It’s coming up to the 16 year anniversary that I had to help my first animal pal, Pookie, transition. Of course, back in 2000, the euphemism I used was “put Pookie down”, I didn’t yet understand about transitions.
She came to me when I was 40+ years old, my first ever animal pal (back then, I used the word “pet”). I had some friends who were moving and asked me to keep her for the weekend. I said yes, and that night, in my apartment, Pookie put her paw on my leg and claimed me. She was not mine, I was hers.
Pooks was my first animal teacher, instructing me about the animal-human relationship from an animal’s point of view. She was a master from the school “just because you’re the human doesn’t unilaterally make you right”.
Lessons From A Cat
I remember taking Pookie to her first vet appointment. I’d never had to deal with a vet before, so simply choosing a vet was a Herculean task. I finally caved and simply took her to the vet nearest our house.
Descending into Dante’s Circles of Hell is probably an easier trip than it was taking Pooks for that first check up. On the less than 5 minute car trip, I learned cats do not like to travel in cars and can be very loud and unrelenting. I learned it is not wise to put my hand in a box with a distraught cat.
At that first memorable vet trip, Pookie earned the title of ‘dangerous cat’ and forever had a red sticker on her chart. I couldn’t help but wonder if I had adopted a hell cat.
Now I realize she didn’t deserve that branding of dangerous or hell cat. She was simply a sentient being who was angered by the inconsiderate, degrading behaviors the humans were showing her. Pookie had the spit and spirit to demand humans respect her as an equal, just different, being. Almost two decades after the fact, I realize Pookie had the courage to mirror back to humans our behaviors, how inconsiderate we were of her, how, by our natural inclination towards entitlement over animals, we demeaned and devalued her.
Pooks refused to put up with that crap. Can you blame her?
The Lessons Continue
Thanks to my beloved Angel Pookie, this post took a left turn and ended up being something entirely different from what I had planned. I was going to talk about grieving our animal pals, how to cope with grief, what it’s like to be the one left behind. Angel Pookie, ever the master teacher, obviously had something different in mind and needed my help in having her say.
As I was writing this post, I was able to witness how far I’ve come with the animal-human relationship lessons Pookie taught me. My languaging around animals is different, including them as allies and sentient souls. I no longer think in terms of owner/pet, which creates a divisive, hierarchal relationship. I fully realize that while we are in relationship with animals, we are also different species, and it behooves me to learn as much about the different species as possible.
I’ve learned to seek out the best professionals I can for my animal pals, those who are of the same mind set I am when it comes to our dealings and relationship with animals. This perhaps doesn’t mean they will do things *exactly* as I would want them done, but it does mean we are definitely on the same page when it comes to caring for animals.
I’ve learned from Pookie that just because I think I’ve accomplished one of her lessons, it doesn’t mean I can let it go. I need to keep the importance of the animal-human relationship in the forefront of my mind and continually monitor how I’m doing. I’m only human after all, so it can be pretty darn natural for me to go to that “hell cat” mode of thinking at the drop of a hat.
I invite you to do the same. Be aware of your thoughts and actions as you are around animals. Don’t worry, the animals will help you be aware of this. Watch their actions and their body language as you interact with them. Are they relaxed? Confident? Scared? Uncertain? Their action is a clue to how you are consciously or unconsciously treating them. Then don’t judge yourself. If you need to change what you’re doing, change. If you don’t need to change what you’re doing, don’t.
May you be so lucky and blessed to have a Pookie-like animal in your life.
Here’s to New Beginnings,