Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Touch of Gentle Refinement

I just finished a delightful little book, "Wisdom of Donkeys" by Andy Merrifield. It is relaxing and contemplative, just like a donkey. It includes quite a lot about donkeys in literature through not just centuries but thousands of years. It slips in a lot of information about these unassuming but oh-so-useful animals.

He talks quite a bit about the soothing effect of rubbing a donkey's soft poll, and how in England some are used in schools, hospitals, nursing homes and retirement homes as therapeutic animals.

In the U.S., there is a small but growing trend to "employ" some dogs and cats with the elderly and with children with various disabilities. In my own county, a program trains therapeutic horses for disabled children to ride. Some have spoken for the first time after horse therapy, others have learned to walk or do other things.

Animals have a powerful effect on us. A new study has just announced what other studies have said in the past--that pet owners tend to be more calm, even have lower blood pressure, after petting their dogs or cats.

While this can be true for all humans, I think it is more striking in the United States, with its commercially sexual message on one hand and "don't touch hardly ever" message on the other. We humans have a lot of skin, all of it sensitive. We HAVE to have touch somehow.

I think about how hard it is today for renters to find housing for their pets in apartments or houses, and I understand the potential problems, but--more and more of us live alone. More and more of us have retreated to outlets like this computer, or our MP3 players or ipods or whatever. We interact--really interact--less and less with each other. It seems to me often that the more phones someone has, the harder they are to reach. And that is still not touching.

I wonder how many renters would be healthier, have lower blood pressure, with a pet? (And dogs have to be walked, which means more exercise, which is also beneficial.)
In my case, my dog has died, but I get lots of human hugs. Granddaughters are pretty good at that, and my sons hug me every time we part, or I hug them.
But to stroke the fur of an animal is special. Pleasurable. Soothing.

I would say meant to be. I smiled to read about this man walking about with his little donkey, sharing the journey, the donkey not intruding on his thoughts, giving him time to formulate what would become this delightful book.

A wise donkey indeed.

1 comment:

J.R.Shirley said...

Excellent post. People need healthy touch. Yes, it can be erotic and it can be exploitative, but it can also just be healthy and accepting.