Learning From Animals

I don’t like television much, but I happened to be watching recently and saw a commercial from an animal rights group. One segment of the commercial showed a dog that had been forced to fight and had accumulated significant injuries as a result — so much so, according to the commercial, that the dog ultimately died.

The commercial segment was disturbing imagery, but something within it was quite illuminating: video footage of the injured dog cuddling up to a man and licking him. The man expressed astonishment that something that had been subjected to so much trauma and cruelty could still express earnest affection and trust.

Indeed, from a human perspective it was an astonishing display, but only because humans have yet to learn something that comes naturally to the animal world. How to let go of past and future and live in the present moment.

Had a human endured what the dog did, he or she would likely express overwhelming trauma and suffering for years, if not for the duration of their lives. This is not to be critical of such a reaction: it’s perfectly understandable. But it’s also indicative of remaining stuck in a pattern of past thinking. A person certainly has the right to dwell in suffering if they want to — and some people do want to — but it is not inevitable to continually suffer and is certainly not mandatory.

The dog from above was not in the place where he had suffered and been injured: he was present, living in the exact moment, and as a result was able to fully experience and reciprocate love. That moment was all there was. And then there was the next moment.

I had the unfortunate experience of taking a pet cat to be euthanized. The cat was old to begin with, and one day showed up hobbling badly, unable to put much weight on its hinds. I took the cat to veterinary care and was advised that the best — and most humane — course of action was to end its life. I clearly remember stroking the cat as it lay on an examining table, waiting to be injected with euthanasia.

The cat was purring…

I was incredulous that the cat could express contentment under such circumstances. I even thought that the cat had somehow become healed. It hadn’t. It was simply in that present moment, experiencing it fully, not dwelling on the past or the future. What were past and future to the cat? Nonsense. Now is all there was.

The cat was purring one moment, and died the next. Peace and content, then release.

Notice if you will how our pets are typically content or happy. Tail wagging, licking, purring, or simply lying comfortably.

You may say it’s because they have no problems.

They don’t have the experience of problems that humans do. This is because they don’t have out of control thinking that holds them captive in past or future scenarios. They stay firmly in the present moment and allow life to do the rest.

Do animals sometimes suffer? Without a doubt. But once the suffering is gone it’s gone: there’s no dwelling on what’s happened, or worrying that it may happen again in the future. This characteristic belongs solely to the “higher” life form…