Our precious pets can teach us many things about how to have extraordinary relationships. Sometimes, they even train us to be better partners. They embody unconditional love, resilience, forgiveness, living in the present and absolute joy. Each animal’s unique personality effects our behavior and our mentality, as they are not only our companions, they are integral parts of our families and blessings in every part of our lives.
Our dog, Orlando, passed away unexpectedly a few months ago. It was heartbreaking and went through a tremendous grieving process. But within that, we did our best to come back to how blessed we were to have him in our lives for the years we he was with us. We weren’t totally cognizant of all the things he had taught us until after he was gone. One night, a few weeks after he passed, we were lying in bed trying to cope with the loss by telling funny and sweet stories of his life. Then we talked about all the joy he had brought to our family. We realized how much he had shown us what unconditional love feels like and he had been teaching us how to use that as a model for our relationship.
We talked about the difficulty of practicing unconditional love with our humans. People disappoint us, they argue, have their own opinions and don’t have the same loyalty that our pets do. Our beloved animals have pure adoration for us and accept us no matter what we do, what mistakes we make or how many faults we have. Humans don’t get excited every time we come home, they don’t want to be around us if we smell bad and wouldn’t be nearly as loving after we had put them in a crate for a few hours.
There are many ways we can learn from their example. We can try to be more forgiving, maybe not if we are crated, but in many other situations. We can find joy in our partners very existence and try to have less expectations, accepting them for who they are without judgement. We can do our best to take the conditions out of love and our expression of love and look for all the good that our partners bring to the table by trying not to focus on their shortcomings.
Orlando was a very sensitive little guy, he was very empathic and reacted strongly to his people’s emotions. If we were being very silly and playing around he would get very excited, sometimes so much so that he would get inappropriate with an arm, a leg or at one point our teenagers head. He taught us to not hang off the couch laughing without paying attention to his location.
If any of us cried or got hurt, he would be right there. Licking our faces, telling us that it would be ok. He showed us true compassion. He never wanted us to feel bad. I don’t think any of us really want our partners to feel bad. But sometimes we forget how to show genuine compassion for their situation. Orlando was a master at genuine compassion.
Our sensitive little guy did not like it when we would raise our voices. After he passed we realized that he had trained us to be kinder with one another. Every time we would get heated, he would paw at us and lick our faces. Most of the time we would immediately calm down, taking a breath and speaking more lovingly to one another. If we didn’t stop being upset, he would leave the room and wouldn’t come back until we were back to a loving mentality.
Of course, it broke our hearts when he would feel bad, so we started taking his cue to calm down right away. And eventually, we stopped raising our voices to one another. Which in turn kept us more logical and motivated towards a loving outcome. He trained us to communicate more consciously with one another.
Every animal personality teaches us unique lessons. Our cat, Gaia has been amazing at showing us how to pay attention to each other’s needs, even if its not being asked for. She won’t demand anything, she will just keep making herself available for our affection. She laps it up when we simply make her a priority. It’s that simple, just pay attention to her and she’s happy. I think it’s that simple with many people as well, we all want attention, we all want to be pet and told how much we are loved. Giving attention without request, just to bring our partners happiness, will always result in a happy kitty.
After a few months of grieving the loss of Orlando we decided we needed to start looking for a puppy. We needed to hear the patter of little feet down the hallway, we needed to change the energy of our household back towards playfulness and joy.
We found Obi-wan through a rescue and adopted him last week. This sweet, smart four-month-old beagle mix puppy came in stole our hearts. He was one of a litter of ten that was dumped at a shelter in Texas before their eyes were open. They had to be bottle fed, and he was the only survivor in the litter. He was then kenneled after he was eating regular food. He had no training, no consistent people to rely on and no regularly available affection. He had a really rough start and somehow, he melted into our family like he had been here all along.
This amazingly resilient little being has shifted our entire household dynamic and energy. Obi embraces every second of every day. His excitement and love are healing our broken hearts and reminding us to enjoy each moment. There is much wisdom in this. It is something we can learn from with any animal. Although, puppies tend to make it blaringly obvious.
I am learning a lot about opening to love, regardless of the past, from our new family member. Obi doesn’t question whether he is supposed to be here with us, he doesn’t restrain from love and affection because he’s been through a lot. He came in to our arms with his heart open. He took the opportunity for love, safety and constant attention and ran with it. What if we all did that? What if we participate in love and affection without fear of something getting taken away?
Opening our hearts doesn’t have to put us at-risk, as long as we are doing it because it helps us experience life more fully. Like our pets do! I wonder if our cherished pets have been trying to give humanity the gift of teaching us unconditional love in our human relationships for a long time?
Dawn Celeste McGregor is a Writer and Relationship Coach. Contact Dawn at expansiveconnections.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation. Check out Expansive Connections on Facebook.