Over the years, I’ve read many books on healing and learned that it can take many forms. Have you ever read any of Dr Bernie Siegel’s books? The author of bestselling titles such as Love, Medicine and Miracles believes “love is the golden thread that unites the many forms of healing.”
And so do I. I find love to be important in absolutely so many ways in our lives. So, why is love so important in healing? “Simply because it is the most significant thing in human life. Genuine love must be given freely, of a person’s own free will,” Siegel writes in an essay, Love, the Healer in Healers on Healing edited by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield.
“Love is not something that can be taken for granted; it cannot be assigned as a task. It is boring and insignificant if one is “forced” to love (which is really an impossibility). Loving has to be chosen deliberately.” And, sometimes love, in the form of an animal, chooses us.
I’ve just read his new book, Love, Animals, and Miracles: Inspiring True Stories Celebrating the Healing Bond co-written with Cynthia Hurn. Being a big animal lover, myself, I know firsthand how strong the love between a person and an animal can be. My little dog always seems to know whenever I’m feeling down and tries to comfort me and help soothe away the stress from life’s daily bumps.
Animals as teachers
Love, Animals, and Miracles features inspiring true stories that show animals not just as our best friends, but as our teachers and messengers, healers and miracle workers and offers many lessons, such as those about unconditional love and being nonjudgmental, and often simply teach us how to live in the moment.
I found myself deeply moved by these animal tales that Siegel compiled not just from his own life but from those of his patients. There are sections titled, Paw Professors; Becoming Family; Love is Blind and more.
Animals also serve to teach our children. Siegel writes: “The first thing you heard when you entered our house was chirping crickets, followed by an ever-varying mixture of sounds: squawks, purrs, chirrups, squeaks, barks, and so on, plus the talking, yelling, and laughter of kids and adults.” He adds that living with so many animals “taught the kids respect for other living creatures, and it also blessed them with memories they still share and laugh about.” He says that, “Allowing your children to grow up with animals is a gift that never stops teaching” Children who are raised with animals and taught to be responsible for their care, he says, helps them grow into caring, gentle adults.
Animals as healers
One of the most touching stories in the book, I found, was Jeanna Barrett’s Black Velvet about a kitten who was the runt of the litter. She writes, “For the first six months she drove me mad—hanging off the curtains, scratching the furniture, and bringing me an array of unwanted presents. Frogs, dragonflies, baby birds, and other half-dead creatures were regularly deposited on the kitchen floor.…The affection she always showed me was extraordinary—and deeply comforting. Looking back on our time together, I truly believe my black velvet companion was (and is) one of my guardian angels. Once when I was getting out of bed, I collapsed on the floor in absolute agony, completely helpless to get up, not knowing (until later) that I had just torn three discs in my spine. Somehow I managed to reach the phone. As I lay on my stomach waiting for help to come, Tai-Lu knew exactly what I needed. She climbed gently onto my lower back and curled up, giving out the most amazing healing warmth.…Another night she stopped me from taking my own life when I was drunk and severely clinically depressed. Tai-Lu appeared from nowhere and sat with me, pressing herself as close as she could to my body. I just couldn’t do it; I loved her too much to leave her. I’ve been told that our animals are sent to us as healers, teachers, or companions. Tai-Lu was a true healer, a loyal and comforting presence throughout all my heartaches, doubts, and loneliness.”
Animals as love
I believe that the unconditional love that animals us give is a precious gift. They’re treasures in our lives to be cherished. As Siegel says, “Animals let you know you are loved, and they make you laugh when you need it. All those things help us stay healthy and live longer. If there is a void in your life, an emptiness that you cannot fill, go and find an animal. Make them your family. The void will disappear, and love will take its place.”