Heartfelt Connections Book
One evening, I got into a heated argument with a family member. I don’t even remember what it was about, but I recall raising my voice and shedding a few tears. My cat, Sarina, who runs away from loud noises, headed into the living room where I was sitting. She jumped on top of the couch and started to rub herself against my face. I believe she was trying to comfort me. Earlier that day, I had marveled at how our feral cats had gotten rid of the rats in our Chicago neighborhood (see chapter 1), and I had the epiphany that animals probably make a huge difference in the lives of many people in both small and large ways. Animals may actually be helping humans more than we realize. I decided to investigate this topic.
My exploration led me all over the country, beginning in the fall of 2015 and during January and February 2016. I interviewed thirty-eight people and personally visited fifteen organizations. People told me moving stories of how animals had affected them or how their organizations help people and animals. I learned that as much as we help the animals in our lives, they probably help us more. I saw animals helping children learn to read, I saw dogs that cheered children who were seriously ill, and I saw horses providing therapy to people with physical disabilities. I saw a llama that calmed autistic kids, a pig who brought joy to stressed-out students, and a duck who delighted the elderly. I also learned the stories of individuals who had been helped tremendously by animals; some animals had even saved their caretakers’ lives.
I learned that animals and people are inextricably and deeply connected to one another. I saw animals and people who clearly read each other’s thoughts and emotions and seemed to understand one another at a profound level. And the more time that an animal and a person spent together, the better they understood each other. I was astounded to see that these connections were formed across many different species. Obviously, I observed strong relationships between human beings and dogs and cats, but I also saw strong human-animal bonds involving pigs, llamas, ducks, parrots, goats, horses, cows, sheep, and donkeys.
At every place I visited, I met an animal who affected me. When I visited Wedrose Acres animal sanctuary, Walter the donkey captured my heart and wanted to be near me at all times. In Washington, Flight the llama let me take numerous pictures with her and then kissed me when I left. In Chicago, at a Refuge for Saving the Wildlife, a little green conure named Ruby flew over to me and sat on my shoulder as I interviewed the directors there. And in Dallas, Norman the pig came over to me when I arrived at his home and then showed me how smart he was by doing various tricks for me. In South Carolina, I had a strong connection with a horse named Midnight, who came over to me when I arrived and when I was leaving Healing Horses. I developed special bonds with too many animals to name, but each one was unique and expressed an interest in interacting with me. It was very touching.
I think that’s what makes the connection between animals and people so amazing. Despite the fact that we don’t speak the same language, a tremendous degree of communication occurs between us. Animals are always communicating with us. And if we’d actually listen to them, we would realize that they’re saying a lot. They’re communicating an interest in us; a desire for a connection; and, in some cases, a willingness to help us. They choose to do this, which is what creates the tremendous bond we have with them.
My exploration into this topic has forever changed the way I look at the animals in our world. It has been a tremendous experience, and I wanted to share it with you.