Are animals sentient beings? What's wrong with anthropomorphizing?

Anthropomorphism… attribution of human qualities to nonhumans.

I find it disturbing when people espouse the opinion that animals do not have feelings. As an animal communicator I know for certain that they do, as they regularly share their feelings with me. Why is it that some people are so insistent that we not anthropomorphize animals? Could it be that ascribing emotions to animals means we would have to acknowledge they are sentient beings?

When my beautiful mare, Misty, lost her new filly she had tears running down her face. I had never before seen a horse cry, but that day Misty cried. She had so looked forward to being a mommy and she was devastated. She grieved her baby for months. Her usual spark was missing, so much so that she allowed two of the geldings to boss her around, effectively moving her down from second to fourth ranked in the herd. Her normal personality was very much an alpha mare so it was astonishing to see this change.

Later that year she started looking pregnant. The only stallion she had contact with was our mini, Arlo, who at 31 inches could not have done the deed… unless she laid down. Uh oh. Suddenly I started hearing stories about minis who had bred full-size horses.

That very cold and snowy December as her udder filled and began to wax I was checking her every two hours round the clock. This went on for two weeks with all the signs of impending birth. Then one day everything stopped. She had just gone through a false pregnancy!! She wanted that baby so badly that she imagined herself pregnant and manifested all the physical signs. If animals have no feelings then why did Misty grieve and experience a false pregnancy?

How many times have you heard about cats who suddenly stop using their litter box and soil the house? Often they are upset about something and are acting out those feelings desperately trying to communicate with their guardians.

I recently communicated with a cat who felt displaced by new family members and began to withdraw. As he withdrew further and further he left himself vulnerable and was eventually killed by predators. If he had no feelings he would likely still be alive.

Dogs are even more demonstrative, displaying a wide range of feelings. Is there any doubt about the joy they exhibit when their person comes home? My new puppy, a standard poodle, is one of the most demonstrative dogs I’ve ever met. She is filled with exuberance and loves to clown around for our amusement.

How many times have you seen a dog dreaming, talking in their sleep with their limbs jerking to and fro? Why would they dream if they have no feelings? What would be the purpose? And haven’t we all heard stories about dogs who gave their lives to save their person? Is that not love?

I haven’t even touched on their sense of humor. Some are sarcastic, others more thoughtful wisecracker types like a George Carlin, some are raucous, others have a dry wit. They run the gamut. One stallion I communicated with bragged about how “well endowed” he was. I think he got a kick out of the shock value. See, there’s another category: twisted humor.

This post could get very long with many anecdotes about all manner of animals who have expressed their feelings during communication sessions, but by now you probably get the idea.

So just why are some people convinced that animals lack emotions?

The only conclusion I can come to is that believing they are “dumb” animals allows for treating them like inanimate objects, just another piece of property.

What do you think readers? Is that a plausible explanation? If yes, what can we do to change this misperception?

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What happens to my pet(s) when I die?

If you have pets, from time to time you may wonder what would happen to them in the event of your death. Usually those thoughts are quickly pushed aside as too painful to think about.

The choices that immediately come to mind are:

1. Do nothing and leave their fate up to providence.

2. Set up a trust to care for them per your specifications.

3. Leave them in the care of a trusted family member or friend.

4. Have them humanely euthanized and let them accompany you to the next world like the Pharaohs of old.

Of course there are pros and cons to each of these options and the choice is further complicated depending upon the number, age, and expected life span of your pet(s).

Probably the most common is doing nothing. This option places an unfair burden upon the person handling your estate. Maybe they’ll find a wonderful home. More likely they will end up in a shelter competing with all the other homeless animals, potentially facing euthanization. Pleas for pets seeking homes after their owner dies are not uncommon.

If you are financially able, you may choose to set up a trust and specify your wishes in your will. (It is important to note that without a will pets are considered part of the estate and go to next of kin, regardless of your wishes.) In this way you can provide for your pet(s) for the remainder of their lives. You can specify the exact care they are to be given. There is still no guarantee that they will thrive without you, but at least you will have done everything in your power to provide for their well being.

Designating a trusted family member or friend to assume the responsibility may be an option if that person is ready, willing, and able to take on such a responsibility. But what happens if the pet(s) outlive this person or if their circumstances change?

I have heard more than one person state that it is their intent to have their pet(s) euthanized in the event of their (the owner’s) death. Having considered the above-mentioned options and their associated pitfalls, they have concluded that this is the best way to ensure their pet(s) well being. However, this option requires finding a vet willing to euthanize pets regardless of their age and physical state. You should also know that your request may not be legally enforceable.

There simply is no “right” or “perfect” choice. In fact the “right” choice may differ from one pet to another. So what is a caring pet owner to do?

As an animal communicator the most natural option that comes to mind is: Talk to them about your concerns and find out if they have a preference.

You may be surprised at their answers. Animals view death as simply a transition, as opposed to humans who mostly fear their inevitable passing.

Your pet(s) may not want to live without you. How many times have you heard about pets who die shortly after their owners? On the other hand, your pet(s) may not be finished with this life experience and would prefer to take their chances at finding a new, loving home. You’ll never know if you don’t ask. Plus you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that your pet(s) were included in the decision-making process.

Please feel free to contact me with questions or to assist you in communicating with your pet(s).

Autism unlocked: The Horse Boy

Take one autistic boy and a horse named Betsy. Put them together and what have you got?

A gateway to healing offering hope where previously there was none.

Rupert Isaacson was inspired. He knew that he had found a way to open the door that would allow his autistic son to communicate. His desire and determination sparked a quest that lead his family from Texas to Mongolia.

That’s how the adventure began and it still continues. Witness the miracle of young Rowan speaking for the first time from Betsy’s back. There’s already a book (The Horse Boy) with a movie on the way. Prepare to be inspired.

Horses have a mystical, magical quality that simply defies description. Locked in a silent world it is possible that autistics are able to telepathically communicate with horses (as well as other animals). Opening the door in this way just may lead to verbal communication. It certainly seems to have worked that way for Rowan.

Every day there are children and adults alike experiencing and benefiting from “communicating” with horses.  Just type: equine assisted therapy into your favorite search engine. Then go visit a center near you to see for yourself how it reaches far beyond simple physical therapy. You may just find yourself inspired. They always need volunteers and the experience just may change your life.

Remembering Joshua, the dog of a lifetime.

It’s been a year today since my incredible dog, Joshua, departed this world. I cannot believe he has been gone an entire year. I still get emotional when I talk about him, but  I wouldn’t trade our fourteen years together for anything.

Joshua was very much a part of our family. He came to us from North Shore Animal League at just eight weeks. A border collie mix, he was super smart and incredibly sensitive to our feelings and needs. He loved treats and quickly learned a number of tricks. Show him a treat and he would start going through his entire repertoire before you had decided which one to ask for.

He was phobic about thunderstorms. Even minor storms threw him into a panic attack from which he could not be distracted. So when I awoke this morning to a torrential storm, complete with thunder and lightning, it somehow seemed as if sent from Joshua himself to me.

He’s now beyond such worldly cares, but it was the perfect way to remember and celebrate the life that he so generously shared with us for an all too brief interlude.