Critter Chat – January 18, 2017
(Critter Chat is published bi-weekly by the Chatham Star Tribune. See the original article here.)
Our beloved maternal grandfather, Dada, was a talented organist and once taught Shirley Temple’s daughter piano lessons. He was a kind, gentle man who had a wonderful sense of humor. Dada was also a worrier. He was a big-time, bona fide worrier who would worry if he had nothing to worry about.
I inherited that gene. I have worried about worrying to the point that I have spoken with church leaders about it. My worrying helps me plan and organize and do what I need to do, rather than wallow in inaction.
Perhaps my worrying has led me to recognize the lack of it in animals most of the time. By observing them, I have learned how to have “pockets of joy,” as my sister calls them.
Our wonderful shelter volunteers take puppies and kittens into the playroom for time out of their cages. They play and pounce and have a great time. Sometimes they are in the playroom for a few minutes and sometimes the volunteers keep them out for long periods of time. They find joy in the moment, rather than worrying about when they will be put back in their cages.
Through the years, we have taken hundreds of dogs off chains during neglect investigations or when owners have asked that we pick up their dogs. We have never seen one hesitate to leave the chain and follow us to the car. In fact, they are thrilled to do so, even if they have never met us. Their body language tells me that they are not worried about what comes next, but they just are happy with what is happening to them.
I think of them when I ask my dog if he wants to go bye-bye. His answer is always the same – “Yes, I will go with you! Yes, let’s put the leash on. Yay, I’m going someplace!” He doesn’t worry about if he is going to the veterinarian or if it is hot outside or if there is snow on the ground. He is committed to going bye-bye. (Full disclosure: He goes to work with me every day, so he is used to going fun places all the time.)
There is a wonderful gerbil at the shelter now. I love to put empty boxes that I bring from home into his cage. I put a cereal box in one time. He did not look at it, worried about it filling too much of his space or how he was going to demolish it. No, he went right to work. He started tearing it apart, as only a gerbil can do. Naps were taken occasionally in the box, before he absolutely shredded every inch.
We could learn so much from animals. Yes, we need to be concerned about making correct choices, getting things accomplished, and making a positive difference in the world. We also need to learn to take solace in pockets of joy, find happiness in new adventures, and forgetting our troubles by conquering a task.