Stop and think about it. Ask yourself how often conversations about pets and children lead to topics about more intimate issues. As an animal communicator,I have seen this over and over and over. Parents often talk about their childrens’ relationship with animals. Sometimes they refer to their pets, most often dogs, as another child. ( Perhaps that is because cats are more independent, and require less care. Also, cats usually stay home when their human family goes places.) Mostly, people travel with their dogs, not their cats or other pets.) So, parents load the kids and the dogs into the car and go places. Once in a great while someone will check into a hotel with a pet cat, rabbit, etc. but far less frequently. Ask any hotel employee.
I suspect that there is a bonding that happens during the conversation and people then feel comfortable enough to talk about other subjects. Case in point. I recently had a conversation at a July 4th celebration with two grandparents who were waiting for their son to return with a hot dog for his grandmother.
Here is a July 4th story. It was the middle of the afternoon behind Corbett Elementary School and a host of family activities were taking place, all leading up to the 10 p.m. fireworks show.
It was a hot day and there were many people sitting in folding chairs in the shade, wherever they could find it. Wanting to get out of the sun, I headed for some shade. My feet took me up a small hill where there were three people sitting comfortably in their folding chairs watching the crowd. We smiled and a conversation was started with the woman, who told me that she was the grandmother. She asked me if any of the food stands were barbecuing. I pointed in the direction where she might find the food. I saw the boy sitting next to the woman stand up to get her food. He appeared to be no more than fourteen years old.
“He is such a sweet boy” she said. “His parents are both in prison so we, referring to herself and her husband (sitting next to her), are raising him. He was our neighbor and we have had him since he was little. His parents had too many drug and mental problems and couldn’t take care of him. He keeps us young and has given us so much.” There was more said, but the remainder of the conversation wasn’t so remarkable or at least the conversation didn’t stick with me.
I was struck with how much this woman would tell a complete stranger. It reminded me of another situation that happened years ago when I was interviewing a man in his home about how his dog saved his life.
“I take him everywhere. He is my best friend” said the retired CEO. “I tell him everything.” I don’t recall his next sentence or two but I do remember him telling me that his wife understood their relationship. Secure wife I thought to myself. I now wish that I had asked how the wife felt about his relationship with his dog. After all, if he was willing to tell me that his wife understood his connection with his dog, the door was opened for me to ask that question.
His story gave me more insight into his connection with his dog. The man was forced to retire because of his health. Stress was destroying his health. His doctor told him he had to stop working. So there he was at fifty something years old, without a plan for his retirement and it now was being forced upon him. Needless to say, he wasn’t too pleased. Quite honestly, he didn’t know what to do with himself.
He fell into a deep depression, and for months was married to the living room sofa. Nobody could get him to go out of the house. He didn’t seem interested in family meals. He didn’t seem to be interested in much of anything. His family wasn’t about to give up on him. His son decided that his father needed a dog to take care of and be responsible for, with no assistance from other family members.
A large rescue dog was soon found and brought home. The dog seemed to recognize and realize the situation at hand. He apparently worked his dog magic, because pretty soon the two were taking walks. Within a few weeks, the two were seen about town in the car.
The rest you can probably figure out from here. The man’s depression was lifted, and soon he began reconnecting with humans!
This man did not begin his story with the details of his depression. It just unfolded. He could have told the story without mentioning his depression, but it wouldn’t have been the same tale. I am glad that he had the courage to speak his truth.
I look forward to hearing more stories that are small gifts spoken from the heart.