“Until a person has loved an animal a part of the soul remains unawakened.” ~ Anatole France
People who love animals know that there are many very good reasons to have animals in your life.
Love and Presence
Animals who have been loved love back in a pure and profound way – a way that awakens a part of your soul like nothing else can. When my puppy greets me after I’ve been gone a short time, I am overwhelmed with his wiggles and kisses! When I walk into our barn to feed the horses and my horse Stryder whinnies to me, my heart melts. No walls, no manipulations. Just pure love. How can that not awaken a deep part of the soul?
Having this aspect of your soul awakened is just one aspect of why having animals in your life is profound. I recently finished a great book called Zen Mind, Zen Horse, by Allan J. Hamilton, MD. Dr. Hamilton is a renowned brain surgeon, as well as a renowned horse trainer. He uses his experience with his horses as his spiritual path. Horses help us to learn to be fully present, not only because they are fully present, but because they react negatively when we are in our head rather than in our heart. “The quiet, gentle way of the horse encourages us to hear the music that follows after we learn to silence our ego’s voice.”
“The horse brings us its uncanny ability to peel our egos back, to strip the layers away like an onion, until we find ourselves awkwardly naked and vulnerable. But the horse also shows us the joy that comes from living with the bare truth of our selves. What a gift that is.” P. 287
In her excellent book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome,” Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride states that one of the top ten influences that boost health and immunity is “Contact with animals: horses, dogs, etc.”
We don’t generally think of having animals as a way of boosting immunity, but I can tell you from personal experience that they do. Animals help our immune system by exposing us to microbes that support our health.
In her talk, “Live Dirty, Eat Clean! Why The Microbiome Is The Future Of Medicine” ( http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14368/live-dirty-eat-clean-why-the-microbiome-is-the-future-of-medicine-dr-robynne.html ), Integrative Gastroenterologist Dr. Robynne Chutkan, author of Gutbliss, talks about the importance of being exposed to dirt. Dirt is full of beneficial microbes and so are animals. It turns out that our preoccupation with cleanliness, such as showering every day, is harming our health!
There are good reasons that dogs and some other animals, such as miniature horses, are used therapeutically. Many dogs and horses, and some cats and other small animals, are very sensitive to our emotions. When they feel us hurting, they sweetly and gently come to comfort us. Many times when I’ve been sad our golden retriever, Merlin, has come and curled up next to me to give me his love and comfort. I find wrapping my arms around his big body and nuzzling in his soft coat to be very comforting and healing.
There is something about horses that I also find comforting and emotionally regulating. Many times, when I feel my body disregulated for some reason, I go to the barn and lean against Stryder’s big body, burying my face in his coat and smelling his wonderful horse smell. Immediately, I feel my whole body relax and regulate to his steady breathing. He stands perfectly still when I do this, knowing that I need his calmness and steadiness at that moment. Once I’ve breathed in his healing energy, I come around to his face and he gives me a big wet kiss!
What could be better than all that love!