Animals from Mother to Child
Allen recently did a radio interview and had an opportunity to talk about his memoir, A Dog Named Leaf. He told the radio host about the challenging times he and Leaf went through and how they emerged as a spiritual team. Allen talked about the joy and comfort a person receives by having the unconditional love a dog.
On air, the host said she had grown up in an environment where her mother taught her to fear dogs. To this day, she would be too afraid to have a dog as a pet. She added that without knowing better, she had instilled that same fear in her ten-year-old son.
The host said, “My son and I are going to start volunteering a couple hours each week at our local animal shelters. That way, we’ll get accustomed to and less afraid of being around all kinds of dogs. We can experience firsthand their different characters and doggy personalities.”
She closed the interview by expressing hope that one fine day, she might find a dog at a shelter to bring home. Allen felt satisfaction that this host and hopefully her listeners had taken a step toward replacing fear with love for dogs and other animals. And what a treat to have this mom decide to take positive steps for overcoming the fears that had been passed on to her from previous generations.
From Mother to Sister to Sister
We received an interesting story that illustrates another aspect of the bond between women and animals. Nancy Robison lives in Long Island, New York. Her story was published on November 24, 2013 in “Angel Animals Story of the Week” newsletter. Nancy wrote that the veterinarian who had cared for her mother’s dog called and asked if Nancy would be willing to foster a dog while she was home from college.
Nancy writes about her first encounter with Sam. “He was a three-month-old puppy who had been badly abused and then thrown from a car. A kind person had brought him into this vet’s office. He was terrified of everything and everyone. He hid under a chair in a corner and trembled. I took one look at this injured, scared pup and knew I had to help him. I sat on the floor for an hour and talked to him, until he finally came out of the corner and planted himself in my lap. From that moment on, Sam was mine, and I was his. That day, I promised that nobody would ever hurt him again.
“I had Sam for 13 years. He was the stabilizing force in a chaotic college life. He prepared me for my teaching career by showing me how to overcome fear with love. Even though the children I taught had been physically or emotionally abused or neglected, Sam had shown me that with patience and love, traumas like those he and my students had suffered could be overcome.”
Sam lived a happy life with Nancy for 11 years but then developed a form of kidney disease for which there were no treatments available at the time. Sam wasn’t in pain but would need special care. The vet said, “Your love for Sam is the only thing keeping him alive.” Nancy gave Sam daily saline shots in hopes his kidneys would heal themselves. Sam lived another one-and-a-half years without pain.
Toward the end of his life, he started whimpering, became sleepless, stopped playing and eating, and wanted to constantly be petted and held. Nancy says, “At that point, I felt like he was asking for permission to die. With a heavy heart, I gave it to him. I truly believe that on some level he understood me. That night, he curled up in my lap, went to sleep, and never woke up.”
Afterwards, Nancy felt bothered by what she called a “moral issue.” If Sam had stayed alive out of love for her, had she been wrong to tell him it was okay to die? For years she spoke with rabbis, priests, and counselors about her feelings of guilt. But then something happened that brought her experience with Sam full circle.
“Many years later, my sister Susan was fighting cancer. She had endured one treatment after another for five years. She would go into remission and then a few months later, the cancer would return. Each time, the treatments made her sicker and took more out of her. She was in constant pain; even morphine provided little relief. In the fifth year of her battle, Susan told me that she was tired of fighting and being in pain. My sister was ready to let go and not afraid of dying. She was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to manage without her and was worried about her children.
“Susan was essentially doing the same thing Sam had done — asking me for permission to die and to be released from pain. How could I do less for her than I had for Sam? I told her, as I had told him, ‘I love you and don’t want to lose you. But I would rather lose you than have you go through so much pain.’ My sister didn’t do her last treatment and died just two months later. Sam had prepared me to accept her death without getting angry with God or anyone else. He taught me to be thankful for the time I had with Susan.
“I believe that Sam and my sister are in heaven. I believe all creatures are put into our lives to help and teach us. Sam was my greatest teacher. I believe I will someday be reunited with him.”
From woman to woman, mother to child, sister to sister, the human-animal spiritual connection is unbreakable, even beyond this world.
The connection is love. And love never dies.
Allen and Linda Anderson are co-founders of Angel Animals Network and authors of a series of books about the spiritual connection between people and animals. www.angelanimals.net. Their book “Dogs and the Women Who Love Them” was named on an Oprah website article as one of the top 16 books of 2010. It is available in paperback, e-book, and Audible Audio editions.