Have you ever looked into an animal’s eyes and seen a glimpse into their souls? I have. Personally, I absolutely believe that animals have souls. No one knows for sure exactly what the soul is or where it is located. My belief is that the soul is represented as the breath of life. When the breath leaves the body, so does the soul. So why not animals? For those of us who love our animals, most of us believe that animals do have souls. People who have had near death experiences have seen their pets on the other side. I believe that when it’s my time to cross over, I too, will see my beloved pets. Hippocrates stated, "The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different."
I’ll admit it. I’m one of those who calls my pets my “kids.” They are just as much my children as anyone’s human child is to them. When my Toy Poodle was alive, I would call him my little boy. It would be the cause for humorous conversations when I would be talking about my precious baby boy and people would exclaim, “I didn’t know you had children!” I would reply, “Yes, I have four-legged kids.” The look on their face was priceless while they tried to figure out what I was talking about. People who love their pets and lose them are just as devastated as when they lose human loved ones. I still grieve the loss of my beloved pets…those I’ve recently lost, and those I’ve lost years ago.
Why am I writing about animals in the religion section? I am extremely connected to animals spiritually though I didn’t always feel this way. Sure, I loved animals, but not to the degree that I do today. I think it happened in the late 80’s when a deer jumped into my car and didn’t die right away. As she lay in the ditch with me hysterically crying over her, she turned her head over her back to look directly at me, and I heard the words just as clearly in my mind as if someone were speaking them to me, “It’s okay. I know you didn’t mean to hit me. I forgive you.” Ever since that moment, I became a believer. I also became a vegetarian. In fact, I call myself an “animaltarian” because I love animals too much to justify eating them. That means any animal because how can we say we love only some animals and not others?
This is one reason I love St. Francis of Assisi who is considered the Patron Saint of Animals. It is said that he called all creatures his brothers and sisters. Whenever you see pictures of St. Francis, you usually see him surrounded by animals and birds. He treated animals with love and respect. St. Francis said, "Not to hurt our humble brethren (the animals) is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission--to be of service to them whenever they require it. If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."
We’re hearing so many stories where animals are saving human lives. They can sense when someone is going to have a seizure or other kinds of attacks and alert their owner. They protect us. They comfort us when we’re sad, depressed, or hurting. They feel emotions just like we do, and they feel pain. We are also learning to communicate with them in greater ways. In fact, I believe that animals are just like us, only in different form. Cardinal John H. Newman said, "Cruelty to animals is as if man did not love God." The Quran states, "There is not an animal on the earth, nor a flying creature on two wings, but they are people like unto you." Rabbi Solomon Ganzfried said, "It is forbidden, according to the law of the Torah, to inflict pain upon any living creature."
Not everyone will agree with me and that’s okay. On the other hand, some people reading this will understand what I am saying. Also, this isn’t about eating animals as I cannot tell others what to do. My purpose is to just give others a different perspective in how we treat all life, and that includes people, animals, and our earth; to treat them with kindness and compassion. So, the next time you look into the eyes of an animal, take a peek into their soul. As Anatole France said, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 20, 2013.