I found an intriguing blog post by Jessica Winter, in which she explores the question of whether her cat was trying to convey her own impending death. Jessica consulted several scientists and did a great job of presenting a range of opinions about whether animals are conscious of their own mortality and will try to communicate with their people when it is time to leave us. Check out I Am Convinced My Cat Told Me She Was Dying. Am I Crazy?
People have many opinions about sentience. Some ascribe cognitive thought only to the "higher" forms of life, usually the mammals with bigger brains. Most scientists who study animal behavior fall into the trap of thinking completely inside of the box of the protocols that demand experimental replicability and (supposedly) rely on quantitative methods of data gathering and analysis to provide proof that a hypothesis is true. So, they draw conclusions based on their own (human) observations, sometimes enhanced by technology that can measure what our senses cannot perceive. Often, the methodology is odd, or downright disconcerting - for example, forcing mice to swim until they are exhausted and drown, to determine their degree of survival instinct. Nowhere in these experiments is any one of the mice rewarded for persistence by being rescued, and one wonders what we have learned from this kind of cruelty. It smacks of the methods used by religious zealots in past centuries to prove that someone was a witch. If she floated in a body of water, she was a witch, and was put to death. If she drowned, she was innocent - but still dead. Truth is sometimes a victim of the methodology applied to its pursuit.
I was a biology major in college and have taught biology to high school students, so my beliefs about animals were shaped by the state of scientific knowledge. Today, I am aware of the limitations of our knowledge, and the need to rely on a higher and more esoteric form of perception - our intuitive sense that there is far more happening in the universe than we can possibly perceive or explain with our sensory and cognitive limitations. So, if you have ever wondered what your animal companions were trying to convey with their unusual behaviors, intense facial expressions, or simply what you intuitively felt they wanted from you, you were probably on target. Here are some things I've learned from the animals when I opened my mind and let my heart do the connecting.
- Death is natural and easy. Animals are not as desperately attached to their physical forms as humans often are, and they are able to more gracefully accept their death and transition into spirit. While their humans are stressing over whether or not to take extraordinary measures, the animals are preparing to move on to the next world. They don't really give a rip what medicines or surgeries you are contemplating on their behalf.
- Observations of physical suffering are not always accurate. Animals have conveyed their ability to leave their bodies energetically when they are in great pain or getting weaker, even while they cry out or their bodies exhibit tension. What causes you such agony is not as real as it seems.
- They have their own life contracts. Animals have often volunteered to live under horrendous circumstances, to teach humans about mercy, courage, forgiveness, and love. They are sometimes being called to leave our world to join groups of their colleagues who are doing amazing jobs in spirit form. They choose their next lives just as we do - and sometimes they change their minds.
- Guilt is neither productive nor useful. Whatever medical or end-of-life decisions we make for them, and whether or not we correctly interpret their preferences, they want us to release our guilt and move on. They accept that our motivation is for their highest benefit and want us to do the same. Stop feeling guilty and know that you did the best you could.
When your animal seems to be trying to tell you it is time to let go, do your best to trust your impressions. The bonds you have formed with the animals in your home are deeper than the food and shelter you provide, the behaviors you observe and try to shape, and the limitations of your senses and the opinions of the experts in training, behavior, and scientific journals. Don't worry about people who ridicule what they cannot explain - only people fall prey to this degree of arrogance. Animals are in touch with things we can only hope to understand some day. Get out of your brain and go into your heart, and there you will find the truth.
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