A few weeks ago my husband and I were watching a movie on Netflix when he shows me his phone and asks “what about this little guy?” I look at the picture he was showing me of a precious dog and fell in love. The next day, we schlepped deep into the bowels of L.A, braving the 405 AND small side streets ( for your LA lifestyle viewing pleasure, because we have all had these conversations).
So why am I telling you about this? Is it because you are a captive audience? It is because I love talking about animals and forcing strangers in my Lyft share rides look at pictures?
Yes, yes and yes, but also because there’s a lesson to learn from our fluffy friends. Animals have so much to teach us- renowned trauma specialist Peter Levine spent time educating himself through studying Zoology to understand why and how animals can go through life or death situations regularlyand how the animal’s body dispels of the excess trauma energy. He looked to these living beings to help decode how humans experience trauma and resilience.
What I have learned is animals have an incredible ability to not only teach us, but to teach in a universal language of love and trust. This language that does not need words, but needs attunement, safe connection and trust. Before I had scooped my college cat (proudly known as Mr. Meow) in his to-go box at the shelter, I had never met a cat who didn’t purr. Apparently if cats aren’t by their mothers/separated from the litter too soon (pun intended)too soon, they don’t learn how to purr. For Mr. Meow, it wasn’t until years down the line when he found his purr, released within him by our other cat, Garfield, snuggling up to him and purring( also known as purrtachment focused therapy). The most wonderful horse I had ever had the honor of knowing, Reno, he too needed to rebuild trust & attachment after spending years neglected on a ranch. One of our current cats, Bella, needed gradual exposure starting from her hovel behind the toilet over the course of a few months to feel safe enough to socialize. Thankfully, her days are now predictable and the biggest stress come from deciding what pillow to pilfer at night.
So what about Teddy? He showed his own disorganized attachment style of first wanting to go home with anyone who would stop us and pet him on the street, to now understanding we are his family and he is living in one place. He appears to have keen insight into what it is his human companions need- for me I needed a snuggly dog who would be gentle and keep me company post knee-surgery. He does exactly that- he sniffs where the surgery site is very gently, grabs his stuffed sloth and hops up to join in for cuddles and trashy television shows. For my husband, he needed a mobile buddy. Hiking and movement in nature gives my husband such great joy, and now he has a buddy to join on the days & times when I am not up to much moving.
It is not just that Teddy is a great friend and won’t ask you to change the channel to something else, he is a bundle of bonding joy. He has an ability to help regulate and calm those around him without needing any schooling, training or information on Polyvagal Theory. He, as most animals are, is filled with intuition, resiliency and a vessel of hope. If we look to our animal companions, we can find tremendous gifts in what they can teach us, as long as we are willing to be open to their communication.
Alexis has been a part time contributor to the online website Patientworthy which is dedicated to education and awareness of rare and serious diseases. Links to articles written by Alexis: