July Lessons from Animals

Last month was tough. I was sweating at 6:00 am as I fed horses, wishing July would go away. Miserably hot – dog walking, farm chores and other things we usually enjoy in our pet and farm sitting business seemed like chores in the heat; Murphy’s Law at every turn made it worse. And, to top it off, several beloved client dogs, who were like family, transitioned; as did quite a few elderly and sick animals at a farm sanctuary where I volunteer Reiki. A sad, hot month was my thought.

Amid my pity party, I decided I should probably focus on the positives. Hmmmm…what exactly are those? July in South Carolina is wicked hot. As I struggled to come up with one positive about July, I shifted to lessons learned. I realized I learned so much from animals in July, those who transitioned, and those living whom I am blessed to call friends and teachers.

First to leave us was Harvey, the stoic, people loving, retired police horse. He served the City of Columbia Police Department with honor for many years. Always up for a pet or snuggle, he was the perfect public relations officer; but when called upon for crowd control, he was all business and demanded respect. In retirement, he enjoyed carrots, hanging out with his buddies and his friend, Lily the cow. He was called out of retirement to participate in my grandfather’s funeral and the old gentleman stood with dignity and respect through the service. Harvey exemplified “do your work honestly”. Near the end of his days, though still healthy and thriving, Harvey began to spend more time alone, apart from his buddies. He went on his own terms, peacefully in the night. He died as he lived, humbly and on his own terms.

There was the sweet, humble, kind Corgi who was always in the background of his more exuberant canine family. Quietly doing his own thing, never demanding attention but always grateful to be noticed and loved. Though never the center of attention, he shined his light so brightly he brought joy to all who knew and loved him. Even through his illness and transitioning, his kind gentle soul shined, and he always made me smile. We should all be like that Corgi – humble, kind and a bright light for others.

Then, the yellow dog who holds a special place in my heart. Full of joy, playful, loving and a lot naughty. Playing in water sprinklers, climbing fences, raiding the pantry, stealing cat food, escaping and running off on adventures…in trouble often and didn’t care. His last escape ended in heartbreak. During a tearful meditation for his peaceful transition, I heard a clear message from him – do what makes you happy, no matter what. Don’t let worry keep you from having fun. I thought about his life. As many times as he got into trouble, he was always happy, and he always did what he wanted. Something to be said for that.

From the sanctuary animals, some living and some in spirit now, I am reminded to let go and live in the present. Many of the animals came from horrible situations. Yet, when you meet them, you see happy, content beings, grateful for a cookie or a scratch. What happened in the past does not mar their present. No anger about the past, no worry about the future, just happy in the moment.

From the pigs at the sanctuary, I discovered I really do like pigs…a lot. I thought I did not much care for them. But, after spending time with these amazing pigs, several who have transitioned, I learned they are bright, smart, social, loving animals. They grieve the loss of family, human and animal; and they easily bond with other animals. The deeper lesson here, of course, is don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t succumb to stereotypical opinions, and to give second chances. You might just be surprised!

The beautiful, independent Sharpei mix who recently lost an eye to glaucoma and is losing sight in another, reminds me: you can’t let your problems weigh you down, be grateful for what you have and don’t let troubles deter you from following your calling. She still happily patrols the farm, retrieving fly masks and boots lost by horses, tries to rescue kittens and plays with her brothers. She hangs a little closer for security some days and I always feel huge gratitude and love from her when I give her hug for reassurance.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the two delightful “old ladies” we take on midday walks. From them, I am reminded naps, treats and a routine are good things and don’t let anyone take them from you. These two are in their golden years and sleep a lot. When we wake them for their walks, they take their time, stretching and yawning, before meandering to the door. Out the door, a nice roll in the grass before getting on with business. Both girls have a little routine and I dare not ask them to deviate! They will just give me the “look”. Once they are done, a quick nap in the sun, back to the house and a treat, please. Naps, routines and treats are all part of good self-care; we humans often neglect these things.

As I write this, I am thinking of so many other gifts and lessons I received from my animal friends in July. Those are stories for another day. The animals have so much to teach us if we just listen and pay attention.

Forever in gratitude to my animal friends and teachers.


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