Like so many people, I had been acting in contradiction to my core values. By nature, by birth, and throughout my childhood, I’ve been an animal lover. I was responsible for a slew of family pets, including the common cats and dogs but also extending to the not-so-common rabbits, goats, a horse, mice, and even a rat. While not everyone has parents that support pets in the home, you don’t need to teach children to love animals. Each and every one of us does that naturally. It’s part of who we are as a species. At least the young of our species.
Like most kids, I loved going to petting zoos, smiled and mooed at the cows in the pasture when we drove past farms near our home in upstate NY, and considered myself a true animal lover. What I did know, somehow so young, was that I loved animals above all else, and I wanted to spend my life working with them.
Then I grew up. And like most people, the innate “love for all things that move” started to fade just a little bit, and the filter started to set in. While I was never aware of it, it was happening. I was being taught that certain animals are deserving of love, respect, and compassion. And some are not. Some are ‘meant’ to be on my breakfast plate. And lunch, and dinner.
I maintained my love of cats and dogs and furry critters commonly treated like human members of the family. Without a conscious thought, I turned a blind eye to the fact that the big centerpiece on the table at Thanksgiving used to be a vibrant and healthy bird, and that the ham at Christmas was the leg of a creature I would have once cuddled with at the petting zoo. Certainly I was aware that mouthwatering filet mignon really came from a steer, but somehow I didn’t care. I was taught not to care. I knew milk, butter, yogurt, and ice cream came from the udder of a cow. But I never thought about whether that was weird or not.
I pursued a pre-veterinary degree and landed myself a career in my area of utmost enjoyment – working with animals. Operating a doggie daycare wasn’t on my dream list when I was 5 years old, but that’s partially because they didn’t really exist yet. Certainly not like they do today.
This summer, I began lifting the veil. The alarm in my head started going off, and I was on my way to discovering a whole new perspective. After exposing myself to many resources and allowing the information to sink in, I was for the first time in my adult life, starting to look at animals like a kid again. I was starting to question why in the world I had been making choices that were against my core values. And wondering how I could have been so blind.
If I am going to be the compassionate animal lover I think I am, then I am going to need to continually adjust the filter that has been guiding my choices. I needed to wake up and I am SO glad that this summer, of 2011, I finally did. I only wish I been exposed to, and ready for earlier, what I am about to share with you through this blog.