Saturday Morning Animal Rituals

petsWe have Saturday rituals. We tell our dog Leaf that Saturday is a day of great adventure and fun.  Our bird, Sunshine gets new millet on Saturday and a complete cleaning of his cage.  The cats, Speedy and Cuddles, also have a Saturday ritual that involves new kitty litter and Allen’s purchase of their favorite cat food.

Leaf’s alert attention to every turn helps Allen drive Linda to the screenwriting group she attends three Saturdays each month. The meeting is in the city’s center, and Leaf is fascinated with all the downtown activities.  He watches with a mixture of concern and excitement when Linda leaves the car to enter the front of a high-rise building.

After dropping Linda off for her workshop Allen drives Leaf to the dog park near a city lake. He repeatedly throws the ball so Leaf has plenty of playtime and running.  After Leaf tires, they sit and relax on a large hollowed-out log and watch the other dogs and their people.  Allen and Leaf often discuss the different dogs — which ones are nice; which ones are too rough…

After the visit to dog park Allen and Leaf go to a local, small pet supply store to buy the very best dog, cat, and bird food. The boxes of dog treats are at floor level and they turn Leaf into a shoplifter. He also enjoys the row of dog toys and buckets of chew bones.

Because there is so much to smell and experience, Leaf is excited at this store, bouncing from one thing to another. He sniffs, explores, and enjoys every moment.

This morning, when Allen and Leaf were in the aisle that had anti-itch spray products for the cat, Allen was reading ingredients while Leaf poked his nose into each toy to discover which ones squeaked. A ten-year-old boy came up and asked if he could pet Leaf. Allen said yes.  Still hyper from the nearness of so many goodies, Leaf ran over to the boy for a quick pat on the head. Then he rushed back to the toys to continue his investigation.

Allen told the boy that Leaf was excited to be in the store. The young fellow looked sad and tired. He spoke quietly and said, “My dog died yesterday.”

Allen gently said, “It must hurt a lot.”

The little boy replied, “Yes, it does.”  He added that his dog had died of cancer and lost any awareness of where he was at the end.

Leaf stopped poking his nose at the toys. This seemed odd, because nothing distracts this dog from a good toy hunt. But now, he seemed to be listening as the child spoke with such sorrow about his dog.

Abandoning the search for a perfect squeaky toy, Leaf walked back to the boy. This time, he stayed a little longer as the child petted him.  Allen remained quiet while Leaf comforted this grieving child.

When Leaf moved away from the boy this time, he did not rush but walked with more of a deliberate and focused presence. The boy looked up at Allen. The sparkle in his eyes revealed that our healing little cocker spaniel had silently, for a moment, lifted the burden of loss from his heart. He said thank you and went back to his parents.

Leaf keeps his secrets to himself, so we don’t know exactly why he does things like this. Our belief is that a loving animal like Leaf is an instrument of the Divine. Someone’s heart is broken, and Spirit directs a creature with a wagging tail, soft fur, sweet eyes, and a kind heart in the direction where he’s most needed.

What do you think? Has an animal intuitively sensed that you needed comforting and gave it to you?