Our adopted shelter dog, a cocker spaniel we named Leaf, grips his bouncy orange ball firmly in this mouth and races back toward us for another throw. He thrives on his success at running and catching the toy. Good fortune, health, and happiness are reflected in the shine of his black furry body and deep brown eyes.
L. Gene Hicks from Crossville, Tennessee wrote to us after reading one of our books. The story he shared beautifully expresses how full of gratitude he felt for the birds who filled his home with joy. They made him prosperous in every way that counts. He tells about the birds below in his own words.
Wikipedia defines prosperity as “the state of flourishing, thriving, success, or good fortune.” The online reference source goes on to state: “Prosperity often encompasses wealth but also includes other factors which are independent of wealth to varying degrees, such as happiness and health.” So by Wikipedia’s or anyone’s definition Leaf would be considered prosperous. As Leaf’s people, we see ourselves as prosperous, because he makes it possible for us to play, laugh, and share precious moments with our fun-loving dog.
A surprising theme we’ve heard expressed by readers of our books who write and call us is how happy they feel with the love of animals in their lives. No matter how shaky their financial situations may be, the great majority of them continue to thrive because an animal enriches their lives. Animals are redefining prosperous for them, not in terms of monetary wealth or materialism, but as leading the rich life of having a joyful spirit.
Children’s book author Louis Sabin wrote, “No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich.” This can easily be expanded to all companion animals. The unconditional love mixed with living in the moment and play, give people peace of mind and emotional well-being. In other words, pets make people prosperous.
I had two birds, Kelly and Alex. Alex was a male Pacific parrotlet. Except for his first seven weeks, I had Alex for eighteen years. Shortly before Alex’s death about a year ago, when I saw he was in distress, I picked him up and held him in my hands.
For years, Alex had enjoyed sitting on my shoulder while giving me kisses on my cheek and talking to me. But on this day, he left my hands and slowly, with much difficulty, climbed up to my shoulder. He sat there about one or two minutes. Then he climbed back down to my waiting hands where he died within fifteen or twenty seconds.
All I could understand from Alex’s actions was that he wanted to be on my shoulder one more time for old time’s sake. I shed tears when I think of this. Alex was a great companion, and I really loved him.
Then there was Kelley, a male maroon-bellied conure. Except for the first four weeks, I had him for fourteen years. Kelly was a good talker and had quite a large vocabulary. I used to let him sit on top of his cage during the day whenever I was at home. When I left home, I would say, “I want you to go into your cage.” And he always returned to his cage upon hearing this command.
Later, when he saw me put on a coat as if I were going out, Kelly would ask, “Do you want me to go into my cage?” He would change the “I” to “you” and the “you” to “my” on his own. No one taught him how to do this. Kelly was a wonderful, intelligent bird I really enjoyed. I was honored to have both Kelly and Alex. Pets are people too.
A Grateful and Prosperous Kitten
By their actions animals have taught us the true meaning of prosperity. We had a lesson from a black-and-white tuxedo cat. Cuddles was a kitten we brought home from the animal shelter. She liked to scratch the couch in our living room. In no time, our lovely couch looked torn and sad.
One day we saw a photo of a tall scratching post that was made of rope. Shaped like an ice cream cone, the post was stuck into a stand that didn’t wobble. The directions said to rub catnip on the yarn. Then we were to get down on the floor and scratch the post. This would show Cuddles how to use it.
At the pet store we found a post that looked like the kind in the photo. We brought it home and smeared catnip on it. Then we called the kitten into the living room. With knees on the floor, we scratched the post. Maybe we even purred. Yes, we looked pretty weird.
Cuddles watched us for a few minutes. To our delight, she began scratching the other side of the post. We watched as something magic and wonderful came over her. She loved the sound of scratching yarn and enjoyed touching the twine. The smell of catnip made her go into kitty heaven. She scratched and stretched and rolled and purred.
Then Cuddles did something we will never forget. She stopped scratching and looked at us with gratitude in her eyes. It was as if she were saying, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” Then she returned to the joy of scratching.
Later that day, we found Cuddles alone with her new friend, the scratching post. The kitten lay on the floor with her cheek pressed against it. She had thrown her little arms around the post to hug it. It brought tears to our eyes to see Cuddles this way. We sat down on what was left of the living room couch. The gratitude Cuddles showed that day had reminded us to be thankful for the love our animal family brings to us.
How are animals redefining your definition of prosperity?
Allen and Linda Anderson are founders of the Angel Animals Network and authors of a series of books published by New World Library about the spiritual connection between people and animals. Animals and the Kids Who Love Them: Extraordinary True Stories of Hope, Healing, and Compassion is the newest book in the Angel Animals series. Subscribe to the Andersons’ free, online newsletter at www.angelanimals.net and follow them on Facebook and Twitter@angelanimals.