I have learned over the years that animals can teach us a great deal about ourselves. Our behaviors are similar, and in many instances our social behaviors are the same, as well. But there are a lot of things wildlife can teach us about surviving in the world that we have created. If anything, you could say our four-footed friends are better at living among us than we are. After all, you don't see your local raccoons going after each other because they envy another's tail stripes, or running in gangs that try to lay claim to all the garbage cans in a certain neighborhood. They are a little more realistic about life than we are. For the animal world life is made up of food, shelter, and self-preservation. Things we seem to have taken to extremes with McDonalds, luxurious homes, and Botox. So there are a few things that dealing with animals have taught me that I think are important to keep in mind when trying to get through tough times in our hectic, fast-paced existence.
The first thing I noticed is that our furry friends lack any vanity. They are happy with how they look and don't seem to have any meltdowns because of fur loss, or missing limbs. They adapt to whatever setbacks they are given, and move on. I am often amazed at their strength, and wish I had that kind of resilience, especially with the pangs of middle age bearing down on me.
Another trait is how animals co-exist among themselves. Sure, they hunt each other for food-and not expensive baubles-but when not in need of sustenance, they learn to live in peace among each other. The goal of any confrontation is never annihilation with them, but resolution. Territory is fought over, but eventually disputes are settled without lawyers, courts, or guns. It's amazing how respect, a not abject anger, eventual closes every argument. They may disagree, but they eventually find a way to live together. Why can't we do the same?
Probably the most important lesson I have learned is that all creatures have an innate appreciation for their environment. The fallacy among our species is that all animals are destructive. But I have never seen a pack of squirrels take down a forest or level a lot of trees like we can. Animals give back to the land they live on, and preserve their homes. For them nothing is disposable, and everything is recycled. Respect for their planet is more ingrained in their minds than ours, which is a sad state of affairs. If we are the dominant species, why are they setting the example of how to keep our planet green?
Love is unconditional with animals. There are no limitations or boundaries set that if you love me a certain way or treat me better, I will love you more. Love is love to them, it has no preference for one over another. Their depth of emotion is not blinded by wealth, appearance, or power. They love without restrictions because they are not blinded by the trappings of our society.
And with them, you know you are loved because you are you.
Finally, I am amazed at their ability to enjoy the simple things. Nothing makes me smile more than when I see a variety of different animals soaking up the sun, or taking time to stop and smell the grass, or look up at a passing flock of geese soaring through the sky. That wonder for the world is always present in their eyes. They never appear jaded or lack the glow of discovery in their faces. Every new squeaky toy is a treasure, and every pecan a feast. Nothing is taken for granted, and everyday is relished. And when they settle down for bed at night, they are more thankful than the most pious of people, because they know that all they have is this moment. Tomorrow is always hoped for, but they are grateful for the wisdom they were given today.
I still have so much to learn, and the time I have spent with our furry, finned, or feathered friends has given me a greater understanding of the big picture. It's not all about us, it's about them, too. And together, we might all just learn how to be happy on this big old earth, and learn to appreciate every gift that we have been given.