By La-Verna Fountain
I love animals. I realize not everyone does. But, we can learn a great deal from observing animals. As a child, we lived with cats, dogs, birds, and rabbits (well, one rabbit that mysteriously disappeared just as we had a very small “fried chicken” for dinner). Today, I am responsible for Tazwolf, a German Shepherd. He is three years old, weighs 90 pounds and in general thinks he is both my protector and my lap dog. Pets can be a heavy burden, tremendous blessing as well as a great teacher.
The runt of his litter, Tazwolf was born with hip dysplasia and a spine challenge which makes it difficult for him to walk or run sometimes. One thing that is not difficult for Tazwolf is living his life as it isto the fullest. He has taught me to pay attention to what matters the most to me and not be concerned with what others think. When I take Tazwolf to the dog park, he completely ignores the other dogs and stays focused on the tennis balls he wants to chase. He only responds to the other guests when they help him achieve or interfere with his objectives. He quickly communicates his feelings and immediately returns to the tennis ball to enjoy the time he has.
My furbaby has also taught me to speak up when someone causes me pain or violates my space. When people walk close to my house, Tazwolf barks loud and rightly communicates a threat. They move away, quickly. Those who ignore the warning pay the price for it. Few have ignored his bark and those who have ignored it have not repeated their mistake.
Because Tazwolf is often in pain, I am careful not to put pressure on his hip. When I have mistakenly done so, his screech quickly alerts me to my error. This uncensored response reminds me that others do not know when I am in pain and they may mistakenly cause me additional hurt. Only when I willingly and vulnerably expose my weakness will those who genuinely care know and adjust their behavior towards me. It is a risk to expose my weakness. It is also my truth and I am learning to embrace it.
Finally, and most important to me, Tazwolf never withholds his affection from me. If I discipline him, his love for me does not diminish. If we can’t go out and play, he still lays at my feet or climbs in my lap. When I call him, he comes immediately knowing that he is an important member of my pack.
I love most animals and I love human beings. I am convinced that we can learn from the animal kingdom. Learn to be more responsible, stay focused on our personal goals and ignore those who are doing their own thing. Learn to communicate openly and honestly. And even when we inadvertently experience or cause pain, learn to still be kind.
La-Verna Fountain is president of Meaningful Communications Matter, LLC, a consulting and training firm specializing in personal and corporate communications. She retired from Columbia University where she served as Vice President for Strategic Communications and Construction Business Initiatives. She is the author of two books, The Alphabets of Life: A Simple Guide to Simply Living and The Gold Coins: A Supernatural Adventure Inspired by True Events (published under the pen name, Sa’lia Friend).