Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Compassion of Animals

The first thing you need to know about my rabbit Cocoa is that, like most rabbits, he only tolerates being held--they really don't like it at all. We have worked out a system in how he indicates he wants to be put down (actually he worked it out, what choice did this poor human have but to acquiese??). When he is ready to be free, he nibbles on your shirt. You must be quick on the uptake in his signals, otherwise your shirt will go instantly from the outdoor clothing category to the "I-will-just-wear-this-around-the-house" pile. Only if you are lucky will he sit still for you for five minutes.

The other night I was having an extremely bad hare day (sorry, can't resist a good pun). It was so bad that I had the need to hold and cry on a rabbit. Cocoa, always so amenable to cuddles on the floor, allowed me to pick him up. I sat on my living room steps with him in my arms and wept all over his back, sobbing apologies all the while as his fur got wet. I knew any minute he would stir and move to take a bite out of my shirt. Weep, weep, weep. Still he didn't stir; he sat patiently as I stroked his sides and kissed his head and poured out all my frustrations to his long loppy ears. Minutes ticked by. Still, he made no indications he wanted to leave. And then, as I leaned my cheek against his back, he began to softly purr! I was astounded. He certainly wasn't responding to my lame little finger strokes or my holding him to my chest. His purring seemed more like a conversation with me, as if he were somehow communicating to me that all would be okay, just as I have told him so many times in the past, when I have held him when he was sick. You'll be okay, I remember whispering to him back in 2004, as we rushed across town in the middle of the night to an emergency vet. Cocoa in my arms then was chattering his teeth, his body temperature was not good, and we of course were bracing ourselves for the worst.

Here we are, six years later, and this time Cocoa in his way was doing the same thing, reassuring, comforting, consoling me in the only way he knew how. Do you know, he let me hold him for fifteen minutes? He NEVER fidgeted. He waited till I was calm again and ready to release him. And I did feel so much better because I had felt to the very core of my being that special connection, our BOND. Cocoa has always been a sweet, good-natured rabbit, but on this night, a new profound appreciation for his compassion stirred my soul. I wish every person could truly know an animal, be they rabbit, cat, dog, guinea pig, etc. and they could experience as I have the compassion that lies within them. I have said it again and again--humans can learn so much from their fellow species--if they could just stop long enough and pay attention enough to get to know them.

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