No losers here.

Updated: Apr 16, 2021


Bets were made, bets were lost, and now I've got red in my ledger... The marvelous Amy bet me that if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost the big game, she would donate to the charity of my choice but if they won, I owed her a blog article. Welp, true to fashion, I lost the bet so Amy challenged me to write about how animals help us humans reach our potential.

Pfft... I thought, I could write that in my sleep. Easy. And in a way, it was easy to write this. However, as I continued to think about what I would write, a curious sort of thing happened. I began to think of more and more ways in which animals really forward our human potential.

I mean the obvious way is through companionship. Animals have been our partners just about since humanity was a thing. The notion of a companion animal is something that has gained momentum over the last several years, but really, animals have always been there to support us. They were and are our working helpmates, they assist with physical, mental, and emotional difficulties that humans face. They provide protection and a sense of security, allowing us a freedom to more fully be ourselves.

Animals do jobs people can't do, like sniffing out bombs or drugs. Our law enforcement and military are better because of these amazing animals. Throughout time, animals have carried us and lugged our belongings, they helped us to build, they've literally supported us, carried us into war, hunted and tracked food for us, and been our helpers in fields and on farms.

There are programs out there for veterans that match a vet with an animal. This animal becomes a sort of emotional anchor, something to help keep that vet grounded in the here and now, to provide unconditional love and support, thus allowing the vet to more smoothly re-enter civilian society and to overcome or more ably handle trauma.

Animals even help inmates and ex convicts. They function in a similar capacity to the help an animal provides a veteran, giving them unconditional love and acceptance. Face it, when you have that furry face gazing up at you like you have literally hung the moon, you feel pretty powerful right? Well for someone needing to believe in themselves, in their ability to change, to be responsible, that's important.

I've personally witnessed the power of animal companionship. My husband was suicidal toward the end of his life. The only time he was happy was when he was surrounded by our animals. He thought of them as our furry children and they quite literally kept him from ending his life. I'm crying as I write about this and already, my dog Lacey who was the first animal my husband and I adopted together, is coming over and nudging my elbow in silent support. She has always been receptive to our emotions. The few times we argued, she would stand between us and bark, which of course made us stop arguing.

When we took in two little puppies later, the boy became my husband's constant companion. Frank is maybe 10 pounds. He would wedge himself down next to my husband on the couch and wouldn't move from his side. He knew my husband needed that presence. They were bonded. The night my husband died, when it happened, Frank began to howl; the long mournful hair-raising howl of loss. He knew.

So far every example I've mentioned has shown the ways in which animals have directly helped us achieve our human potential. But animals have also helped us to achieve a greater potential indirectly. When someone stops to help an injured animal, when someone adopts an animal from a rescue or shelter, especially if that animal is older or in medical need, those are times humans show they can care for more than themselves.

Animals have helped us to be more patient, more kind, more compassionate, more giving. They help us to be better, to achieve our true potential not just as individuals but as a society, as a race.

Liz Riffle

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