I spent my undergraduate years studying zoology and philosophy, as well as, the usual pre-medical chemistry grind. My zoological education has proven episodically useful for things like zoo trips, scuba adventures and pet care.
Along the way, I have collected the requisite wife and kids, and more than a few creatures. While great tomes have been written about lessons learned from our children, not much about what our creatures can teach us, even reptiles.
Many have said if you want happiness in your life, get a dog. (We have a Siberian Husky and an American Eskimo dog – yes, perhaps stupid choices for Arizona, especially in the summer). My dogs teach me about unconditional love and living in the moment.
The wife and kids part of the family is seldom waiting eagerly by the door when I get home from work, but the dogs are positively thrilled to greet me. Long-lost relatives and sons returning from war have not received such a welcome.
Dogs are perfectly self- actualized creatures, living in the moment. They have no baggage, no worries about yesterday or tomorrow. Nothing distracts them from fully enjoying the moment. They are a great example and inspiration to truly live your life and taste every bite.
We are between cats at the moment, but have had many. Cats remind you to be cool under fire. Calmness and quiet dignity will get you through most of what life throws at you. Whatever calamity is befalling you certainly isn’t worth getting your fur ruffled.
I have a pair of Bearded Dragons. They are lizards about 15 inches long and covered with spikes, vaguely prehistoric, but friendly and harmless. I got into reptiles totally by accident, a “house gecko” joined me in the shower (these things happen when you live in Arizona; my wife once yelled: “there’s a snake in the bathroom”).
So a few wild geckos, and next thing you know, you need bigger, fancier lizards. Once you start watching lizards, it’s all over. Lizards are perfect Zen creatures. They can remain awake, alert, calm, and still in some reptilian meditation for hours. My little Zen masters.
Snickers is a ball python, which is a small python, 5-foot max (think Alice Cooper’s snake). Most people who get interested in lizards, sooner or later, get a snake. I told my wife that, not that it helped. Snickers has perhaps been my most instructive pet. The day I bought him I learned an important lesson: don’t buy a snake without asking your wife. Having a wife and two daughters, I gave him a cute name to make him more lovable. Didn’t work. Second lesson: a name is just a name; Snickers is still a python.
But Snickers is an amazing creature. He has no arms, no legs, and a brain the size of a peanut. Talk about facing life with handicaps. He can climb anything, escape from almost anything that isn’t locked, and catch and eat a rat on the fly. Try that with no hands. Try to eat even pizza without hands, and pizza isn’t trying to run away. Snickers is able to pull off life successfully with none of the advantages I have, and take totally for granted. That’s a lot of lessons for a $79 snake.
Life is trying to teach you something – pay attention.
As always, take care.