People are said to enter our lives for a season, a reason, or a lifetime. This might help us make sense of the relationships, platonic or romantic, that don't last, and maybe in our better moments moves us to delve into our shadow side when certain people in our lives are less than pleasant to us.
But what about animals? Do they also enter our lives for a season, a reason, or a lifetime? I like to think that animals touch our lives in many ways, ranging from less than pleasant (pests, rodents, those that strike out at us as a defense mechanism) to sweet and momentary, to deeply significant and indelible.
If you've ever had a pet, you likely have a good gotcha story - that instant or chain of events that led to your pet becoming yours. Maybe you aided and abetted your kid sister who had been plotting to take a kitten once it was weaned from the house around the corner where every summer a mama cat would birth and raise a litter. Maybe you were that kid sister who kept watch on the growing kittens, spotting the very one you wanted - a fluffy gray and cream colored one with blue eyes, and counting down the days until the kitten was old enough to be yours. Maybe you were the parent who was astonished by their daughters placing a newly weaned kitten they manifested out of nowhere into your lap. They knew that the instant you looked into those blue kitten eyes and heard that tiny kitten voice you'd never be able to say no.
Gotcha stories are like engagement stories, or romance meet cutes; they replay over and over in your heart, and they are so much fun to relive through telling.
On the surface we might accept or bring a pet into our lives because they're adorable, or they need us, or we want the companionship, or some other very reasonable explanation. But I think there's often another reason hidden behind that, and sometimes we don't realize it until that pet has become embedded in our lives, and sometimes not until after they're gone.
Maybe they're with us to teach us something about ourselves, or about patience or compassion. Maybe they help us learn boundaries. Maybe they support us as we work through fears or sadness. Maybe they literally save our lives.
How many stories have you heard or read about those hero pets who wake their people out of a deep sleep because the house is on fire, or who lead good Samaritans to their injured person, or who simply gave their person a reason to keep on living?
Animals don't have to be a long term pet, or even a pet at all, to have a meaningful impact on our lives. I believe that animals can also act as messengers, bringing us information or insight from the universe. This could be information about an experience we're about to go through, guidance about something we're currently struggling with, or just someone in the spirit realm saying hello, I'm with you, you're going to be okay.
As my 'real life' persona I work at a pet food and supply store. Several months ago one of my co-workers came upon a brightly colored lizard inside the store. This was completely unexpected. After gently taking the lizard to a safe place outside, I started to wonder if this little creature held a message for me or my co-worker. Based on its coloring I learned it was a pink tailed skink. Looking into the metaphysical meaning of this animal I saw messages about letting go of something in order to make room for something else. There was nothing I really wanted to let go of, so I thought perhaps the message was not for me. Within 24 hours, however, something in my life ended, and I was forced to let go.
The messages animals bring can of course be more joyful ones. A butterfly or cardinal might signify a loved one who has passed away letting you know they're okay. A dragonfly could mean you're going through some sort of transformation. An eagle might mean you are ready to soar to new heights. We can even ask our departed loved ones or the universe to show us certain animals as a message that we are on the right track.
If animals are not a part of your daily life, or you live in a place with a very limited wildlife population, you can still find animals in other ways. A song, an image in a social media feed or on someone's t-shirt or bumper sticker. A feather in an unexpected place. When we are open to receiving messages and signs, the universe can find creative ways to send them.
Just like with people, some animals will impact us more than others. Some might bring lessons we are not quite ready to learn. But that's okay. They'll wait for us. We might think we're the ones in charge - the ones who know best. But animals know better.