Dear Readers: When animals greet us, play with us and care for us — especially children — with patient understanding, we are witness to a spiritual connection between one species and another. Our relationships with other animals can be life- and love-affirming.
It saddens me that people who have never yet enjoyed such experiences may be empathy-challenged, as may be those who kill animals for pleasure (the so-called recreational, "sport" and trophy hunters). They may immunize themselves from moral injury through desensitization and treating animals as objects.
Wild animals, from soaring eagles to howling wolves, fill people with awe and have spiritually inspired us for millennia. This is why millions of people worldwide fight to protect wildlife from exploitation and extinction, as well as from human ignorance and indifference. Preserving wild animals in zoos and safari parks is not conservation. Pecuniary interests aside, these are feel-good enterprises when not linked with species conservation in the wild.
When wild animals — notably, orphaned animals raised by humans — trust us, they will commune with us in spirit. Such are the blessings given by all creatures when our hearts are open to them, and theirs to us. However, wild animals should never be regarded or marketed as pets, nor should hybrids like "wolfdogs" and Savannah cats be created. If rehabilitation and release are possible, bonding with humans is to be avoided.
We should resist the temptation to feed and even pet wild animals in our national parks and wildlife refuges for their safety, as well as ours. Avoid contact with wild animals who approach humans fearlessly because they could be rabid. Call the police or animal control if one seems ill or injured. Millions of small birds and mammals are killed or injured by free-roaming domestic cats, but some recover from their injuries when carefully rescued and taken to wildlife rehabilitators.
We should understand our ancient, innate fear of some species, such as spiders and snakes, and teach children to respect them, not to instinctively kill them. When we experience awe and wonder rather than revulsion or terror — with a healthy fear and respect of those creatures who could harm us if we invade their space or threaten their young — we open the door to beautiful spiritual communion and connection.
BOOK REVIEW: 'BEHIND THE VEIL'
"A Glimpse Behind the Veil: Stories About the Human-Animal Connection" by Richard D. Rowland
The author is a Vietnam War veteran and retired Kentucky state police officer given three years to live after a diagnosis of multiple myeloma. But his experiences with horses and other animals were both healing and revelatory. Many similar accounts by other people are included in this inspiring book, serving to confirm the spiritual nature and healing powers of all creatures, great and small, when we are open to them.
My endorsement on the cover of this book reads: "For a human to be loved by another animal is to receive one of the many blessings of the animal kingdom. To love an animal is one step into that kingdom of our origin, which is where our humility, empathy and compassion evolve to define and refine our humanity with the promise of dignity and grace. 'A Glimpse Behind the Veil' helps us find our way and affirms the wisdom of an open heart."
Dear Dr. Fox: We have a small Chihuahua mix, and my wife and I are not in agreement over giving her a treat of cheese now and then. What is your opinion? — J.K.G., Washington, D.C.
Dear J.K.G.: All things in moderation. Some dogs are intolerant of dairy products, but most enjoy them. In addition to giving your dog small pieces of cheese, your options include putting some cottage cheese or plain yogurt in her daily food. I sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese on my dog's dinner now and then.
Avoid any cheese that is colored red or orange: Annatto, a natural substance often used to achieve these colors, can cause seizures in small dogs. And if your dog is overweight, cut back on treats in general, especially if she eats an all-kibble diet.
I only buy certified organic dairy products because so many dairy cows in the U.S. are injected with rBGH (genetically engineered bovine growth hormone) to stimulate increased milk production. Its use is prohibited in several countries for cows' well-being and potential consumer health risks.
Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.