Interspecies Friendships: How Can Pets Facilitate Wholistic Wellbeing?
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
- Mahatma Gandhi
There seems to be an endless number of groups on Facebook dedicated to praising and fawning over cute pets, from chunky cats and fluffy bunnies to puppies in hilarious predicaments. What is it about pets that fills us with such wholesome joy and adoration? The purity of the love I’ve personally felt for pets is, naturally, different to that I feel for human beings. There’s something unconditional about it, like the love you have for your family or your closest friends, but beyond that, there’s something else. Something more.
A dear friend once said, after the traumatic breakup of her marriage, “if you are single and sad, get a dog. They are easy to keep happy and if your dog is happy then you are happy.” Myself a dog lover and owner, I have experienced first-hand the joy they bring to their masters.
With a dog (as with all pets), there is no verbal language (well, bar parrots), no past or future tense, pluperfect, or subjunctive: everything happens in the present moment. There is also no verbal communication: a dog wags its tail, then looks at you expectantly asking for food, or it curls by the fire. A cat purrs, stretches, or rubs its body against us. These are all immediate sensorial forms of communication that increase our somatic awareness, our awareness of the now – just as many Wholistic Wellbeing activities teach us. In fact, looking after a pet and spending time with a domestic animal is a Wholistic Wellbeing activity in itself.
Pets simplify things. They can take you outside of yourself and prevent you from worrying unnecessarily. Energy flows where attention goes and if your attention flows into keeping that pet happy, you shift your attention to contentment, playfulness and joy. You may then find creative solutions to your problems.
They say a pet reflects the character of its owner. Are you a dog person or a cat person? Choose the pet that reflects your character.
Unless it has an immediate need, a pet never expects you to be other than you are. It’s also immediately happy with whatever you want to do. At times your furry friend will also look after itself and let you get on with what you need to do.
A pet, whether it be a dog, cat, or crocodile, will never get lost in a mobile phone conversation. This may sound silly, but just think about it … how much time do you think you are spending with friends, lovers, or family, when their attention turns out to actually be elsewhere? That will never happen with a pet.
An attribute of beginning your own Wholistic Wellbeing journey is that you are on your own, making many changes in your life, whether it’s the way you arrange your living space, how you behave, and the people you spend time with. Loneliness and self-confidence may be a problem, yet a pet will never question or undermine you and may well be your greatest friend during those times when you feel most fragile and unsure.
Look after and show love to your friend from another species and their loyalty and companionship will help you through hard times and remain with you as you grow. Pets are our friends, and interspecies friendships are part of being human.
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