his new possession as it went into the shopping bag.

In the car on the way home, he would tear into the bag to retrieve the new ball. He knew it belonged to him. At the dog park, acting more characteristically like a retriever than a cocker spaniel, Leaf would chase the toy and drop it at our feet for another throw.

Even after letting it go long enough to have a good run, Leaf remained very protective of HIS ball. He’d tightly grip it in his mouth and run around to the dogs, making sure they all saw that this was his own special bouncy toy. It seemed to us that some of the other dogs were jealous and wanted to take Leaf’s new red and black ball away from him.

Sometimes he would tempt the dogs by quickly dropping his ball in front of them. But he was always too fast and grabbed it away before the dogs could take it. He’d run off, looking over his shoulders at the less fortunate dogs who were too slow to keep up with him.

When Leaf played with his personal ball, he seemed to have less fun. There was always the underlying concern that he’d lose his property. He took pride in owning something that the other dogs could not have.

Dog Park Without Leaf’s Ball

This day, when as we arrived at the dog park without Leaf’s ball, the entire experience took on a different tone that brimmed with spiritual significance. Leaf was about to learn one of the toughest lessons on the path to enlightenment — detachment.

At first, he looked impatiently, staring and waiting for us to throw his ball. We showed him our empty hands and pockets. We said, “No ball today! Go play with the other dogs.” So Leaf, deprived of his normal routine, resigned himself to finding something else to do.

He started looking for the other tennis balls to pick up from the ground and bring back to us. But for him, there was a big difference in playing with balls that didn’t belong to him or any of the other dogs. He no longer had the responsibility of ownership. We noticed that he was starting to relax. He stopped looking over his shoulder to see if another dog was about to steal his property.

Our cocker picked up the communal tennis balls one at a time. He brought them to us, dropped the balls at our feet, and waited for Allen to play. (He chooses Allen for this task, since Linda’s throwing is just too wimpy for our macho little guy.)

Detachment Is More Fun

We observed that Leaf started watching other people throw tennis balls for their dogs. Occasionally their balls bounced off with no dogs in pursuit. Leaf would find one of the balls that got away and carry it over to a person with a dog. He’d drop the ball at the person’s feet as if to say, “Throw this one for your dog. It’s fun!”

It was interesting to see how much more entertained Leaf became when he managed to get the people and their dogs playing with each other. No longer concerned about his property rights, he could enjoy the dog park and orchestrate its games.

He knew that none of the dog park balls were his and he didn’t try to keep them for himself. Like a little party-planner, he attempted to get everyone to participate and play together. Soon, people were throwing tennis balls every which way. Their dogs loved it and were running with great energy and focus to catch them. Leaf’s gift of service and his lesson in detachment had manifested in a much more joyful bonding and relationship between humans and dogs than we had ever witnessed on our regular outings.

Often people at the dog park get involved in conversations with each other. Except for an occasional pat on the head for their dogs, they pretty much ignore the animals. Leaf caused the people to engage with their dogs and deepen the human-canine relationships on this one special afternoon.

Leaf demonstrated and reminded us life is much more rewarding when a person, or dog, places attention on service without the burden of attachment. He showed that giving without expecting a return creates harmony for all.

A Little Bird Told Me

This Angel Animals story is about a very wise and honest bird who knew how to coach a mother in a funny and kind way.

A LITTLE BIRD TOLD ME
by Pamela Jenkins

As I sat enjoying a cup of tea one morning before work, my children brought a catalogue to show me what they had found. They pointed at a picture of a T-shirt. They said it reminded them of me.

Flattered that they were thinking of me, I looked at the picture.  Then I frowned. On the front of the shirt, in large bold print, were the words, “I Yell Because I Care.”

“But I don’t yell at you,” I said softly. This brought laughter and rolling eyes from my precious offspring.

“Oh yeah, Mom, you sure do!” said my oldest daughter. The second child chimed in with, “All the time!” The youngest put his hands over his ears in mock fright and spun around in a circle until he collapsed on the floor, giggling and dizzy.

“No, no,” I protested quietly. How could they possibly think I yelled at them? I was a good mother. I listened and helped when I could. I was always there for them, lending support and love. But a mom that yelled?

“We can prove it,” said the oldest. “Every time you raise your voice, Bo Peep goes nuts.”

I eyed my little blue and white parakeet with suspicion. Bo Peep sat calmly on her perch, watching us. She was waiting for someone to notice her and perhaps come over for a talk and a little playtime.  She thrived on the attention that four children could give.

“Okay, I’ll prove it,” I challenged them. “Let me think of something to say loudly, and then we’ll see.”

I’d like to say that it took me some time to come up with an appropriate phrase to “yell,” but in all honesty, one just popped into my mind. I cleared my throat daintily, and then sang out, “You kids, hurry up or you’ll be late for school!”

Before I finished speaking, Bo Peep was flapping around inside her cage, hopping from perch to perch, screeching, “Tsk. . .tsk. . .tsk!” She certainly gave us her two cents’ worth. We all received a thorough scolding from the tiniest member of our household.

It was a very humble mother who apologized then. The kids were right; I was wrong. I now realized the truth. I was a mom who yelled, after all.

A few minutes later, the children were still laughing as they made their way out the door and on to school. I took another sip of hot tea, then turned and shook a finger at my feathered friend.

“Miss Peep. . .,” I began, only to be interrupted. Bo Peep puffed out her cheek feathers and said earnestly, “You are so-o-o-o-o pretty, pretty, pretty.”

Well, I could hardly argue with such an honest friend, could I? It had to be true.

After all, a little bird told me so.

Talking to Tippi Hedren about Shambala

Linda and Tippi

Linda and Tippi

The Shambala Preserve made the national news a month ago. A resident lion had attacked one of the professional animal caretakers there. We were glad to read that the man had recovered and continued his work at the preserve. This incident was unusual. We know how careful Tippi Hedren, Shambala’s founder, is about being sure her staff is trained to handle, feed, and care for the big cats. Evidently, after the incident they put some new procedures into place that would prevent future accidents.
 
We have long admired the humanitarian work and animal activism Tippi Hedren does by rescuing animals that are cast-offs from private owners, zoos, and circuses. Some of Shambala’s residents include lions, tigers, leopards, cougars, mountain lions.
 
The Shambala Preserve and the Roar Foundation, a charitable organization that Tippi established in 1983, has done tremendous work in increasing the public’s knowledge about wildlife. Tippi works tirelessly by promoting legislation that would prevent the sale and trading of wild animals who were never meant by Nature to be domesticated. 
 
We had the opportunity to interview Tippi Hedren for our book Rescued: Saving Animals from Disaster. While we were star-stuck to be talking with movie legend and effective animal activist, after an hour into the interview she had not mentioned her movie career, her many awards, and the she honors she has received for her lifetime of humanitarian work. Instead she focused on the animals who had inspired her to devote thirty years to saving as many of their lives as possible.

Tippi repeatedly stressed that wild animals are not pets. In fact, she refuses to be photographed with the animals at the preserve so as not to convey the message that they are anything other than dangerous predators.
 
One of our favorite portions of the interview with Tippi came about when we asked her what Shambala means. She said that a woman who helped her with the tedious job of putting the nonprofit foundation together gave her a gift by telling her the name of the preserve could be a Sanskrit word, Shambala, which means “a meeting place of peace and harmony for all beings, animal and human.” Tippi said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our world were like that?”

Wouldn’t it, indeed?

If you are interested in learning more about the wonderful work of Shambala Preserve and Tippi Hedren, visit www.shambala.org.
 
What are your thoughts on people attempting to make pets out of those cute little lion and tiger cubs only to discard them when the animals grow up?

Visit www.angelanimals.net/rectippi.html to view images of Linda and Tippi.