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Is Your Animal Living Its Purpose, Or Yours?

by Amy Painter

Some decades ago, shortly after moving to Northern California, I arrived at the Department of Motor Vehicles to apply for a new driver’s license and plates. Because the state required a test to demonstrate my knowledge of its unique rules of the road, I dreaded the experience more than usual. So, imagine my surprise when I pulled up to what looked more like a surf shack than a governmental institution, and opened the door to see an enormous yellow tabby cat on the counter. This official DMV greeter winked at me before yawning and sauntering off to enjoy a lengthy afternoon siesta atop the office’s Xerox machine.

Her love for this particular apparatus was so great that she earned the name Copy Cat. This most cherished "functional recliner,” was her primary domicile. During her hours of repose, Copy Cat thwarted personnel who required the copier for well, copying, and I remember thinking to myself that this clever feline had found a “career” that not only matched her temperament and level of ambition, but one that allowed her to be unapologetically herself. Watching the human staff navigate around Copy Cat so as not to disturb her nap time was easily the best DMV experience of my life.

I have met many animals who also have highly unique missions. There was the bearded dragon who was a channel for some of the most beautiful, enlightened teachings I have ever encountered. Mateo, a magnificent Tennessee Walker I fell instantly in love with, taught me much about horse wisdom, and showed me his unique ability to work multidimensionally to assist other beings. There are many cats who pride themselves on removing spirits and dark energies from their homes and yards to protect their families, or who use their voices (purrs) to heal their humans’ anxiety and illness. (Researchers have discovered that the frequency of the purr, between 25 and 150 Hz, is ideal for stimulating bone growth and mending.) And, I’ve met donkeys whose clever and mischievous pranks brought much needed levity to their homes, reminding everyone that we all need a good laugh every day, and that play can be the best medicine.

Without a doubt, our furry, feathered, and reptilian companions inhabit so many roles in our lives: friends, family, caretakers, healers, teachers, protectors, guides…. Their selflessness, mutability, and multifaceted natures make it easy to lose sight of the fact that like us, they also arrive on the earth plane with their own unique soul mission(s), their own purpose.

Part of our sacred role as their stewards and guardians is to help identify their mission (as well as our own), and to support them in realizing that mission. I would argue that while a part of their purpose may be to offer loving support to humans, they also have their own drivers, and their own unique needs and desires that yearn to be expressed.

I will write more about this topic because there is much to say. What I know for sure is that when we empower our beloved animals to explore their innate passions, we begin to offer them a fraction of what they so generously give to us. We empower them to be who they are without catering to our needs. We allow them to be free, sovereign, and true to themselves.

This might look like taking your high energy dog to agility classes so he can explore his desire to run, jump, and challenge his active mind. It might mean play dates for your animal to enjoy time with other like beings. It might mean learning how to cultivate your animal’s unique skills and capabilities so they can reacquaint themselves with the wisdom and natural abilities inherent to their breed or breeds in the case of mixed breed animals.

The wonderful and wise David Attenborough speaks to this, albeit with a different spin, with such poignancy. His message, shared below, like my own, is that our animals are not just here as “pets” to provide us joy and companionship. They are so much more. 

Our lives, and their own, are greatly enhanced when we honor them for who and what they are, when we allow them to follow their instincts in safe ways, and when we support the needs and skill sets inherent to their bloodlines, and central to their reason for being. This, I am convinced, is what gives them not just joie de vivre, but keeps them strong, healthy, and fulfilled.

So, I will leave you with this thoughtful piece to reflect on how we can honor our animals (dogs in this case) for who and what they are as a starting point in building deeper, healthier, more meaningful, and mutually respectful relationships.

I am a 21st century dog.

-I'm a Malinois.

Overskilled among dogs, I excel in all disciplines and I'm always ready to work: I NEED to work.

But nowadays I get asked to chill on the couch all day everyday.

-I am an Akita Inu.

My ancestors were selected for fighting bears.

Today I get asked to be tolerant and I get scolded for my reactivity when another approaches me.

-I am a Beagle.

When I chase my prey, I raise my voice so the hunters could follow.

Today they put an electric collar on me to shut up, and you make me come back to you - no running - with a snap of your fingers.

-I am a Yorkshire Terrier.

I was a terrifying rat hunter in English mines.

Today they think I can't use my legs and they always hold me in their arms.

-I'm a Labrador Retriever.

My vision of happiness is a dive into a pond to bring back the duck he shot to my master.

Today you forget I'm a walking, running, swimming dog; as a result, I'm fat, made to stay indoors, and to babysit.

-I am a Jack Russell.

I can take on a fox, a mean badger, and a rat bigger than me in his den.

Today I get scolded for my character and high energy, and forced to turn into a quiet living room dog.

-I am a Siberian Husky.

I have experienced the great, wide open spaces of Northern Europe, where I could drag sleds for long distances at impressive speeds.

Today I only have the walls of the house or small garden as a horizon, and the holes I dig in the ground just to release energy and frustration, trying to stay sane.

-I am a border collie

I was made to work hours a day in partnership with my master, and I am an unmistakable artist of working with the herd.

Today they are mad at me because, for lack of sheep, I try to check bikes, cars, children in the house and everything in motion.

I am ...

I am a 21st century dog.

I'm pretty, I'm alert, I'm obedient, I stay in a bag...but I'm also an individual who, from centuries of training, needs to express my instincts, and I am not suited for the sedentary life you'd want me to lead.

Spending eight hours a day alone in the house or in the garden - with no work and no one to play or run with, seeing you for a short time in the evening when you get home, and only getting a small toilet walk will make me deeply unhappy.

I'll express it by barking all day, turning your yard into a minefield, doing my needs indoors, being unmanageable the rare times I'll find myself outside, and sometimes spending my days sunk, sad, lonely, and depressed, on my pillow.

You may think that I should be happy to be able to enjoy all this comfort while you go to work, but actually I’ll be exhausted and frustrated, because this is absolutely NOT what I'm meant to do, or what I need to be doing.

If you love me, if you've always dreamed of me, if my beautiful blue eyes or my athletic look make you want me, but you can't give me a real dog's life, a life that's really worth living according to my breed, and if you can't offer me the job that my genes are asking, DO NOT buy or adopt me!

If you like the way I look but aren't willing to accept my temperament, gifts, and traits derived from long genetic selection, and you think you can change them with only your good will, then DO NOT BUY OR ADOPT ME.

I’m a dog from the 21st century, yes, but deep inside me, the one who fought, the one who hunted, the one who pulled sleds, the one who guided and protected a herd still lives within.

So think very carefully before you choose your dog. And think about getting two, rather than one, so I won't be so very lonely waiting for you all day. Eight or ten hours is just a workday to you, but it's an eternity for me to be alone.

Want to learn more about how Kindred Beings supports you and your beloved animals? Visit us today.

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