What Have You Learned from Your “Pets?”

I’m a connoisseur of fine quotes. Here are some choice words about the “pets” in our lives.

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.Anatole France

Without a word, my dog taught me the meaning of love.Leila Grandemange

I’ve come to appreciate how animals enter our lives prepared to teach, and far from being burdened by an inability to speak, they have many different ways to communicate. It is up to us to listen more than hear.Nick Trout

I have needed more than my share of teachers, so I try to hear the creatures in our family’s menagerie. We have two dogs, a cat, fish, lizards, snakes, frogs, toads, a tarantula. We call them “pets,” but that’s a weak word. Webster’s defines it as “a domesticated animal kept for pleasure rather than utility.” I surely agree with “pleasure,” but our “pets” have a definite utility. They are guides to important lessons.

If you are reading this post, I invite you to share what you have learned from your own family members of another species. Here are a few examples from ours.


Be fiercely loyal! We found Remy (pictured here, now deceased), a Blue Heeler, at a roadside stand in Mineral Wells, Texas. After a few months, something became very clear. My wife, Donna, was his human. He tolerated me, but his fierce devotion was to her. If he was lying near her and I approached, he would give a low, throaty growl. He never got aggressive. I was in his circle of trust. His message was simply, “You may be the Alpha dog, but I will do anything necessary to protect this woman.” It annoyed me sometimes, but it also caused me to ask a question. Do I have fierce loyalties that are more important than my own life?

Stop and enjoy the belly-rub! We’ve all heard that “dogs have owners, cats have staff.” Yes, cats can seem aloof and imperious, but I have found a bond with them that runs deep. Our current feline, Ryder, often comes to my room in the early morning, jumps on the bed, then waits for a belly rub. Sometimes, I have other things on my mind, preoccupations with my daily schedule. Then Ryder rolls over, exposes his belly and waits. As I begin to stroke his soft fur, his paws curl and uncurl. This is a version of “stop and smell the roses,” and it centers me in the present.

Do your homework! Imagine my chagrin when I woke up one morning to find my beautiful Zebra Tarantula lying on her back. I thought she was dead A little panicky, I reached in and flipped her over, but she was still sluggish. I called my favorite exotic pet store and told the guy what I had done. “Oh no!” he exclaimed, “she’s just molting. If you move her it can be harmful, even fatal.” My only recourse was to turn her upside down again and pray for the best. Thankfully, she emerged hours later like a butterfly from her chrysalis. My lesson: do your homework when caring for another living creature! Too many animals have been neglected, harmed, or abandoned due to ignorance about the full responsibility of their husbandry.

I could offer other lessons, but I want to hear from you. You can respond here on WordPress or (preferably) under this post on my Facebook page.

Enjoy the animals in your lives! They are clever teachers in disguise.

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