Animals as Teachers

by Bernie Siegel, MD

The following is from a discussion I had with our beloved pet house bunny Smudge.

After I told Smudge we needed another article for the web site she looked at me with that deep penetrating look and said, “We need to help people deal with the death of their beloved pets. I keep seeing articles in all the pet magazines about how to deal with the loss of your pet. They don’t use the word death they talk about loss, passing, failed health, gone to pet heaven and can’t seem to face the fact that the animal died. They are as bad as most health care professionals. If I weren’t here to teach you I don’t know where you’d be.”

“I don’t deny that you have been a teacher for me and helped me deal with loss and grief and turn the charcoal, under pressure, into a diamond.”

“People need to understand why pets have shorter lives to begin with. You know our Creator has a reason for everything.”

“Smudge, you mean to tell me there’s a reason people have longer lives than animals?”

“Yup. You know that list you read when you lecture about starting the day without caffeine or pep pills, eating the same food every day and not complaining, facing the world without lies and deceit, not judging people by their race, accepting criticism and blame without resentment, not judging a rich person as better than a poor person, conquering tension without medical help and it ends with, and if you can then you’re almost as good as your dog.”

“Well that’s why animals don’t need as much time. We are complete and understand about love, kindness, forgiveness, how to survive life’s difficulties, turn curses into blessings and do what we were born to do. We can die with a smile because we understand all that. How many people do you know who die laughing?”

“Truth is Smudge, except for the pets and people in our family; I don’t know many who do die that way. I guess Lassie is a model in life and death for us all.”

“People have to realize what animals already know. The only thing of permanence is love. Sooner or later our bodies will perish at any rate but if they perish without love of what use will they have been? We need to express and serve out of love and then we can die with a smile knowing we have done what we were sent here to do and it has nothing to do with how much time one is on this planet.”

“I think life and death are both parts of a circle. And though people fear death I am not sure it is the worst outcome. When we are free of our bodies we are perfect again and free of afflictions.”

“You got it Doctor Bernie. The Noah story explains it all.”

“What do you mean?”

“Haven’t you ever wondered why Noah didn’t bargain with God to save more people and animals? He never asked for his neighbor’s and their sweet Labrador to be allowed on his ark in addition to what God told him he should take.”

“I never stopped to think about that. Why do you think he didn’t try to sneak a few others onto the ark?”

“Because, just like I said, death is not the worst outcome. Life is difficult. Who got left with a boat full of animal poop? Noah did. All the rest got a chance to be free of their afflictions and start again a lot wiser than before. So life is a school and each time we experience it I hope we move up a grade and become more creative and loving.”

“Wow so you think we keep coming back?”

“Yes, I but I don’t think I know our consciousness is passed on to those who follow us but let me add this. When your beloved pet dies don’t go looking for him or her to be reincarnated for your sake. This is not about replacing what you lost but taking in a new family member and giving them a full and unique life. Don’t keep naming future pets after the one you have lost. Make them authentic.”

“I have learned from you not to call our three legged dog tripod and make his deformity what is important about him.”

“Right and when Furphy was attacked and lost an eye you didn’t get him an eye patch and change his name to Captain Hook.”

“Boy Smudge we have covered a lot of stuff that people rarely want to look at. Any final words of advice?”

“Just that if you want to be immortal share your love. Love is the bridge between the land of the living and the land of the dead. And our consciousness never ends though our bodies do. So be aware your loved ones are still around you because once you leave your body time no longer exists and they can share the journey but in another form and way. You’ll believe it all when you experience it and we all will someday. Now let’s not waste our life time and go out and play until next month’s article is due.”

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