Are you one of those people for whom the day wouldn’t be quite right without discovering a little pet hair on your clothing when you get to work? Does the pitter-patter of little feet continue even after the kids have gone off to college? Do you swear you’re not going to get another pet, only to have one show up on your doorstep?
The human race’s affinity for animals is widespread and spans the centuries. What most likely started out as a mutually beneficial relationship has evolved over the centuries. Ancient Romans kept dogs and birds, as well as cats and horses, although they were likely working animals. 7th century Buddhist Monks raised goldfish in ponds and by the 14th century the Chinese were keeping them in bowls as pets. By the mid-1800’s, as middle class society emerged, more people had the time and the money to keep animals purely as pets.1
According to the 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 62% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 72.9 million homes, with more than 70 million dogs and more than 80 million cats among the mix. Of course, there are some limits to pet “ownership” like home size, practicality and legal considerations. You’re not likely to find a Siberian Tiger napping on your bed (unless you’re Siegfried or Roy) or a dolphin in your swimming pool. Many of us have that little bit of fantasy in the back of our minds that we could somehow surround ourselves with all of the animals we have an affinity for.
There are a lot of historical, social and psychological reasons for our connection to animals, but the purpose here is to get you to look a little bit differently at your connection to specific creatures and what it might mean. What can we learn about ourselves from it? For reasons that are on the spiritual side to some, and probably more on the psychological side to others, it is possible to discover a little bit more about ourselves and maybe about our path in life from these beings we are drawn to.
Start by just thinking about what particular animal you are MOST attracted to or have the strongest connection with. It doesn’t have to be a domestic animal, though that is certainly allowed. What’s your favorite animal; dog, a cat, fox, deer, dolphin, elephant, caribou? Get yourself a piece of paper, or open up a text document on your computer and write or type the name of the animal.
Now without thinking too hard about it, start writing down words or traits that you associate with that animal. Just whatever short bits come quickly to mind; like strength, wisdom, speed, leadership, power or that sort of thing. Think about how these traits might apply to you and your life. Do you have more strength than you give yourself credit for? Do others rely on your for your wisdom and leadership? Often the qualities of the animals we are attracted to are qualities reflected in ourselves.
In a time of difficulty or struggle, think about this animal and the qualities that you admire. You might even get a little crazy and imagine yourself AS that animal and feel those qualities in yourself. Find in yourself the strength of a horse to power your way through a difficult task, or the cleverness of a fox to quickly think your way out of a tricky situation.
During a meditation or other quiet moment, visualize yourself in your favorite place in nature. Imagine that your animal appears to you and you are able to have a conversation with it. Ask what messages they may have for you, or simply chat with the being and find out what it has to say.
You can go even further into exploring yourself and your life by looking deeper into the meaning, mythology and lore of your chosen animal. Research Native American mythology and learn about the crow’s connection to sacred law or the wolf as a teacher. What did cats represent to the ancient Egyptians? What element or god is it associated with? How does it all relate to where you are in your life and where you’re heading? Or where you’ve been? You might be surprised!
Lastly, you take a look at other animals that might be associated with this animal. Cats and mice? Dogs and cats? What does your animal eat if left to its own devices? What might eat your animal? Look for the interrelationships there and what those animals might mean to you in correlation with yours. How does it relate to you and your life? Are you a dog person who has a pesky cat annoying you somewhere in your life? What is the solution to that? (And no, it is NOT eat them!)
Sometimes when we find ourselves stuck in a rut in life, a little self-reflection can be a good thing. Perhaps many things could be substituted for an animal and work in the same way, but given our natural affinity for them, it may simply come more naturally to work with an animal as a reference. Many cultures place faith the in power of totem animals or animal guides and guardians. Maybe the solution to some of modern society’s angst can be found in some old wisdom and an open mind.