By Sharon Callahan
Mary Lou Randour, PhD, a professional psychologist, is the director of "Beyond Violence: The Human-Animal Connection," a joint project of the Doris Day Animal Foundation (DDAF) and Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PSYETA). She addresses various audiences--police, prosecutors, judges, probation officers, animal control workers, domestic violence and child advocates,
educators, and mental health professionals--on the link between animal abuse and human violence. She also is the co-author of "The Ani Care Model of Treatment for Animal Abuse," a manual for mental health professionals developed by DDAF and PSYETA. Mary Lou and colleagues provide training to mental health professionals in various locations on the AniCare approach to treating animal abusers.
After sixteen years in private practice, she now devotes herself to the animal advocacy movement. She is the author of Women's Psyche, Women's Spirit: The Reality of Relationships and editor of Exploring Sacred Landscapes: Religious and Spiritual Experiences in Psychotherapy, both published by Columbia University Press. Mary Lou lives with her husband, Sam Black, and her two beloved canine companions, Tohsi and Sophie, in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Mary Lou, I have begun my interviews by asking each person if they believe That animals have souls. Would you give your perspective on this?
I can say with conviction that an animal is capable of enjoying a spiritual life and have what we would call "souls." Soul, after all, simply refers to that vital animating force within living beings which shapes personality, thoughts, emotions, and actions. Anybody who has been around
animals and most of us have certainly knows first hand that animals have their own individual personalities. Animals can recognize these spiritual qualities in one another. What does it mean to be a spiritual being? In my mind, it can mean a number of
things an appreciation of beauty, a sense of play and creativity, having a moral sense and a notion of death. It also means being able to express oneself with integrity and being able to feel a part of the larger universe, whether that "feelingí" is put into words and thoughts or just felt at some basic level. Not every species of animal is capable of all of these things, of course, but I think every animal is capable of at least one. Let me give some examples. We know that primates grieve. Jane Goodall observed a young, orphaned chimpanzee die of grief after his mother died. And Koko, the signing gorilla, "discussed" her views on death as she was grieving the loss of her kitten friend, "All Ball." Witnesses have observed elephants mourning their deadÖusing their trunks to linger over the bones of deceased companions.
Primates and elephants also paint. Mojo, one of the chimpanzees living with Roger and Debbi Fouts, is a dedicated artist. So these animals appreciate beauty and creative expression.
And they have a sense of fair play. In one experiment monkeys refused to give an electric shock to other monkeys, even though they got shocked as a result. In another experiment, a female rat ran across an electric grid to rescue pups not her own. There is no other word for that other than noble. The idea that animals have souls and enjoy spiritual lives in not a new one. Spiritual leaders from different traditions have declared that whatever happens to humans after death also happens to other animals. For example, Swami Vivekananda, who brought Vedanta to the West, stated that "If we have a soul, so have they, and if they have none, neither have we. It is absurd to say that man alone has a soul, and the animals have none." John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, in a sermon, "The General Deliverance," stated that animals have souls and the Hebrew word nephesh if used to refer to both animal and people throughout the Hebrew bible. And C. S. Lewis wrote about an afterlife for animals.
So, yes, if we go to heaven, animals go to heaven, too. I wouldnít want to go to a heaven if there were no animals thereand I am sure many others feel the same as I do.
Your new book is entitled Animal Grace. I find the reference to grace used in so many different ways. What do you mean by Animal Grace?
For me, personally, animals and my increased awareness of them gave
me the gift of grace. By grace I mean the feeling of being empowered to work on behalf of
others for the larger whole. And in working for that larger whole one gains a real sense of being connected to all of life and sensing oneís part with this vast, glorious web of existence. The empowerment one feels is effortless; it flows through us. Itís a rare and wonderful feeling: of feeling both very full and, in a way,
powerful but also very calm, centered, and accepting. Itís a wonderfully vibrant feeling that, of course, cannot last forever. But one can recapture it. For me, my work with and for animals does that. And I think others also could gain that sense of grace from an evolving awareness of our relationship with other animals. Being in touch with our kinship to other animals also helps us
realize and feel the interconnectedness of this universe. With that feeling our sense of
isolation and being a single entity dissolves and we can rest within this glorious universal structure of the web of life. That is something we all seek, I
believe that feeling of being a part of a larger whole. We all yearn for wholeness.
Animal grace helps us transcend the arbitrary boundary of species; it helps us overcome other distinctions as
well of race, gender, nationality, and religion. Once we overcome the barriers of species we can see even more clearly how other distinctions are more illusory than real; more superficial than enduring. What binds us, what resides in all of us, is the pulse of life. That realization is a wonderful gift and animals can give that to us.
Although I have just begun to read Animal Grace, I can see that you and I share the belief that all living things are sacred and equal. How do you answer people who ask how it can be that a rabbit, cat and human being all have equal value?
I donít think it makes sense to start assigning value to one species over another. Who has the yardstick that measures value? I sure donít. Itís like asking parents to decide which of their children they love the most, or has the greatest value.
What I do believe is that all living beings deserve our respect and attention and that in the process of doing
that giving them our attention innumerable spiritual opportunities open themselves to us. And I know that for every living being, his or her life is precious to them. All living
creatures unless psychologically distressed or seriously ill want
to continue living. They will go to great lengths to live.
I think we have to be very careful to make certain assumptions about the value of human life over other life. Clearly human animals have the greatest intellectual
capacity which means that we are the ones in charge. To a very large extent, we control the fate of all life on this
planet animal life and plant life. To my mind that places the greatest responsibility on us to do the right thing. Doing the right thing means to act in a way so that we cherish all life and protect it. And when there are situations where some humans feel in conflict with animal
life for example, the problem some jurisdictions are having with
deer I think we have to be very, very careful not to automatically decide that human life has precedence. Or in many cases, itís simply human preference. For example, with the human-deer conflict, it often gets down to human annoyance over losing some ornamental plants due to deer foraging. Because we have so much power over the rest of nature we have to be extraordinarily cautious in exercising it.
So I canít assign value to different forms of living beings. Jeremy Bentham, a 19th century philosopher, posed what to me is the basic question, which is not, Can they reason? Can they talk? But can they suffer? By now the answer to that is Yes, they can, and do, suffer. We didnít always think so. Descartes evidently claimed that the cries of animals were not expressions of suffering, but merely like the sounds of a clock ticking. This attitude, at one level, seems bizarre to us today, but this kind of thinking infiltrated our consciousness in ways that we donít even realize. And anthropologists, biologists, cognitive ethologists, and other scientists who study animal lives have amassed a great deal of information. We know a lot more now than we did before, even twenty years ago. We know that animals enjoy complex emotional lives. We know that they
think not exactly like us, but they think. They plan, deceive one another (chimp language experiment), form elaborate social groups, use tools; they form attachments and express preferences.Öall of this has been documented.
And we also know that most animals, and certainly all mammals, experience pain. The limbic system, a part of the brain that all mammals possess, is associated with the capacity to experience emotions, including desires. And the hypothalamus, a structure shared by all vertebrates, is involved in the ability to experience positive and negative emotions and pain perception. Other animals have neuroreceptors for pain like ours. And it is important to understand that animals feel psychological as well as physical pain. In that we certainly are all
equal to experience plain and pleasure and to have an emotional life.
How did you get into this topic?
I didnít find it as much as it found me. For most of my adult life I have been searching for some sense of spiritual contentment, or ease, and couldnít find it. My search had its fits and starts and in it I investigated a number of different religious traditions. For periods I would just give up the search. Simultaneous to my spiritual searching, I had become
aware in a kind of off-handed way about the plight of animals wildlife, animals in circuses and zoos, in factory farms, in laboratories. I donated to one of the animal groups, but mostly I held this dim awareness in my peripheral vision. Then one day I decided to buy a book I had heard of for quite some time: Animal Liberation by Peter Singer. I read it and all of the little doors I had closed to block my awareness about the condition of animals flew
open and off their hinges. I had nowhere to hide. I was flooded with images of suffering
animals because that is what Peter Singer documents so effectively, offering a moral philosophical case for animal rights.
I was tormented. I had bad dreams. I cried myself to sleep. I couldnít escape being right there, with the animals, in their suffering. I vacillated between being grief-stricken to being enraged. I knew I couldnít go on this way. I needed some internal resource, a spiritual center, from which to live. Without it I would be no good to
anyone not to myself and not to the animals that I was determined to try to help. My spiritual searching, which had been stalled, became reinvigorated. I approached it with a new motivation and determination. The animals spoke to me through their suffering and opened my heart and gave me the chance to heal my spiritual impasse. They gave me the gift of grace.
Can you comment on the role of animals in opening people spiritually.
There are lots of ways in which animals can reach us when nothing else can. One thing that is working, I believe, is that when we make a connection to animals we have broken through a
barrier the barrier that our society puts up around our species, separating ourselves from the rest of the living world, seeing ourselves as distinct. You know, we donít even think of ourselves as animals. You can hear that all the time when people refer to some treacherous human beings as "that animal!" Once you break through the barrier of species I think you have exercised a kind of "spiritual muscle" so that it is easier to feel connections and overcome other distinctions that are spiritual impediments. Every spiritual discipline that I am familiar with has as a goal the ability to feel connected to a larger whole. Animals can definitely assist with that.
5. You seem to be saying that becoming aware of suffering can fulfill us spiritually. Can you say a little about how that works?
No one likes to suffer, or to encounter suffering. But it is a part of life and it is inevitable. How, not whether, we face suffering determines so
much our character, our spiritual maturity. We mustnít shrink from it or deny it.
The German theologian Dorothee Soelle, in her book Suffering, proposes that the one thing everyone can do is bear active witness to the suffering. She asks the question, "Does . . . suffering serve God or the devil, the cause of becoming alive or being morally paralyzed?" Gary Kowalski also emphasizes the importance of bearing active witness to suffering, for only then can suffering serve a higher purpose. Suffering must never be denied or forgotten. I was very touched recently by something. I was participating in a "Fur Free Friday" demonstration outside of a local chain department store. Traditionally, animal protection groups will target fur stores the Friday after Thanksgiving to encourage "fur free" policies. It was a good
turnout there were about 90 of us with our signs, chanting, walking around the front of the store in orderly fashion. Many of the signs showed the grisly results of the fur trade: animals caught in traps, skinned animals, beaten animals, etc. These signs of suffering are not fun to look at; but they do show the reality of what happens to animals used for their fur. I noticed an elderly woman, dressed very smartly in a suit, white hair, with a cane, observing us. I couldnít tell from her expressions what she thought. Then, she slipped into the line and joined the picket line! I was so touched. She looked at the signs, didnít turn away from the suffering, and joined our group. She choose to bear active witnessing to the suffering. I didnít have a chance to talk to her, but I would guess that she got something out of her
participation that she felt better about herself, that she felt more connected to life in some way because she took a stand to protect life. And it was her recognition of suffering that was the entry point. There is, of course, the suffering that is the inevitable part of
life people we love die, grow old, leave us. Nothing stays the same. As a psychologist I also now how we inflict suffering on ourselves. We worry unnecessarily, have illusions of grandeur, and get engaged in all kind of human foibles. The suffering that captures my
attention and the suffering that Dorothee Soelle was talking about is
the suffering that is inflicted on innocent beings. The suffering of a fox caught in a steel jaw leg-hold trap to satisfy someoneís vanity or a designerís whim. So we have to be sure not to turn away when their suffering presents itself to us. Perhaps we pass a picket line, or read an article in a newspaper, or receive a solicitation in the mail. When it comes to animals it is easy to not notice it. Their suffering often is hidden from
us it exists behind the doors of factory farms, or research laboratories. It occurs behind the scenes at the circus. We donít encounter animal on fur farms, or caught in traps in the wild.
Many religious traditions point out that the path to spiritual wholeness often begins with the invitation to become aware of suffering. The suffering of innocents in the world demands our attention, and we must respond to it if we are to grow spiritually. Zen monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh has spoken of this. In the Yoga tradition of Patanjali becoming aware of suffering is a necessary step in the path toward realization. It stirs up our compassion and compassion then frees us from the limits of our own egos. Now at this point, many people think to themselves: "Yes, but there is so much suffering in the world. And many human beings also are suffering. How can I respond to it all? Thereís a limit to what I can do." Of course that is true. But there is something I stress over and over again. Because animals surround our lives in ways that at first we donít even realize, there are countless opportunities every day to pay attention, to care, and to grow spiritually. We can pay more attention to the food we eat, taking into account how our decisions affect the lives of
animals their suffering and pain. We can pay attention to the cosmetics we use, the household products that we buy to be sure that our decisions do not contribute to the suffering of animals. We can buy products that are not tested on animals and that do not use animal ingredients. There are many, many great products like that in the market now. We can choose not to participate in forms of entertainment that rely on the exploitation and suffering of animals, such as circuses, and many zoos, and all rodeos. We can "bear witness" as we participate in the daily rhythm of our lives, without having to deviate one step. These are all things that we do
anyway eat, buy products, clothes, go out, etc. Incorporating that kind of awareness into our everyday spiritual lives does not subtract anything from other causes that are dear to us. We can do this and still work to eliminate homelessness, hunger, racism, and social injustices of other kinds. If anything I think it enhances other causes because any time we consciously make a decision to act in a way that respects life we grow. We become fuller, better human beings and we bring more to the world and our engagement with it. Becoming spiritually engaged with animals is a win-win proposition.
What can animals teach us about spirituality?
So much. They can teach us to approach life fully, without hesitation. Thatís what animals are best at, arenít they? We see that animals seem to feel more intensely and purely than we do. Whatever it is they are
feeling joy, disappointment, anticipation they feel it fully, directly, without holding back. I think many of us yearn to express ourselves with such abandon and integrity. Many of us gravitate toward animals, I think, because we realize we have lost touch with some vital, essential part of our selves. So when we get in touch with animals we can come alive. Because animals open themselves up so completely they teach us about love and about trust.
Through our contact with animals we can learn to overcome difference; we can reach beyond the walls we have erected between us and
them whether the "them" is another species, another race, another nationality. We humans have a propensity to organize and categorize our world. It is very useful, of course, in a lot of ways. But this tendency also can be a detriment to our spiritual growth.
I believe all of us feel this "yearning for wholeness." We wish to feel connected to all of
creation to overcome this feeling of isolation and apartness. Many children know how to do this. And it isnít that children possess something that adults do
not we once had it, too, but lost it in the process of "growing up." Children
get it. The difference between us and other animals is of degree, not kind. You know once you get
it that all of us are kin I think that you have exercised some basic spiritual muscle. You have overcome not only the species barrier, but other barriers as well. No matter what the tradition the spiritual goal is the same: to connect with that which is holy, to dissolve boundaries we put between ourselves and the sacred, to realize that this self that feels so distinct is an illusion, at a spiritual level. You miss the vital feeling of connection if you are still trapped in feeling separate from the life around you; if you are still in the "making distinctions" mind set. Animals bring us into that "holy presence."
You stress the importance of awareness and compassion in Animal Grace, and link them. Can you talk a little about what you mean by awareness? And how compassion Is linked to it?
Let me start with an example, using my sister, Carole. She remembers watching the dove releasing ceremony at the beginning of Olympic ceremonies and enjoying the dramatic display. Then she began to read more about the treatment and condition of animals and realized that perhaps those doves werenít having such a good time. She investigated and found that they are not: they are crammed into some kind of container below the surface and then propelled upward. It is not a pleasant experience for them. Animal groups got the Olympics to stop the practice of using live doves. However, they still do it, evidently, in Disneyworld. When my sister saw this same dove-releasing exercise after she had educated herself on the conditions of the doves she noticed something
different the confusion of the birds, their hesitation. In other words, her awareness had expanded. And when it had, of course, the whole picture changed. But that is only the first step. If she had stopped there with an increased awareness that the doves in these releasing ceremonies were suffering, that wouldnít have been enough. It would have been an incomplete spiritual exercise. She didnít stop there, however. She wrote a letter to Disneyworld, decrying the dove releasing ceremony and asking them to stop the practice.
I think awareness has certain characteristics. Using the example of my sister, again, as I got more into the animal advocacy movement she also began reading more and we would talk together. Awareness occurs in a context or through a relationship.
I also firmly believe that awareness requires our attention and action. I guess technically awareness is a noun, but I think of it as a verb. To be complete, it entails taking an
action a compassionate action. So awareness isnít about something happening to you, itís about deciding, learning, and acting. Awareness and compassion make a loop, of sorts. Taking a compassionate action and awareness feed one another. In responding compassionately, we enhance our awareness and then by continuing to respond compassionately we keep a spiritual process going.
Can you give people an example of how having a spiritual relationship with animals Can begin to develop amidst their day to day lives? Perhaps an example from your own Life?
Well, I think it really is easy because animals surround our lives and therefore we have these endless opportunities on a daily basis to make a spiritual statement; to participate in the sacredness of creation in a meaningful, deliberate way. One of the first things I do when I wake up is to shower, perhaps wash my hair, floss my teeth, and put on some make-up. I also take hormone replacement therapy. Thatís all in the first half hour. Beginning with the soap and shampoo I use, I make sure to use products that do not test on animals and that do not use any animal ingredients. There are now dozens of fine products on the market like this. The same with toothpaste. It would never occur to most people that they test things like toothpaste and hair shampoo on animals; but believe me, they do. Although, of course, it is not necessary since there are so many good products that do not do this. I also make certain the hairbrushes I use do not contain any animal
products like boarís hair, for example. I make sure the estrogen I take is derived from plants and not from pregnant horseís
urine commonly known as premarin. There are a number of alternatives to premarinestrodil, estrace, for example.
Now thatís just the first half-hour or so. The point, though, is that when you are buying these products to think consciously about the life-affirming decision and action you are taking. As you use them bring consciousness to the fact that you are making a statement with your actions. You are saying NO! to suffering; you have refused to participate in the suffering and deaths of other living creatures.
You are saying Yes! to life and to the sacredness of life with your action. That is a good feeling. And you didnít have to do anything heroic; it didnít take any of your time; and it didnít cost any more money than you were going to spend.
So there are these wonderful spiritual opportunities presented to us many times a day, every day, all within the rhythms of our daily lives. By bringing awareness to how our decisions affect the lives of so many animals, and by choosing to respect life rather than to participate in suffering and death, we are growing spiritually. Every time we wash our hands, brush our teeth, wash our hair, decide what to eat, or to wear, or what kind of entertainment to
watch for example, not participating in circuses, rodeos, most zooswe can positively affect the lives of
animals we can contribute to a respect for life and our environment. Thatís a powerful possibility! And animals offer it up to us every single day. Itís quite a gift. Animals are "embodiments of blessing and grace."
I am delighted to see that you were courageous enough to tackle the topic of vegetarianism and veganism at the end of your book. You mention that being a vegan is an important part of your spiritual practice. I feel the same way, although I never really equated it with my spiritual practice, more just the natural outgrowth of compassion. Your idea of making it a spiritual practice may very Well be more useful for the average person. How do you respond to people who question you about the food chain in nature and our part in that, or people who ask if you if you are just ignoring the natural order of things.
Nature evolves. Humankind evolves. Perhaps hundreds, thousands of years ago it was necessary for
many or most human to kill animals in order to live. Perhaps the climate in which these people lived, or being nomadic, made a plant-based diet impossible. That is probably still true for a very small minority of indigenous people.
It also is true that human consciousness about all kinds of things has changed over
time our attitude toward slavery, toward womenís rights. We now know a lot more about animals, thanks to the wonderful scientific research that has been conducted in the last twenty years or so. All the research points in the same
direction whether it is about chimpanzeesí use of sign language, dolphinsí ability to communicate, or birdsí use of
tools animals are a lot smarter than we realized. They have a consciousness. Like us they are psychological beings who live in the world and who show preferences, plan, decide, form social groups, have
attachments all of those activities that demonstrate individuality. They are individual beings who feel pain and pleasure.
When you open to that you have to ask yourself on what basis you could take the life away from another sentient being who was enjoying that
life who wanted to live. And all animals, of course, want to live. They struggle to survive; sometimes against great odds.
It doesnít take life to sustain life, not sentient life, anyway. And only sentient life can feel pain or pleasure; only sentient beings have the neurological structures that allow them to feel and think. In other words, you cannot compare a cow to a carrot.
There are a number of other advantages to a vegan diet not just the ones that animals enjoy.
Thereís human health. Its been scientifically established that people who eat plant-based diet are less likely to suffer from a number of
diseases heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis. If you are a vegetarian you are more likely to weigh less than a
meat-eater twenty pounds on average.
And a plant-based diet is not only good for you because you are not eating animal fat---itís also good for you because of what you ARE
eating is oflavones, found in soy products, reduce risk of cancer, lower cholesterol, help in the absorption of calcium. Onions and garlic protect against viruses, cancer and high blood pressure; fiber lowers serum cholesterol. As Howard Lyman said, "You never switch on the news and hear a report that there is a Harvard medical study that showed that roast beef boosts the immune system, or pork is good for the prostate, or chicken helps prevent arthritis." And you never will.
Plant-based diets protect the environment. The destruction of the rainforest in large measure is due to raising animals for cattle and dairy industry. Animal wastes poison our groundwater, streams and rivers. We have had a number of cases of "spills" of "lagoons". What a euphemism that
is they are filled with animal waste that sometimes explodes and seeps into the ground and surrounding water.
Plant-based diet support social justice. What most people also donít realize is that raising animals for food is so inefficient that it is a major contributor to world hunger. 80% of the grains and legumes raised are for cattle. One-third of all fish harvested are fed to animals being raised for food. And this is at a time when there is serious concern that our oceans, rivers, and bays are being depleted of fish.
Instead of feeding cattle we could feed more people. A lot more. It takes 16 pounds of grain to create one pound of beef. The same amount of grain could feed thirty-two people.
The Council on Agricultural Science and Technology calculated that if the world population became vegetarian, and if we coupled the current available land with technology, we could feed ten billion people. If not, we will continue to witness human starvation.
And the Allan Shawn Feinstein World Hunger Program at Brown U. has calculated that if all food was equally distributed and at present levels of food production, a population of 5.5 billion could receive adequate nutrition, provided they followed a vegetarian diet.
In other words, if you are truly concerned about hunger, donít eat meat and dairy.
In my mind, the "natural order" is to evolve and to help the planet evolve into a more peaceful and just place. You can do that by changing your diet to a plant-based one. It isnít complicated. Itís quite simple. And I know from experience quite enjoyable!
10. You cite support from many religious traditions for a spiritual relationship with
animals Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity. But canít you also find passages in texts from those traditions that contradict your position?
Sure, someone could find contradictions in any religious text on any number of topics, not just about our relationship to animals. To me, the important thing is not that there are these contradictionsthat is to be expected. What is important is that if you want to fashion a "right relationship" with animals, all the major religious offer scriptural support for doing so.
In Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism the central, underlying principle is ah imsaor harmlessness to all living beings. The first precept in Buddhism is based on
that not to harm or kill another living being. Based on that, there is a strong vegetarian ideal in these Asian traditions.
The concepts of reincarnation and karma also lend themselves to a more thoughtful relationship to animals. If you truly believed it was possible that an animal had once been a
human perhaps even a relative it might make you consider more how you treated her or him. You wouldnít want to eat your aunt, dissect your uncle, or skin your cousin!
There is a revival going on in Judaism to bring it back to its vegetarian origins. Roberta Kalechofsky and Richard Schwartz write elegantly about this new kashrut, which is basically about the spirituality of eating. And itís also about tikkun ha olam (world repair). The new kashrut of vegetarianism brings us back into right relationship with animals and with the world; it helps in the healing of our planet. And it works toward a just and peaceful society.
It also begins with Genesis 1:29-30 in which God basically envisions a vegetarian diet for humans and other animals. (God said, "See I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.")
Itís not just a vegetarian diet that is involved in our relationship with animals. Itís all of the ways in which we use animals. I see that the Education Minister of Israel halted the dissection of animals in biology in all state schools. He said that "Itís more important to teach Israeli students compassion for animals, and human compassion like this will crate more compassion for human beings." His decision makes sense for many reasons; there also is a scriptural basis for his decision. Throughout the Hebrew bible the word nepheshor
soul is used throughout to refer to both humans and other animals. But you donít have to get involved in debating whether this religious text supports a certain kind of relationship with animals. It is gets down to what are the basic tenets of every religious tradition which are to love, exercise compassion, and to work and live to bring about a larger good for all. By rethinking our relationship with animals we can come closer to realizing those religious ideals. Again, all of the animals in our lives seen and unseen offer us that possibility every day. It is one that I hope we will take.