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The Human Animal Bond (and anti-animal lover sentiment)

Last October in The Reiki Digest, I asked Reiki practitioners what they thought of attuning animals. I was disappointed that no one replied. It could have been for any number of reasons – some people don’t like to comment. Maybe others didn’t read the digest that week. Last week, Rose De Dan, an animal Reiki practitioner and Shamanic healer added her reply in which she confessed that she had not replied because of fear of persecution from the Reiki community for her decision to attune animals.

That brought up something that has been on my mind for a while, and that is how people react negatively when the topic of animals comes up. I don’t think that people necessarily dislike animals, but I think they dislike the way people, who are for lack of a better term, animal lovers, talk about them. Ore maybe they just dislike animal lovers.

People who have met me know that I’m not a sentimentalist. I do think kittens and puppies are cute (who doesn’t?) I don’t go around throwing blood at people in fur coats or trumpeting my cause to anyone who will listen, in fact, I don’t talk about animals usually unless the subject comes up (or unless I’m talking to one of my animal loving friends – and that’s not all we talk about, either!)

A few years ago, I started taking some online poetry workshops. During the first week of these workshops, students introduce themselves to the class. In my naiveté, I thought I was supposed to really share who I was and why I was there. So I did. The truth was that I was inspired by my dog. After Dasher came home and I discovered that she was not at all what I expected, I had the idea of writing a children’s book about a rescue dog who came with issues. Since I majored in Illustration in college, I would also illustrate the book. After a couple of years on the children’s book circuit, going to conferences and workshops, meeting editors and other writers, I met an editor who suggested I leave my efforts at rhyme behind, and study poetry. I included this information in my introduction. I added that I also often wrote in the voice of a dog.

I didn’t realize how badly this turned people off.

My teachers told me to forget writing in form, that my poems had nothing to do with dogs, and one commented that he doubted that anyone could ever really get into the head of a dog anyway. (I guess he never heard of animal communicators.) My poems were called doggerel, and the occasional poetry of others about dogs was highly praised. It took me awhile to stop talking about the dog when I introduced myself.

I had to mention Dasher though, when I took the memoir workshop. This also had terrible consequences. My classmates didn’t think that a memoir about my life with Dasher could work. My teacher was so turned off that he literally tuned out everything I wrote, leading to a phone call from him (unheard of in an online workshop) mid way through the class. He thought my story wasn’t going anywhere and mused that perhaps I got the dog as a substitute for a baby. Obviously these people are not familiar with the dog memoir genre, which includes several best selling books. I have to say, that by the end of the workshop, I had changed several of my classmates’ minds, and received high praise from the teacher, (whom by then I didn’t really trust anyway).

I never finished my memoir, but one of my poems, written both in form and in the voice of the dog got published last year – and nominated for the Pushcart Prize for poetry. I didn’t win the prize, but that’s okay. It was a small triumph for me and dog kind. And I never told anyone that the poem was about my dog Bella.

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Posted in At home with dogs, Dog Art, reading, writing.

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5 Responses

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  1. Nancy Houser says

    Unfortunately, Beth, I feel many people are turned off from dogs because of the “way out” animal activists receiving so much nasty publicity and where the pendulum has moved to in the past couple of years regarding dogs. I personally find myself discussing dogs on a daily basis with whoever is around me regardless what they think…MUCH to their dismay! You can tell the subject is not to their liking; a rather “pinched” look develops during the conversation around their mouth and left nostril!! ha ha

    I am rather seriously disappointed in the Reiki community for not responding better to attuning a dog–after all–aren’t they a living part of our world? They breathe oxygen and assist mankind on many endeavors. Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I thought Reiki practitioners were into healing and balancing all creatures, not just the two-legged kind? Sigh…but it should not surprise me, as I know many traditional doctors whose idea of healing comes with a payment first.

  2. blowell says

    Hi Nancy,

    Thanks for your comment. It got me thinking. Your questions about attitudes toward animals reminded me about the interconnectedness of all things that is such a cornerstone of Reiki. I am thinking that perhaps the problem is not with the animals – but with what perceptions of what an attunement is might be the problem. Your comment prompted today’s post!


  3. Mary Shafer says

    This is truly disturbing, that people are so unresponsive or even almost hostile to the idea that we should treat animals with some measure of inter-species respect. This goes so far beyond reiki or balancing or even well-being. It’s really about the fact that humans still subscribe to the supposedly God-given “dominion over all creatures.” People are wont to forget that along with authority comes an equal measure of responsibility. Interesting how that other side of the formula/equation is so frequently and easily forgotten.

    Beth, kudos to you for persevering in your search for your authentic writing self. I cringe to think how many creative impulses have been quashed by uninspired, uninspiring, even cruel teachers who — for whatever their own shortcomings — have been unable to be nurturing, encouraging mentors. I’ve experienced their legacy through far too many of my own writing and drawing students.

  4. blowell says

    Hi Mary,

    It’s interesting to me that when I asked my workshop teachers about writing poetry for children, they were at a loss. In hindsight, I think that although they were not writing for children themselves, that as writers and poets, they could have found it within themselves to at least attempt to broach the subject. I mean, everyone has the ability to think.

    The best advice I got was from Nikki Giovanni who was at a SCBWI conference I attended. She said “don’t worry about labels. Just write what you write.” I no longer feel compelled to write in the voice of the dog, although it’s a good challenge. I’ve read several beautiful, well-written poems by writers who did write in the animal’s voice, one in particular about a panther (I think) – I can’t find the poem now (don’t you hate it when people forget the punchline?) If I do find it, I’ll definately include a link to it on my blog.

    Thank you for reading!

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Topics about Animal-lovers » Archive » Mysterious Beautiful » Blog Archive » The Human Animal Bond (and … linked to this post on April 22, 2009

    […] blowell added an interesting post today on Mysterious Beautiful » Blog Archive » The Human Animal Bond (and …Here’s a small readingI don’t think that people necessarily dislike animals, but I think they dislike the way people, who are for lack of a better term, animal lovers, talk about them. Ore maybe they just dislike animal lovers. … […]

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