Image Source: Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/photos/cat-pet-sleep-domestic-cat-animal-4189697/)
If you’ve ever been a pet parent, then you understand the truly magical love of an animal. Whether you’re drawn to dogs or cats, bunny rabbits or furry ferrets, whether you’re lured by creatures with scales or wings, there is nothing like coming home at the end of a hard day to a companion that embodies unconditional love and acceptance.
No matter the species, animal companions have the extraordinary gift of transforming a house into a home. And in the process, they also transform their human — body, mind, and spirit.
The Power of Love
There’s no question that pets are both entertaining and comforting. When the worries of the world become too burdensome, seeing the innocence of your tiny companion curled in untroubled sleep can be a profound reminder that there is still purity and goodness in this life.
When the events of the day become too heartbreaking, watching your fur baby spend hours enthralled by the glory of the outdoors may be all the evidence you need that there is still joy and wonder to be found in the present moment.
Animals are, perhaps more than anything, our eternal connection to nature. They’re our link to the cosmos, and to the loving forces of creation that made them — and us — regardless of how you may define or understand those forces. If you don’t think that’s so, then consider the seemingly inexplicable effects that contact with an animal has on us.
Studies show, for example, that the simple act of listening to a cat’s purr can reduce your risk of heart attack by 40%. Similarly, dogs have been shown to improve cognitive functioning in seniors with dementia, as well as persons with mental illness. Dogs also help people decrease depression and anxiety levels and mitigate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Our beloved pets not only connect us with nature, but with the forces of miraculous life and enduring love. They also connect us with one another. For people who are isolated, who are naturally introverted, or who are simply struggling, a pet can be the perfect conduit to better, stronger, vaster human connections.
And without that social connection, mind and spirit alike wither and die. In fact, studies show that loneliness is even more dangerous than obesity. So, once again, we can thank our pets for demonstrating to us the profound and inviolable need for love and relationship.
Animals don’t just heal us in mind and body through their unconditional love, but they are also among life’s wisest teachers. They educate us in patience and compassion and acceptance, to be sure.
However, they also teach some of life’s more difficult lessons, including one of the hardest, but also one of the most important, spiritual lessons many of us will ever learn: that you create what you fear. For example, studies show that people’s perceptions of certain dog breeds often elicit the kinds of behaviors that humans expect from their dogs.
Negative stereotypes of pit bulls, for example, have led to often discriminatory laws and state and local restrictions that have little or no basis in reality. There is scant evidence, for instance, to support a genetic predisposition to violence in these breeds, but humans’ expectations may well lead them to be conditioned for aggression, whether as guard dogs or, worse, illegal fighting animals.
And so we create a self-fulfilling prophecy, with these innocent beings paying the price for our human foolishness and frailties.
Another profound way your animal companion can feed your spirit is in their ability to teach you the power of compromise. For instance, if you’re planning to bring a new puppy into your family, then one of the first things you need to do is create the right environment for your fur child.
Doing means being willing to change your home and lifestyle for the health, safety, and happiness of your new little one. It also requires you to learn to see the world, literally and figuratively, from a new perspective, including taking stock of how your home might look to an innocent young pup and removing potential harms, such as electrical cords and potential toxins or choking hazards.
Bringing a new pet companion into your home and heart can also involve changing your personal habits. This can be as simple as putting away your deliciously chewable shoes at the end of the day. Or, it may be as complex as changing to a disposable brand of contact lenses and amping up your eye-care regime to reduce your risk of an allergic reaction to pet fur and dander.
Learning to integrate another being into your life in this way means learning to understand another soul’s needs and to make those needs a priority, which is perhaps the greatest spiritual lesson of all.
Loving an animal is about more than comfort and companionship. Animals are perhaps life’s greatest spiritual teachers, showing us everything we need to know about love, acceptance, and selflessness. When you welcome an animal into your life, you’re not only growing your heart’s capacity to love, but you’re also expanding and enriching your spirit in ways that you likely could never have imagined.