Animals have much to teach us if we listen

There are many times I really wish I had a pet of some sort. I found myself talking to a tiny spider on my floor the other day. I was impressed with it as I had also seen it near the window, on the counter top and on a wall. I figure that’s the equivalent of me walking all over the city of Bloomington.

I’ve decided I need to find someone who lives close to me with a dog but who is really busy or who doesn’t like to get outside and walk. I could offer to take the dog out for excursions and get the benefit of canine companionship. The dog would be happy to get exercise, and the owner would be glad to have one fewer chore on the to-do list.

As it is currently in my sad pet-less state, I try to communicate with the wild rabbits that I see about town when I’m out wandering around. I notice that passersby tend to give me odd looks and a wide berth as I stand there, instructing baby bunnies to be safe and stay out of the road.

(They seem to listen and heed my words.)

I think we can learn a lot from animals. I was at the zoo recently and had a special moment with the walrus. It would swim up to the glass and look at me. I kind of thought it was trying to give me a smooch through the pane. Then it would go straight up to the surface of the water, at which point it would flip over and swim on its back. It was very calming to watch the animal in this beautiful aquatic dance.

It dawned on me that this is what happens when a creature is in its natural environment. On land, a walrus is blubbery and awkward, trying to hobble around on those flippers. But in the water, it is sleek and graceful. I think there’s a lesson in here — when we are where we’re supposed to be, then we flow without a struggle.

Along that same theme, I’ve heard it said that when we’re doing what’s a good fit for us — when we’re in our own sphere — then it isn’t some major undertaking. I’ve had people thank me before for a job I’ve done, and I sometimes protest that I didn’t actually do anything. I am often confused by this and feel a need to correct them that really, it was nothing.

But then someone pointed out that why I felt like I didn’t do anything was because the task did not seem like work to me. The apparent effortlessness of it was a sure sign that I was doing what comes naturally; if it took a Herculean effort, then that would have been an indication that it wasn’t for me.

When I was at the zoo, I also learned that animals are smarter than humans because none of them paid $15.20 in admission plus $6 for parking in order to stand in the rain for the opportunity to watch me.

They also didn’t have to wear a trash bag-like poncho or worry about slipping around in rubbery flip-flops. At least my camera is waterproof.

Animals can be astute in other ways. I was at someone’s house, and I was upset that particular day. The next thing I knew the adorable golden retriever who lives there was at my side, trying to put her toy in my lap. I thought this was so sweet and thanked the dog, then laughed, which lightened the mood.

It was as if the dog knew I needed to be comforted and did the best thing she could. She might not be able to offer words of advice or make me a cup of tea, but she could give me something soft and cuddly that was of value to her.

I think another lesson from this incident teaches us that help might come from unlikely places, but we must be open to receive it.

Basically, animals are amazing. We need to make efforts at conservation to preserve their native habitats so that they will continue to be around. We should treat them with respect, which includes not eating them.

Adopt a shelter pet and give a grateful animal a forever home. And feel free to talk to them; maybe one day, they’ll answer back.

Stephanie Haines is a writer from Greenfield who now lives in Bloomington. She can be co

ntacted through her website,