Creature teachers

What we can learn from the unsuspecting friends with whom we share our planet

Dog scratching wallHave you seen the manner in which a dog demonstrates his love for his master? A dog is supremely happy to meet his master every single time and makes it a point to show his love as overtly as possible—he will run around in circles, overwhelm you with warm slobbery kisses and even knock you down with his affection. He almost makes you feel like you’ve returned after winning a battle! Perhaps this enthusiastic expression of love is the reason why dogs are the most domesticated of animals.

A dog teaches us why we should not hold back our feelings when meeting and greeting the ones we love. Come to think of it, we have a great deal to learn from all animals—the so called ‘lower’ beings of our planet.

Let’s mull over a few lessons we can learn by observing our furred, feathered, crawly and wet friends.

Unconditional expression of love

When they love, animals do so unconditionally, i.e. they have no expectations from the loved one. That’s right, even the cat. She might not show it with a gregarious thumping of her tail, but her languid stride in to your lap for an indulgent afternoon nap says it all.

What’s more, when animals love, they express it unreservedly. Unlike most humans, they don’t even care about fulfillment of any demand or reciprocation of their love.

I share my home with five budgies. When one of them, Louie was sick, his best bud, Jojo would preen his feathers, lovingly regurgitate his recent meal for him and even indulge in inane chatter. And when Louie would be too sick to respond, then Jojo would simply sit by his side.

To love without expectation is difficult for us because our mind is always suspicious, assessing and calculating. But animals are lucky—they do have much ability to assess and analyse.

Lesson: Love someone for who they are and not for what they can give.

Living in the moment

Animals are not remorseful about the past or worried about the future. Since they don’t carry the baggage of imaginary worries, they are alive and alert to each moment, always in the here and now. Since every moment is new, they celebrate each one. This is, to me, the most important lesson.

Though I shared a walk with my dog, Candy, for over nine years, she would treat every walk as a whole new experience. She would bound up ahead on the road, stopping excitedly to smell all puddles, thoughtfully paw at the ground for lost bones, listen intently with a distant look in the eye and one paw lifted delicately in the air. For her, the whole world was an overwhelming conundrum of sights, sounds and smells, waiting to be explored.

But in all this excitement, she never forgot me. I still remember her happy, panting face looking back at me, as if to say, “Isn’t this world just so much fun?”

Somewhere along the way, we humans have stopped delighting in life’s simple pleasures. In a bid to reach somewhere, we have ended up leaning into the future and missing the present. As kids it was natural to us; until adults smothered us with cynicism and expectations, and we ended up growing up like them—dull, afraid and worried.

Lesson: Take a moment to smell the rain, linger over a hot coffee, wet your feet in a puddle and delight in the umpteen moments of joy at our disposal.

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