A 6-year-old girl discovers the love of an animal for the first time.
By DR. LINDA BENDER
AS A CHILD, I WAS AWKWARD, shy, and slow to learn to talk. I had trouble connecting with other people and seeing how I fit in with the worldaround me. When I look back on the first six years of my life, I can’t remember much.
It’s all an unhappy blur, until I come to the night during the summer I was six that changed everything for me. Around 2:00 a.m., I awoke to the sound of screaming outside my bedroom window.
The screaming didn’t seem to be coming from a person. I had never heard anything like it before. I woke my parents and we went out to the yard to investigate.
There we found a baby rabbit, quivering and unable to move after a near-death encounter with some larger animal. Frozen in terror, she was incapable of fleeing, and allowed me to pick her up. Her mother was nowhere in sight, so I decided I had better bring her inside where she would be safe.
I lay down on the orange shag carpeting in the kitchen and placed her on my chest, where she could feel my heartbeat. Gradually she calmed down, giving only an occasional whimper.
That was the first time I can remember feeling love. Great waves of it seemed to be swirling around us, engulfing both my newfound friend and me. Though I could not have explained it in words, I knew on some level that this rabbit and I shared the same life, the same spirit, that we were connected to each other by something greater than the both of us, and something much bigger was running the show.
A feeling of profound peace settled over me. Whenever I hear the phrase, “the peace that passeth understanding,” it is that moment that comes to my mind. Though I had intended to stay awake all night, I drifted off to sleep.
When I awoke later that morning, the rabbit’s little face, just inches from my own, was the first thing I saw. She was still resting on my chest.
I think of that night as the first time an animal rescued me. I had been so tenuously attached to the world that a strong wind might have blown me away, but then I felt as if I belonged here. The mingling of the rabbit’s tremulous little heartbeat with mine made my own heart feel big and strong and sufficient. In stroking her warm, silky fur, I discovered what my hands were for. To save an animal’s life made sense of my own life.
All Grown Up
As a passionate animal advocate with a degree in veterinary medicine, my life’s work has been coming to the aid of other creatures and saving their lives when I can.
What I discovered at six has continued to be true: in rescuing an animal, I rescued myself. This reciprocity between animals and humans is woven into the very fabric of creation. It is the ecology of Paradise.
If we are open to it, a very deep rapport with animals becomes possible. We can come to share their thoughts, feelings and perceptions, to look at the world through their eyes and see what they find so good about it.
In this way, animals can become our spiritual teachers. Animals have taught me to perceive the connectedness of all living things and to experience for myself the joy they experience in this connectedness. They have taught me to accept the limits of my own understanding and to relax into the mystery of existence.
They have taught me how to be less afraid of death, and less afraid of all the other things that are not under my control. They have taught me to lighten up and enjoy the present moment. Most of all, they have taught me how to find repose in the certainty that I am loved.
Dr. Linda Bender holds a doctorate degree in veterinary medicine, is a gifted healer, intuitive, and spiritual teacher. This article is an excerpt from her award-winning Amazon best-seller Animal Wisdom: Learn- ing from the Spiritual Lives of Animals.