What Animals Can Teach Us

     Yesterday, my cat, Johnny Bear, got outside. Now, he is an indoor cat and has been his entire one year of life. He went out of my apartment door, down half a flight of steps, through the posts on a railing, and out onto a slanted, black metal roof. Have you ever heard a cat scream in terror and pain? It is an awful sound. And I keep reliving that moment over and over again. My poor cat was basically stuck in a rain gutter and then trying to climb up a hot metal roof. He tried twice, and that’s when I ran inside to get a blanket. What I was going to do with that blanket hadn’t been figured out yet, but it seemed like a reasonable action at the time. When I ran back outside, he was gone!

     Don’t worry, he somehow managed to get off the roof and was trying to get in a neighbor’s apartment on the floor below me. When I finally brought him inside, he was still making some horrible sounds. I felt terrible! He didn’t want me to even look at his paws. But they were different variations of red, wrinkled, and blistered.

     The point of me sharing this horrible event is that I think I was more emotionally damaged than my cat. He is usually very active, but he spent most of the day sleeping. He did get up a few times to eat, so I have to believe he is feeling ok despite what happened, and that he is in pain. Me on the other hand. I was anxious and wanted to cry all day. I kept wanting to cuddle with him, but he couldn’t care less about cuddling, he just wanted to do his own cat things.

     One time, I cut my dog’s nail too short and she started bleeding. I had the same reaction then too. What I’ve learned from both of these occasions, after much sulking and feeling sorry for my pets, is that they aren’t mad or sad or emotionally hurt. They understand that what happened was an accident, and they forgive and let it go.

     I think we can learn a lot from this animal trait. I believe it has something to do with how animals just live in the moment. If they feel hungry, they eat; if they feel tired, they sleep. If they are stuck on a roof, they try to get to a place of safety. When their paws are blistered, they lick them and get the dead skin off. They aren’t mad at themselves or anyone else. They just deal with the situation in front of them. When that is dealt with, they move on to the next thing.

     My animals have the best life. They get to sleep whenever they want, which is usually most of the time. They always have food available. They get to exercise and play. Sometimes though, they have to stay home alone for an extended period of time. They have to get bloodwork done and teeth cleanings at the vet’s office, and believe me, my animals believe the vet’s office is the worst place in the entire world!  But when we get home, everything is fine again. We go on our walks and watch tv and play, and the world is great again.

     So why do I spend so much of my day thinking about the past and what I could’ve or should’ve done differently? Why do I worry about the future so much? When I spend all of my time worrying or ruminating, I can’t enjoy today for what it is. I might miss out on an experience that would make me happy.  What if Johnny Bear might cuddle with me, but I miss that moment because I’m so stressed and he doesn’t want to bother with me?

     From today on out, I’m going to try to be more like my animals. I’m going to try to forgive myself for anything I am anxious about. I’m going to try to forgive other people since I can’t control what they do. I’m going to forgive my dog, Jodi, when she goes in the garbage and trails it all over my apartment. I’m going to forgive Johnny Bear for waking me up at 4 am because he wants some attention. After I forgive, I’m going to make myself present for focusing on what needs to be done next. I will do things that make me happy, help others any way I can, give Johnny Bear the attention he wants, and clean up the trash and play with Jodi. After I do that, who knows! I’ll just do what I need to do to make myself feel satisfied with life. I’m curious to see what happens.

Melissa Rafalko

Her dream job is to be a princess, but for now, she sticks with being a scientist who has a big imagination. Melissa is from Scranton, Pennsylvania and currently calls Nashville, Tennessee her home. Her family is her life. She loves her dog, Jodi, and her cat, Johnny Bear. Oh, and she is reading the Harry Potter books for the first time, and she thinks they are amazing!

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