Heart Reading … Day 37

Loving and listening to animals more carefully can make us better humans.

Because my mind is a bouncy ball of energy I am taking yet another lesson from my dog … and many other animals. Rosie is one of the star characters in my book, Beyond Karen: emerging from the depths of an epic epithet. She is the “anti-Karen” and for all her emotional consistency and acts of self-care I thank her for being in my life.

Today we went to the dog park with Luna her sister/niece (my daughter’s dog) and they met both new and familiar faces (and butts). Saturday’s are certain to be busy as the transfer station is close by the dog park. Dog guardians treat their loved ones to some social time and get a 2-for-1 endorphin boost as they also do their recycling. One such person chatted with me about her trip to Alaska to see dog sledding and we mused about the fact she’d learned — that two males can lead the pack but not two females. Rosie and Luna get along well, mostly because Rosie is a “beta” (I guess) type dog and Luna is an “alpha” type dog. Some of us don’t care when others get persnickety about a toy (or a dish left in the sink), and sometimes the persnickety roles get reversed.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about women working together; I’ve started three businesses with female colleagues and have yearned relentlessly for sisterhood in every way shape and form as a counterbalance to the gross gender inequities in every environ one cares to inspect. This effort — more aptly described as a life mission — emerged after years of less than healthy communication with my mother and a number of workplace situations where gendered competition left my soul aching and confused.

With my daughter I vowed to raise her with as close to full transparency as possible, which was particularly challenging in her early years when I was just learning how to communicate myself. She is getting married (!!) and the wedding plans are creating optimal conditions for reflecting on what could have, should have, would have happened had the subtle and silent trauma of matrilineal oppression not played out as it has for generations. This moment is a bit daunting for me so, in order to not get persnickety or create drama, I am reading a fantastic book, The Animal Manifesto.

This terrific read pairs very nicely with The Sexual Politics of Meat I mentioned on Day 22. On page 93, Marc Bekoff writes, “Can animals really act with compassion, altruism, and empathy? Among scientists who study animal behavior, the answer has become an unequivocal ‘Yes.’ This doesn’t mean that animals always act in these ways; humans certainly don’t.”

Even though animals have their moments, just like humans, they — at least Rosie and other animals I’ve enjoyed observing — tend to be much more aligned with what I believe to be the true nature of all animals, namely this compassion, altruism, and empathy that Bekoff references.

My daughter is the love of my life. I want her “big day” and every day leading up to it to be special. And I have feelings. One thing is sure: I do not want any unresolved feelings I might have to leave me imagining myself throwing poo at someone else. And yet discerning what’s “a me thing” versus something I need to “engage” with others about is what I’m turning to my other-species kin for advice.

So far, the inspirations from the stories in The Animal Manifesto are calming my heart and doing a nice job of settling her bouncy ball energy.

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Karen Willard Ribeiro

Beyond Karen: emerging from the depths of an epic epithet is available at innerfortune.com and at your favorite independent bookseller. Thanks for reading.