8 Things I learned from Angel

5. Be loving.

There’s nothing truer than the statement that love conquers all. Angel’s loving and affectionate ways never ceases to amaze and delight us. Her affection seems to melt any stress and tiredness away. Angel has taught me to be more loving.

When we ourselves are able to show love to our family and friends, the results are tremendous. Love opens doors, builds bridges and breaks down walls. When we have love in our hearts, it shows up as genuine concern and people can feel that. Love is the reward of being alive. It makes life more colorful and worthwhile. If we can be loving or not loving, we should choose to be loving. We can correct or criticize lovingly and it would be more effective than being hurtful. People need to be loved. A loving gesture can mean a world of difference to someone. They might be having a bad day, or struggling with some issues in their life, and if we are loving to them it might give them a moment of peace. We never know when we can make that difference in someone’s life. When we do, it is an awesome moment when we can do a simple thing that is of little cost to us but priceless to someone else. It is even more remarkable when they realize that we are not expecting anything in return. We just do it for the joy that is in our heart.

Everyone needs to feel loved. It is one of the greatest human needs. To be loved is to be secure. We feel accepted and affirmed when we are loved. We feel that we are okay, just the way we are. That is why we love our friends because we feel we can be who we really are around them, and they will not judge us. And this is also why family is so important: they love us no matter what. Our home is the first place where we ever felt this sense of security, of belonging, of being accepted and loved.

Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love. ” 1 Corinthians 13:13

Try to be more loving today, this is how we change the world.

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WALKING WITH MY TRUE ANGEL

Do you believe our pets can sense our feelings? I believe Angel has kept me healthy and happy. Since the first time I walked with Angel, it has been quite impossible for me to lie in bed and be sad or depressed. She just wouldn’t let that happen. She would either jump in bed with me, or do something funny like bring me her leash, her toy, her “walking” shirt (a dog t-shirt that says “rescued and loved “ which I have been making a habit of letting her wear when we go for a walk). One time she even brought me one of my running shoes. It just tickled me so.
I remember one time when I had to work on completing a chapter for my dissertation and I thought I just didn’t have the time to walk with Angel that day. And so I tried to be smart and I put up all Angel’s leashes, far away from her reach, so she couldn’t bring them to me. At this time, by the way, my loving husband had also started his project of converting our carpet into hardwood flooring and some of his stuff were on the floor. To my surprise, Angel brought me my husband’s tape measure. She must have thought it was a leash because it had a black lanyard which resembled the black cord on her leashes. I couldn’t stop laughing. I had to call my husband and tell him. I guess you know what happened after: I ended up taking her for a walk when I took a break from studying. I figured she deserved it for all her efforts. I must have thought I was rewarding her by taking her for that walk, but after taking the walk, my mind was so clear and I was able to finish the chapter quickly that I was probably really the one who got rewarded.
My daily walks with Angel have indeed kept me healthy and happy. As you know, sometimes when you are writing your dissertation, self-doubt could rear its ugly head, and if you were not careful, it could rob you of your joy and inspiration. I believe that walking with Angel really helped me through those challenging days until I could finally finish my dissertation. Could our pets really have this positive effect on us? Yes, yes, yes! A friend of mine told me a while ago that her cats were the only reason she got up every day when she was clinically depressed. She had to get up to make the cats’ meals. Now that she is feeling much better, she is so grateful to her pets for her survival. And just yesterday I was reading a touching story about how a Labrador helped a lady from suffering depression after her brother, whom she loved very much, passed away (www.thepetplace.com). This dog did everything it could to get her out of bed including pulling her blanket or the sheets and even barking at her to the point that she would actually get up. The Labrador also helped cheer up another dog, her brother’s dog. It was so touching how this Labrador was able to help the lady and her brother’s dog in dealing with their grief and loss. Maybe you also have heard of other stories of the effect of the love of a pet on people’s lives, maybe you even have your very own story to tell. This human-animal bond can be so strong that it can be a source of healing.
Of course, there are those wonderful physical benefits of exercise that walking with my Angel has given me: a chance to better enjoy sunny days and get Vitamin D, get some fresh air, improve my cardio and overall improve my health. But more than that, I have found that walking gives me energy and focus. The walks also get me out of the house and give me a chance to take a break from house chores or from studying. It is fun for me and I know it is fun for Angel. She loves walking. Sometimes, I bring my Ipod and listen to an audiobook of John C. Maxwell’s “Talent Is Not Enough”. And sometimes I pray while we walk. I praise God and thank Him for His many blessings. I pray for our family and friends especially those who are sick. I pray for special intentions. I pray for our family. I pray for our friends. It is wonderful that in this sense, my pet has been like a true angel: bringing me closer to God.
Sometimes when we walk, I pat Angel gently and she looks happily back at me, with her mouth open as if smiling, her eyes almost winking. As we end our last lap, I say “Good job, Angel, you did three laps today!” I hug her close, just before I let her get in the backseat of the car. It’s time to go back home, after another day of walking with my Angel.

© Karen Galarneau 2013

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Lessons from Angel Part 1: Understanding My Angel

One of the consequences of spending time with someone is you get to know them really well. So well that you can learn their body language and understand them better in general. This is easy to explain when we are thinking of our friends, family, or even our spouse. The longer we know someone, lived with someone or been friends with someone, the better we understand them. Well, if we really listen, that is. Don’t you just know when your friend or family member is not okay even though they say they are fine. I have realized that this is also possible with your pets. The longer we spend time with them, the closer our bond, and the better we understand what they are trying to tell us.

I am reminded of the time when I was a young veterinarian, my father used to tell his friends that the veterinarian’s job was more difficult than the medical doctor’s. “We tell the doctors what we feel and where our pain is, but the animals can’t speak, so the veterinarians, they just got to know,” he used to say with a glimmer of pride in his eyes.

It’s true that as veterinarians we are trained on signs and symptoms of illnesses and diagnostic tests that help us determine what ails the animal paient. We also learn about animal behavior and physiology which help us even further to understand and interpret animal behavior.

But just like any other pet owner, I learned Angel’s “language” by spending a lot of time with her day in and day out. For example, i learned that when she suddenly comes up and licks my hand a lot, especially when i am busy like studying or on my computer, it usually means that she needs to go outside. Now when she does that, I ask her “do you want to go outside?” If she does, she would be very excited and wag her tail and start heading towards the door and exits the door as soon as i open it. If she sits down and turns her head away from the door, then she didn’t want to go outside. I look at her food bowl and if it is empty, i go to fill it up and sure enough, she was hungry, and she was trying to get my attention so i would put some food, or water whichever might be the case. It is funny how other times she cannot be more clear when she actually carries her empty food bowl in her mouth and drops it at my feet.

Next, I will tell you about how the funny thing she does when she wants to go for a walk in the morning.