Archive for Thursday, February 22, 2007

Pets offer lessons for living in peace

February 22, 2007

A dog, a cat and a parrot. One small link in the food chain? Instinctive enemies? No, they are neither. They are Tiffany, Orion and Lola, our family pets, and they have found a way to not only co-exist in the same space, but to make it a home. I often wonder why they can make it work and we, as humans can't? They have just as many differences as we do; yet, they have learned to accept their differences without killing each other in the process.

Each one came from a different habitat, or culture so to speak. All three animals are different shapes, colors and sizes. They are male, female, and one could argue that the parrot is trans-gendered. But, they do not have any major issues with each other's differences or innate traits. Despite all the differences, the dog, the cat and the parrot have grown accustomed to one another's habits and their diverse voices.

Not once have I witnessed one animal trying to "out-shout" the other. Nor has one attacked another for speaking its mind. At times, they do get on one another's nerves, but when that happens they find their own hiding space to sleep off the negative energy. Unlike us, they don't seem to carry grudges or bring up past hurts. They just move on.

I believe there are several reasons why Lola, Orion and Tiffany can live together. First, their basic needs are met. Each one has adequate shelter, food and water, although the cat would disagree, as he can never have enough food. And, all three animals receive love and attention. They are not neglected or abused, and only occasionally are they spoken harshly to, much to the dismay of the kids living with them. Having enough food, water, shelter and love minimizes fear and maximizes peace for everyone, animals and humans alike.

Another reason they have adapted is that they seem to know they are only taking up residence in our house. They do not claim it as their own. It is neither a territory to be defended, nor a place with only room for them. It is a space they have learned to share, even with people and pets they do not particularly like at first.

And finally, I believe our pets understand they belong to something bigger than themselves. They seem to sense they belong to a larger force in creation and they belong to us as their human stewards and family. I am not saying that our pets couldn't live without us. They could, especially the cat. But, they couldn't live as well.

Over-simplified, yes; yet I believe we as humans have a lot to learn from our pets. If these three species with different languages, desires and instincts can live under one roof, then Christians, Muslims, Jews and people of all faiths from all nations should be able to share the same earth. If a dog, a cat and a parrot can live in peace and harmony, then surely we as humans can learn to do the same.

-- The Rev. Lisa Gardner is pastor at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Eudora. She can be reached at 542-2785.

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