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Honoured By Pets

I was laying in bed this morning preparing to go back to sleep in an attempt to get a few more hours rest, and one of my cats, Pippin was curled up next to me. It struck me, once again, what an honour it was for an animal to bestow such affection and trust upon me. Humans and those we share the world with have a generally adversarial relationship. When we deign to notice them it is either as food, a nuisance, or something to be controlled, yet here was one of them looking at me with unconditional love in his eyes.

Some of you might be saying, well what do you expect its a domesticated animal and you feed it etc. etc. but I think there's more to it then dependency. (especially with cats) The majority of domesticated animals have the power and capability to survive on their own. The instincts are not very far from the surface. Watch your pet in play sometime; your cat as it hunts a toy, or its eyes follow the path of a ribbon, your dog worry at a chew toy, or follow scents with its nose, even a pet bunny will react to danger in the same way as its wild cousins. We've done our best to breed out the animus in our animals, as has been done by society to us, but if the trappings of civilization were to fall away tomorrow and all of us had to revert back to hunting and gathering I'd give them a better shot at survival.

There is a point in the wonderful book The Little Prince by Antoine St. Exupery when the Fox says to the little Prince: "When you tame something you become responsible for it" Earlier when he is defining taming to the Little Prince he says: "To tame something is to understand it and you can never truly know something until you understand it... Once you know something its unique in all the world." To St. Exupery "taming" is the building of relationships between oneself and another. One has to be deserving of the affection and trust of another.

Why should any of the animals we commonly associate with humans be that way. Sure some of them have been genetically modified, i.e. bred, to be more malleable, but ask any farmer what damage a bull can cause if it breaks out of its pen and even the so called docile cow becomes a force to be reckoned with. We don't seem to be doing a very good job of living up to our end of the taming bargain, hell we don't do a very good job of it within our own species. If you were an elephant would you agree to work in a circus; be a performing tiger in a Las Vegas magic show? What have humans ever done for you?

I'm not going to bother with listing our crimes against the rest of the world here, (I'll save that for another time) but if you think about it there is no real reason at all for animals to hang out with us. For a lot of them their lives are equivalent to that of a prisoner on death road and they have no choice in the matter. But those who do choose do share our living space with us, do so willingly.

The ancient Egyptians thought so highly of their cats that they mummified their remains, some cultures have identified themselves with animals (The Lakota and other planes peoples referred to themselves as "People of the Horse") or have clans designated by animals because of their strengths and abilities. Creation stories involve the animal kingdom integrally, North America being referred to as Turtle Island by the Hay-de-no-sau-ne (Iroquois confederacy). Maybe we need to reflect back on those attitudes more often and think about the honour being bestowed on us by our pets.

My buddy Pippin at rest.

For those of you who have been here and not seen a picture I figured out what was wrong, well my wife did, I was using an image way too big. OOPS.

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