Animals: Our Friends and Teachers

Animals sense the truth of our character.  Whether we’re sad, angry or both, it’s very difficult to hide how we’re feeling from an animal.  I personally believe, animals are guides in the development of our souls.  The great wisdom which lies beneath their fur, feathers and scales is extroardinary, and behind the softness of their eyes, resides a gentle spirit just waiting to befriend us, if only we allow them to do so.

I feel very fortunate to have had constant contact with many animals over my life time.  I once knew a horse who taught me about responsibility and courage.  A dog named Gypsy, who taught me about trust and forgiveness, and Tick, a little dog who taught me the joys of the heart has no boundaries.


On our ranch we raise sheep.  Last November, two lambs were born but because of the cold weather, only one survived.  Unfortunately the mother rejected the surviving lamb and we brought the tiny creäture to my daughter to raise.  The idea, was to eventually return the lamb to the herd once it was able to eat on its own.

My daughter named the lamb Simba.  She bottle fed him, woke up at 3am for feedings, and bathed him every week, most of all, she loved him.
Time passed and Simba grew up strong and healthy.  We weaned him from the bottle, which was not an easy thing to do, and attempted to integrate him back into the flock.  Much to our dismay, the other sheep wanted nothing to do with Simba.  They pushed him into a corner with head butts and kicks, while Simba desperately cried for my daughter.  It was clear, Simba was going to have a hard time adjusting to life as a sheep.

Weeks passed, and we began to notice Simba preferred the company of our five Queensland Heelers more than his own kind.  Everywhere the dogs went, Simba went too.  Even more interesting, the dogs seemed to accept him into the pack.  Who would have thought, a sheep would integrate into a dog pack and not with his own kind?  We also noticed he had absolutely no interest in the flock, who often wandered nearby while grazing or resting in the sun.  It seems that nature took its course and Simba found his place.  He was a dog.  I wonder if he knows he’s really a sheep?  But then again, does it even matter?

Throughout history, and even today in many places of the world, human society has developed social class systems depending on how much money people make, what family lineage you hail from and so forth.  These social classes are also distinguished by the clothes you wear, the kind of car you drive and even by what neighborhood you might live in.

What I’ve seen with Simba and our dogs leads me to believe that in the animal world, color, size or shape doesn’t really matter.  Simba, a prey animal, has integrated among the predators, living with them as one of their own.  I often wonder if they discussed this first?  Was there an exchange between them that convinced the dogs, Simba was one of them?
I marvel at the dog’s friendliness towards Simba.  He head butts the dogs, runs next to them while kicking up his heels as he follows the pack around the ranch.  I do believe he thinks he’s a dog.

There is so much we can learn from our animals friends.   Each animal has its own unique qualities, just like humans do which are available to us if we take the time to notice.
Most, if not all indigenous cultures believed animals represented qualities of the spirit from which humans were to learn from while on their journey through life.   In the Native American tradition, the hawk, brought messages from the spirit world.  The bear, introspection and journey work.  While the horse, my personal favorite, is a symbol strength and freedom.  In the Celtic tradition, the horse, particularly a white one, was also a messenger who provided passage to the other world.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes about animals:

An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.  ~Martin Buber

Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.  ~George Eliot

Lots of people talk to animals…. Not very many listen, though…. That’s the problem.  ~Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

By the way, today is my 25th wedding anniversary and this weekend we are celebrating at the ranch.  I hope Simba doesn’t find out lamb, will be the main course on the dinner menu.  My daughter and I gave him a good bath yesterday so he’ll be ready for the festivities next weekend.  Undoubtedly when people see him all dress up in his red bandana, chasing dogs and following my daughter around, he will be a highlight of the day.

Simba after his bath

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