By Jennifer Klein, Woodland Dunes Land Management Coordinator
Our connections to animals help us remain grounded in a fast-moving, technological world. Those connections can take on different forms throughout our lives and sometimes form without intention. For some of us, it is a fish in a bowl, to be observed and fed. For others, the bond may be linked to a furry animal such as a hamster, cat or dog and may involve some snuggling. But indoor pets take on all different forms and could even be a bird, reptile, or spider. No matter what type of animal one welcomes into their home, there is a feeling of responsibility to another being and with that comes a strong bond – we are in it together.
These bonds are not limited to intentional animals inside our homes (or on our land, such as chickens, goats, and the like). Some of our greatest bonds are with animals we do not control but are allowed to observe from a safe distance. Many people enjoy feeding birds. It allows them to sit in the comfort of their homes and feel connected to other beings without having complete responsibility for their survival and well-being. While some clean up of feeders and the area around them is necessary, it is not as demanding as having an indoor pet. And there is a satisfaction in watching wild birds raise young in one’s backyard. It’s like we had a small part in ensuring the survival of the species.
Just like indoor pets, taking care of wild animals isn’t just limited to birds. There is great joy to be had, for example, in feeding and observing backyard rabbits, for the same reasons as birds. They come into our yards, eat our offerings, and reward us with a show, and possibly also bless us by raising their young in our yards. In this way, we feel like we are a part of something bigger than our daily lives.
We may even go out of our way to ensure our animal friends are cared for in inclement weather by providing heated water, elevated food sources and shelter. My favorite example of this happened recently. My parents love to feed carrots to the wild bunnies in their yard. With the recent snowfall, the carrots would drop right through the snow and disappear. Their creative solution was to tie the carrots to a string and hang them from some small trees. It is very entertaining to watch the rabbits eat these carrots, and probably provides enrichment to them as well. Whatever one does to positively connect to other living beings is good for the heart and soul.
Photo: Rabbit in the backyard with carrots on a string, courtesy of Brian and Darla Powell