In Honour of Our Animals

In Honour of Our Animals

I’ve always been fortunate enough to have animals in my life.  Even when living in flats in the inner suburbs of Sydney, I had goldfish, all of whom were named after Goddesses of the sea or other things connected to spirit.  I even had a white one named Spirit and a black one named Satan at one stage, although I’m not too sure what the karmic consequences of Satan dying have been (Oops!)

Up until 6 years ago, with very few exceptions, dogs have taken precedence.  When I was a little girl we inherited my Mum’s families dog, Ricki.  He was a corgi and one of the most loving attentive dogs you could ever meet.  He had the patience of a saint growing up with four little kids and was always up for a play or a pat.  My grandmother used to love telling about the time when a delivery man came to her door and Ricki was so excited at visitors that he farted at the front door then ran off down the hallway.  When Nan opened the door there was this disgusting smell and she was left to try and explain to the delivery man that it wasn’t her.  Ricki obviously had a sense of humour too – he looked as though he was always smiling.  There are numerous photos of me as a baby in a pram with Ricki standing guard beside me.

We had other dogs as I was growing up – Dfer, Sheesh and Kim.  Sox was the one who really stole our hearts.  A cross between a border collie and a corgi, she was long and wide – and got wider as she got older.  I can’t really remember her as a pup, but she was loyal and caring to a fault.  Always providing solace and comfort after an argument with Mum or one of my siblings and fiercely protective.  In my early teens we lived in a suburb that still had milk delivered by horse and cart.  In the early hours one morning Mum woke up to the Milkie knocking on our front door.  Sox, normally an extremely placid dog, was barking and snarling and lunging to try and get at him.  He said he had a flat tyre and wanted to know if he could come in to use the phone.  (He’d seen a light on in our house and assumed someone was up, but one of my siblings was afraid of the dark so kept it on while sleeping.) Mum, unaccustomed to Sox acting the way she was, told him he could take his chances but that she couldn’t be responsible for anything Sox did to him, and offered to call for him while he waited on the porch. He chose the latter. He appeared genuine, but Mum trusted Sox’ instincts.  The Milkie got his tyre changed and we all remained safe – we may have done anyway but Sox ensured it.

When my daughter was young we welcomed a rescue dog into our home.  We went to the pound and Shaggy stood out amongst all of those clamouring for attention.  He was the only one standing there, wagging his tail like mad, smiling his head off and yet not barking frantically.  Our hearts went out to all of the dogs there, but Shaggy was our boy.  A cross between a poodle and an Australian Terrier, he bestowed love and affection on us every second of his life.  He was a ball of fun and energy, racing from one of us to the other, generally cheering us up and filling our days with sunshine.

Jet and Sooty - two black cats

Jet and Sooty. My daughter's rescue cats (Photo: Astrid Jasmine Watts)

I was never really a cat person until we moved to our current house.  We’d had a Siamese in the past who absolutely adored my daughter and would defend her through thick and thin whenever we had a disagreement, but because I was a dog person, I never found her endearing.  When my daughter asked if we could get a cat after moving here, I said yes but with hesitation.  We went to pick Sooty up on a stormy blustery afternoon and fell in love straight away.  For some reason he took a liking to a red cotton skirt I was wearing and sat underneath it, making it his haven straight away.  He’d been left to die in a green shopping bag in a supermarket car park and been found emaciated, flea-bitten and incredibly neglected.  His rescuer nursed him back to health and flew him to her mother, who was the local Animal Welfare League representative, and that’s how he came into our family.  We thought we’d lose him when we discovered he’d been run over by a car and had a shattered hip, but our wonderful Vets worked their magic and he’s been as good as new ever since.  Sooty is loyal, loving and incredibly affectionate.  It would be nice if he’d stop bringing us lizards and birds as gifts though.

Jet has been the latest addition to our family.  He’d been housed at the local cattery for two years because no one would give him a home.  An older cat who had been on the street for a while, he’d been treated very badly in former times and bashed around a lot.  When my daughter found him, he was hiding in a cardboard box and was reluctant to have anything to do with anyone except for the cattery owners’ wife.  We applied to adopt him, again through the Animal Welfare League and brought him home perhaps 14 months ago now.  He’s gone from a cat who wouldn’t socialise in any way, shape or form to one who constantly nags for attention, who is affectionate and loving and who has surprised us with his playfulness.  He still bolts under the couch whenever strangers turn up, but to have seen him come out of his shell in the way that he has astounds us both. He, too, has a penchant for my red skirt.  I don’t know what’s so appealing about it, but it seems to be a cat magnet!

Both of these cats have taught me how to be sovereign, how to reign over your own domain and yet still be loving, caring and playful.  They’ve taught my daughter to show just how much she cares and enabled her to express love freely and effortlessly and receive it in bundles in return.  All of our animal companions have given us unconditional love and stood by us through the ups and downs of life.  If we all portrayed the same qualities of patience, loyalty, unconditional love and sovereignty, the world would be a much better place.  I’m so very grateful for the lessons they’ve brought.

What about you?  What animals have made a difference in your life?  What gifts have they shared with you?  I’d love to read about your experiences in the comments below.

  Renee Avard ~ Heart Worth CatchingThis post was part of the Kaleidoscope of Creative Connections focused on animals and their lessons for us. Dive into more heart-centred writings from the amazing souls who collaborated in the creation of KCC - January 2014.  


  1. Shan, this is so wonderful.

    I was laughing so much at your story of Ricki, and remembering our own family holidays when I was a child. We had a boxer called Sox, who would fart when cooped up in the car. My Dad had no sense of smell (he lost it when he was a young child), and a love for long driving holidays (you can probably see where this story is going…). Anyway, there was always lots of shouting for open windows and walk breaks.

    Your boys are gorgeous, and the red skirt is connected to your inner Goddess. It’s like you are Bast, the Egyptian protector goddess, and the cats are declaring you their leader 🙂

    Big Love to you <3

  2. Shan, I so enjoyed hearing about your beautiful animals and the joy they’ve brought into your lives. I’ve always thought that they really are the best teachers ever. 😉

  3. Jenny, I laughed in return at your description of car travels with Sox! I love the way animals add so much light and laughter to our lives 🙂 Thank you for your wonderful thoughts surrounding Bast – they make perfect sense!

    Dar, I think we could all learn so many positive traits from animals – patience, fun, love, loyalty. Not sure I’d want to eat like one though 😉 Such a thrill to see your beautiful name pop up here.

    Thank you both for commenting 🙂

  4. Always love your writing Shan, and this is no exception.

    Despite growing up with both, I’m a dog liking cat lover. Any feline genetic found in my DNA would not come as a surprise. My cats are an expression of who I am. During the few times I’ve lived without cats since about 10 years old, life seems a little duller, less vibrant. They certainly are open channels of Joy for me. Sometimes I wonder if they get tired of being such great teachers, waiting for the servants to clue in once and for all.

  5. Lorraine, I think that’s why I’ve been kind of the reverse. I’ve always felt that cats ‘tolerated’ us with great disdain. It was certainly that way with a Siamese that my daughter had when she was little. Jasmine loved her to bits but would only tolerate me and if I were ever to reprimand my daughter about not cleaning her room or something similar, boy, was I in for it!

    Sooty and Jet, however, are different. They both have Burmese in with them and someone told me at one stage that Burmese are more ‘dog-like’ than any other cats. Perhaps that’s why I feel such an affinity with these two. Either which way, I love the lessons they teach me and the affection that they show. The disdain is still there as well, but I guess that’s part of being a cat 😉

  6. LOL – definitely don’t judge all cats by a Siamese. When a cat does something bad or yowls woefully as only Siamese can do, there’s no surprise in hearing “there must be some Siamese in that cat”. I’ve had cats that know their mind and others that just want to love you to bits. Knowing each one for who they are and connecting with them on their terms is the huge lesson we humans can take forward into our own relationships. May the lessons never cease.

    I could tell you about Meg our springer spaniel when it comes to disdain. She was a dog who knew her own mind for sure.

  7. Lorraine, I think your statement, “Knowing each one for who they are and connecting with them on their terms is the huge lesson we humans can take forward into our own relationships,” is so true.

    I can honestly say I’ve never met a disdainful dog. The notion of you having one makes me laugh, probably because I imagine you as one of the least disdainful people I’ve ever interacted with 🙂

    Oh, btw, the missing comment turned up in my spam folder this morning. It wasn’t there last night when I checked!

  8. I love that you named your goldfish after Goddesses of the sea and spirit. I might borrow that! We currently don’t have pets in our home but my children think of all of the animals that we see as their pets. This began when we lived on a boat together – we called the ocean our backyard and they would name ducks and herons and the harbor seals and call them “pets”. It’s a precious way to live – to have that love and appreciation for animals is heart opening! Thank you for sharing your experiences!

  9. Joy, I love the idea of living on a boat and seeing all animals as pets. What a wonderful way of fostering oneness and a sense of caring for all living things. Thank YOU for sharing your experiences. I’d love to read more about them – do you have info on your blog?

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