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When I lost Lisa, I lost a connection to the world
The animals of this earth are a window into the things that matter. When we lose them, we lose sight of that truth.
When I adopted my first dog as an adult, 17 years ago, I was disconnected from the world around me. I was in law school but had no friends and barely went to class. I was intensely curious about a few things that interested in me, but everything else about the world seemed like a foreign language, at best, and an alien universe, at worst. Naturally, I paid almost no attention to any of it at all.
But adopting Natalie, getting close to her and seeing the world through her eyes, brought me to a clearer understanding of what this world is — both in its beauty and in its horrors. And as I moved from rescuing that one dog, to taking in cats, squirrel, pigeons, parrots, and eventually saving dozens of dozens of farm animals, it was like a window was being built into the world outside of my mind. And through this window, I learned to pay keen attention to the things (and people) around me. It brought me not just wisdom, but incredible joy.
Losing Annie, then Natalie, then Flash, and finally Lisa has had the opposite effect. So much of what I do, so much of who I am, was a direct result of my non-human family members. They grounded me. Motivated me. Supported and loved me. And made everything in my life real.
It’s a strange thing because we see the animals of this earth as “simple” and therefore disconnected from the complexities of human existence. Technology. Culture. Law. Even “the future.” (The famous psychologist Dan Gilbert one argued that humans are distinct in their ability to imagine the future; I’m skeptical this ability is used much, or to much effect.) But in my experience, it is the animals who teach us to connect. Their open expression, of the most basic feelings of all conscious beings, teaches us what matters, and why. Something about losing these teaching moments, as each of my non-human family members has passed, has left me back in a state of fantasy.
I find myself day dreaming much more often. Uninterested in the world outside my mind. Playing video games or reading random things online. And above all, not connecting with the other beings around me.
I don’t think this is a good thing, although I also don’t think this state will be permanent. (Though there are times when I fear it will be; I’ve been progressively moving in this direction, back to my pre 2004 state, for the last 5 years.) I still have two other furry family members, and so many human beings, too. All these loved ones, I imagine, will keep me grounded in the world.
But there are so many times where I wish that weren’t the case. And while I don’t know where this path will lead me, I know it’s beginning is an uncomfortable place. Because, after all, the real world (and not the fantasy of a conscious mind) is where we need change.