What Our Animals Teach Us

My dog, Oliver, will be two on March 20th. (And, yes, he will be having a party, but he’s a party all by himself, every day. In the words of Miss Piggy, he’s “a solo Mardi Gras!”) We’ve had him since he was 2 months old, and I’ve learned a lot about myself, my “parenting” style, my husband and his “parenting” style, as well as our relationship as we’ve trained and loved our Ollie. We also have a black cat named Elphaba (after the Gregory MacGuire book-turned-musical version of the Wicked Witch of the West, from the “Wizard of Oz”), who is turning 8 in June, which is basically like parenting a very angry, very small elderly person.

I’ve learned a lot from Ollie and Elphie by watching their approach to life:

  • Live with enthusiasm.

    One of the things I admire about Ollie the most is that he is SO. EXCITED. ABOUT. EVERYTHING. His favorites are people, treats, toys, and playing outside, although not necessarily in that order. When he likes something, he enjoys it with his whole body. I admire this, because too often I see people (especially teenagers) holding back from enjoying things because of what others will think. As RuPaul Charles and my momma have said, “What other people think of you is none of your business.” It breaks my heart when I see someone hold back from enjoying something wholeheartedly out of fear of judgement.

  • Hold your boundaries.

    Since Elphaba was 6 when Ollie joined the family, she has had a period of adjustment. At first, if he came anywhere near her, she would run away. Now, they have reached a truce, in a fashion. She will allow him to sniff her, and to lick her no more than two times. If he doesn’t respect her boundaries, she hisses at him and runs to her hiding places.

  • Try new things.

    Ollie eats more fruits and vegetables than the average human. When he hasn’t tried something before, he will inspect it, sniff it, lick it, take it in his mouth, and walk to his “spot,” where he will complete a further inspection. If he doesn’t like it after the inspection (see: oranges), he will leave it. More often, however, he enjoys it and comes back for more (see: pineapple, frozen pumpkin puree, frozen apples, frozen pears, and his favorite—bananas).

  • Show people you love them.

    Both Ollie and Elphie show us that they love us in their own ways. Ollie brings us toys when we come home from work, licks us whenever we will allow it, and wants to be near us as he takes his naps. Elphie brings us toys (usually late at night), conquers flies that make their way into the house, and gives the most excellent lap cuddles.

  • Never underestimate the power of a nap.

    Oliver and Elphaba are both excellent at taking naps. It doesn’t matter where they are—they will always get their required sleep, which seems to be about 18 hours a day for Ollie, and around 20 for Elphie. Someone once told me that taking a nap is the human equivalent of “Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?” When in doubt, take a nap.

Jennifer Kendrick

AAMFT Approved Supervisor
Kentucky Board Approved MFT Supervisor

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Clinical Social Worker in KY
Licensed Clinical Social Worker in IN
cell: 502.203.9197