Last weekend we headed up to our cabin in Wisconsin for the weekend. As usual, Penelope, our Shih Tzu/rescued mill dog, sat on my lap in the front seat while Thorp and Jack slept peacefully in the back. Penelope gets shotgun because she gets car sick. We have found that letting her sit in the front seat with the A/C blowing on her alleviates it. Secretly, I think she is over the carsick thing, but I can’t imagine not having her sit on my lap.
So, she was sitting on my lap and for whatever reason, I just looked down at her and held her tight. I often find myself re-living her puppy-mill past and reaching towards her to make myself feel better. As I held her close, I had this spontaneous thought, “What if not all humans are given the heart to love animals like I have? What if they really do not feel the way I do about dogs? What if, when they look at a dog, they only see a furry animal and not a loving soul?”
It is unfathomable at first, but maybe it is possible. Why else could it be so hard to save them all? If everyone felt like I do, surely things would be different by now.
As I let my hand softly stroke Penelope’s coat and watched her rhythmic breathing, I paid close attention to that feeling I have in my heart. That feeling that makes me feel whole when I hold my dog close. That feeling that makes my soul feel at peace. When I hold an animal, all is right with the world. I feel connected and loved and in the moment.
Could it be that not everyone has had the same experience with animals? Are there people who don’t feel that connectedness? People who don’t feel that warmth in their hearts when they pet a dog?
For the first time in my life, I felt sadness for people like that. All of the puppy-millers, the abusers, the neglecters… was that why they chose to be so awful to dogs? Were they really not given the gift of connecting to animals on such a higher level? Did they really not ever have “that” moment with a pet?
How very sad.
I can never excuse their actions nor stop condemning them for their behaviors. I will never cease advocating for animals and expecting better treatment for them. However, to begin to acknowledge or at least theorize that there are people who don’t spiritually connect to animals like I do, allows me to better understand the world and why it is taking so long to make things better for the animals.
It also reminds me how fortunate I am. Sure there are days when being so connected to an animal hurts, but the benefits of loving an animal so selflessly, of feeling so unconditionally loved back. I cannot imagine my life without those feelings in it.
I have never just seen a dog. I have always felt a soul looking back at me.