Lessons From the Animals: Part 2 of 3

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I also observed that my flies were remarkably well behaved, and never troubled me at meal-times. I would leave my plates on the table for a little while after eating, without washing them. This gave them a chance to have their share. As long as I left them something afterwards, they never seemed to bother me whilst I was actually eating.

Contrary to what people think, flies are solitary and really do not like each other's company. Whilst one fly was always content to sit quietly on my leg, another was not. He always preferred to creep up on either of the other two and suddenly jump them from behind in a guerrilla attack! This is another example of a level of individuality in animals we consider to be little more than flesh machines.

Both in Myth and in the lives of tribal peoples, animals are teachers and guides. They can heal and help us if we open ourselves to their influence. Certainly, I find this to be the case with my cat, Hermes. He is a very calming and healing influence upon me, at a time when I have been encountering some stressful life situations. His presence makes them much easier to cope with. With the aid of a collar and lead, we are able to go for walks together in the local park or in the woods. It is a healing, calming experience to watch him leading the way, stopping to sniff some leaves on a twig, rolling in the earth, or wading slowly through the tall grass.

He is very good at Hide and Seek, even though he cheats the whole time; watching where I have gone to hide. On the occasions when I manage to conceal myself successfully, I can peep at him wandering methodically from place to place, checking out my usual hiding places one after the other. It's a marvel to see him doing it; his little brain at work: "OK. He's not there,... or there... or there. That means he must be... behind the bathroom door!" And indeed, he is quite right!

Anyone who has really spent time loving his cat or dog knows full well their complete capacity to reflect that love back, and to create a deep and mysterious bond between human and animal. It is not an illusion, or our sentimental imaginative projections, as some scientists would tell us. These animals can display a wide range of emotional responses that we can recognize and identify with. For instance, cats are very jealous of their companion's (a more accurate word than "owner") love and attention.

I was amazed and concerned at the way my Hermes stopped eating and drinking for almost a day, when my father, uncle and aunt came to stay for a while. Initially, I thought he was ill, as he is usually VERY active and naughty. Instead, he just stayed glumly in his box, and even resisted being pulled out. Both my uncle and the vet said that he was jealous because I was paying attention to other people besides himself, and he did not like them on his territory either. All this proved to be the case. Hermes was 100% himself within an hour of my relatives' departure! Good riddance, he must have muttered to himself!

If you ever get the chance to tend to a young bird that has fallen from its nest, it is a blessing to do so, albeit very hard work too. Whether the bird survives your care or not, the experience will teach you a lot. The first sparrow came to me a year ago, within a few hours of the death of my uncle. I have heard tales of such "hauntings", i.e. visits from animals following the death of a loved one. It was an unearthly experience to actually participate in one. Sadly, the sparrow did not survive beyond the second night, which was apt, given the circumstances of his arrival. I was very sad for over a week. Yet, this little messenger from beyond taught me a huge amount; far too many lessons to mention in this brief space.

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