One of the things that happens when you are sensitive to animals and understand that there is no hierarchy and that we truly are all equal is a realization that this applies to all creatures. Even those that are sometimes considered "pests" by society instead of "pets." I took this photo of a lovely domestic hairless rat as she was being fed by her human mom. I love this photo because it shows the trust between them and the vulnerability of the sweet rat girl as well as how well taken care of she is. She is being spoon fed a delicious treat and she is surrounded by her toys. The way she is holding her paws/hands is so touching! I would like to help shift some of the perceptions about rats.
The mere mention of the word is enough to frighten some. Yet I know several wonderful people who have rat fur (or fur-less) kids and I have also had amazing communications with these rat kids. I have also communicated with wild ones that live outdoors. They are intelligent and unique individuals who are trying to survive, find food, shelter and raise their own children in a mostly hostile environment where people try to kill them as soon as they are spotted. They feel the energy that is directed toward them and it saddens them.
They are normal outdoor wildlife like squirrels, chipmunks or rabbits. They are a natural part of our environment. It is not necessary to welcome them into your home, but please at least consider that they are intelligent emotional sentient beings just like our own cats & dogs. The best way to encourage them to stay outdoors is to use small mesh wire to cover any openings to your basement and to avoid leaving food out at night right by your home. If you leave any food out at night for any reason (and this will attract wildlife of course) it should be a bit further away. If they have gotten in because there was no wire barring the openings, there are humane cages to trap them and release them unharmed, like the cages we use for feral cats to help colonies with TNR. Please never resort to cruel and unnecessary "pest control" methods. Rat populations will not get out of control as long as the environment is healthy and there are natural predators like barn owls around. Please be kind. Kindness always makes a difference, even to the smallest creatures.
Today I was surrounded by butterflies. I watched several feed from our lantana flowers and from our native plants near the mailbox. (above photo) Later I was plant shopping and several landed on the plants in my cart. (photo to the left)
It is hard not to smile when you are watching a butterfly. They are beautiful and they are sipping nectar from flowers. My heart always feels lighter when they are fluttering around.
The orange one above is a frittillary butterfly and they are special to me because I discovered the caterpillars before ever having seen the butterflies and they are amazing. They look kind of punk rock and have tiny black spikes all over. (photo below) They feed from passionflower vines which are gorgeous and exotic. I was in awe the first time I saw one bloom.
In return for all the joy they give us it is so easy to fill our gardens with plants they need to survive, including native ones and sometimes even flowers some would consider "weeds." Even if it is only a flowerbox outside the window or a fire escape style balcony- consider keeping some plants that host caterpillars and feed butterflies and other insects. (and very important- refrain from using pesticides on these so they truly are safe havens for butterflies.) Here is a link with some resources regarding gardening for butterflies and other pollinators such as bees and birds. http://www.nwf.org/Pollinators/Pollinator-Decline.aspx
I talked with several people this past week who mentioned how much comfort they receive from sharing their beds with their fur kids. One person has two small dogs and one of them secures the perimeter of the house before snuggling in each night, helping her to feel safe. A couple of friends at a party last Saturday mentioned how they can’t go to sleep without their cats purring nearby. I think many of us feel the same way.
I have my own routines with Merlin and Gracie Belle. Merlin demands that I go to sleep when he is ready and then allows me to read a few pages before he steps back & forth in front of my night light, then he goes under the covers and kneads my stomach for a few minutes before falling asleep. After a while he slips out & settles by me on top of the covers. Gracie Belle likes to stay above the covers, but she will sometimes flop against me near my shoulder and sweetly look up at me (as seen in photo) while purring loudly for a long time. Purrs have healing benefits for humans and they are the most soothing sound I know.
I think also that many of us are familiar with being pinned under the covers because our cats or dogs are on top of the blankets, their weight curled up against us offering a lovely comfort. It requires a practiced yoga-like move to slip out of that or even to shift positions in the middle of the night. If I have to get up at 4 am to go to the restroom, Merlin jumps up and leads the way. I see the moon illuminate his plume-like tail (sticking straight up) in the dim lighting. Then I carry him back, half asleep.
There is something very peaceful about waking up and watching our dogs/cats sleep with their bellies exposed, showing us total trust and that they feel safe. Hearing their tiny (or sometimes not so tiny) dreaming sounds. Imagining what they are dreaming about. Do their dreams connect or blend with ours at night?
There may be some sleep disruptions, but it also elevates our connection. Of course it should always be a choice for the animal, they may prefer their own bed and that is fine too. If it is possible for your household, I believe it is a beautiful and comforting (for them and us) practice to sleep as a pack with our animal companions.
As soon as our animal companions cross over the rainbow bridge, they are in the light. They are free of whatever physical illness or limitations (if any) they may have had. At this point they are perfect, but those of us left behind, their human parents/companions and other animal family members are the ones still suffering.
Generally what they want to convey is that they are okay. They are better than okay. They often share visual images of themselves looking perfectly happy and healthy. For example, if they had trouble walking in life, they may show me that they are running, leaping even!
Many animals try to find a way to reassure their loved ones left behind. They may appear/visit in dreams, or in spirit. You may see a glimpse out of the corner of your eye or simply sense them. I had what I thought of as a "waking dream" shortly after Jarvis crossed. It was the middle of the night, and I had gone to the restroom and he was sitting on my bathroom counter, as he had often done in life. I felt like he was totally ok, and I think I petted him. It felt so real and I call it a waking dream because it felt dream like in the sense that I did not think it was strange at all.
He also found ways to leave me messages that would remind me of him. The photo to the (top)left is a sticker I saw at the grocery store tea aisle. it said "Jarvis" on a green strip next to a number. It had nothing to do with the tea or any products near it. I smiled, took the photo and bought the tea! The cardamom pu-erh is now my favorite! The photo below (left) is a book that arrived in the mail as a gift when I was experiencing stomach pain the summer after he crossed. I smiled again when I noticed it was written by a doctor with the last name Jarvis. The apple cider vinegar did help me tremendously :)
After Juneau crossed, as I mentioned in a previous post, I kept seeing hummingbirds drinking very deeply from their feeders, the way he would drink water & that made me think of him. I also saw a black cat in our backyard that I had never seen before or again since that day. I am still not sure if it was a visiting "real" cat or spirit cat. He was just lounging on the hill, very calm & relaxed.
Of course when the grief is fresh, sometimes these signs/messages bring tears to our eyes, and our animal companions may refrain because they don't want to make us (more) sad. Eventually, after time passes, thoughts of them bring smiles too (or smiles & tears at the same time.) I am so grateful that I can still connect with Jarvis and Juneau and "talk" with them often. They have taught me that the love we share with our animal family members continues after they cross over and it truly is forever.