I have said before that one of the amazing things about animals is that they do not hide their emotions, unlike people. I often mask my emotions because I would not be able to function in society otherwise. I firmly believe that a positive outlook and expectations are key in promoting animal welfare and I know those who read this are exposed to enough difficulty, but I also feel like it is important to acknowledge the complexity of navigating a world that is still debating whether animals “feel” when it has always been a fact for many of us. Perhaps you already knew as a child and never forgot or maybe a very special companion animal taught you.
We live in a society where people might casually tell you they plan on exterminating animals (that they consider pests) at a cocktail party. In the next breath they excitedly talk about the cutest sweater they just bought for their beautiful dog that you know they adore. As you walk around the event where there may not be much to eat if you are vegan/vegetarian, pretending you already ate, someone else may proudly tell you that they just made a donation to a charity that aims to cure a disease their loved one died from. You know that particular charity funds horrible animal experiments & testing. It is not simple. What do you say? Do you simply smile? What is the kind thing to do? The person who donated money most likely has no idea about the animal testing, and if they are grieving maybe it would be best to not say anything at that moment? What if they know and don’t care? If they are a close friend would that affect how you feel about them as a person? What about the people planning on exterminating? I always try to educate about humane alternatives, but that doesn’t mean they will follow my advice. Sometimes they do, and tell me so and that’s a win. Sometimes five or ten years later someone reaches out because something I said or did influenced them to make a kind decision toward an animal. That’s still a win. Maybe they took the spider outside in a Tupperware container instead of killing it needlessly. Perhaps they used humane traps and convinced their neighbors to do the same. Maybe they started reading labels on cosmetics and buying cruelty-free. Win.
But it is not easy. It is never easy being the only person in the room who cares if a cockroach gets squished. (I take them outside if I see one-even if I’m at someone else’s house.) It’s not always easy being the only person in the group who refuses to watch a movie where an animal gets hurt. Even though I know it is fictional I still don’t want to see it. It’s especially offensive if it is presented as comical in the movie. I have a sense of humor, but not when it comes to making light of that. It is not easy hearing that someone you know/work with thinks it is funny to shoot bb guns at squirrels. The blatant cruelty that is casually spoken of in all kinds of different situations is deeply unsettling and can be overwhelming.
I am very comfortable with and proud of my sensitivity and connection with animals. I do my best but I am still affected by coming across some of these situations, and it is very important for me to have a space where I can simply “be.” At my home and in my garden I can drop the masks that I always wear walking through the grocery store or when I go to social gatherings. Once home, I take a deep breath and I am able to leave it all outside and re-charge and continue visualizing a world where we see animals as equals through love. All animals. I hold the vision and imagine it and this allows me to continue focusing on all the positive strides that are being made. I love helping people understand their companion animals. It is a privilege to connect with animals and it helps me stay optimistic because I meet so many people who truly love their animals and fully consider them family.
Hopefully you are able to drop your mask at home too. If you are not, because of relatives or roommates, try to find a place where you can go to be alone, ideally somewhere in nature. Imagine an energetic bubble around you, in your favorite color, protecting you and allowing you to remain connected with animals while navigating anything you encounter in public. Reach out to others that feel the same, even if only online. Follow websites/blogs/pages that report all the wins that are happening for animals. Protect your feelings, they are precious. Don’t let anyone tell you it is strange or wrong to care about the wellbeing of animals. All animals. Where ever you are in the journey, please be proud that your heart knows the love of an animal, or many animals! Whether they are alive or have crossed over, the love you share (or have shared) is forever and it makes you strong.