Comfort for Critters

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Lessons from our Pets - Part 1!

As I tell my kids all the time, life is all about learning. Learning what works, learning what to never, ever do again. We learn a bit from our success, but far more from our painful failures. Maybe it just helps me deal with the wrinkles and expanding waistline, but I consider myself far wiser with each birthday.

I also believe that our companion animals teach us far more than even the best trained dog has learned from us. They teach us the important stuff, which on our deathbed we’ll find comfort in knowing. Okay, out of the morose and into some fun.

This is my humble list of what I’ve learned from my various and varied pets, over these many years. Maybe you’ll see some familiar themes, or maybe even see another reason why cleaning up all that poop, is indeed worth it. If you don’t have a pet…I offer these as some reasons to adopt one!


The importance of caring for something that gives nothing in return, is exactly what my son’s snake “Monty” taught me (and yes, it’s a python). Though I love all God’s creatures, snakes are truly not the most cuddly. You can feed, stroke and care for a snake, but they will never so much as slink over to your side of their enclosure, when you enter the room. They just won’t. Accepting that fact, yet still cleaning their cage after an especially large meal of rat, takes a higher level of caring (and a strong stomach).

It’s also a principle that is the focus of my faith. If you only love your friends, big deal. Love your enemies and that will be something that turns heads. If you only give to those who can pay you back, who cares? Try giving to those who could never repay you and your reward will be waiting in Heaven. I try to remember that with each visit to Monty.

I believe all our pets teach us this principle to some extent. Though they give us a ton of love and comfort, materially it’s a one-way deal. So spending our money, and more importantly our time, on these “critters” builds our character, our compassion and our caring. For me, it makes it that much easier to apply this to my all-important “fellow man” (or woman).


Coaxing a cat into their carrier for a vet trip, or waiting for a dog to find that perfect spot to poop, simply cannot be rushed. As a matter of fact, rushing the process will only cost you time in the end. Some things in life just require one to stop, take a deep breath, and trust that it will happen (eventually). All the planning and manipulation in the world will not speed things up. Believe me, I’ve tried.

All my pets have fertilized the miniscule amount of patience I was born with, more so than even my kids. Pets really cannot be reasoned with or cajoled. They live on their own timeline, not mine. Pets are just different enough that we have to trust that there’s a reason when they don’t seem to like someone, or when we find them staring up into the corner of the room.  It’s just best that they’re not disturbed.

I’ve internalized this principle and reduced my stress level considerably. Whether I’m waiting for my sons’ grades to improve or that job offer to come through, patience is sometimes the secret sauce. I can do my part (just as I put on the leash and lead my dog to the grass), but at some point it’s out of my control. For me, that’s freeing.

In the end, I think this is a good thing. The universe needs to unfold as it should, not as I insist and when I demand. Learning to be patient with the pets we love, leads to patience with the humans we love and then (the highest calling of all) patience with those which insist on testing it each day!

I have a few more thoughts, and a few more lessons to share. Stay tuned for the next blog….

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