Susan and LokiPhoto by Earthfire

— By Dawn Harrison —

In a recent team meeting, we talked about the connections that each of us have with the animals. It struck me just how similar humans and animals are when it comes to making friends and connections, and that those connections don’t need to be textbook definitions. As each of us talked about the different animals who seemed to most enjoy our company, I had to think of how the personalities of humans and animals came out. In some ways, it took me back to high school.

Loki the fox is like the kid who everyone knows, everyone likes, and who is kind to everyone. Always willing to stop and chat. Truly enjoying every interaction, whether it be with underclassmen, upperclassmen, or a member of the faculty.

Tahi the cougar is the diva who has a very small group of elite friends and only deigns to allow others to eat at her table if she is feeling exceptionally nice. Even then, you had better be able to read the cues when you’ve reached your limit of time in her presence, which is generally just long enough to give her the best part of your lunch.

Then there’s Tender the coyote. She’s the brilliant kid. I mean the one who skipped five grades and is going to graduate before she’s a teenager. She just wants to stay to herself and make it through the whole ordeal without too much attention and maybe one really good friend (in her case, it’s Shota the German shepherd). She’s perfectly fine with being selective in her friends and will probably be the next Doogie Howser when she gets over her shy stage. ( If you missed that era, just think of a 12-year-old doctor doing heart surgery.)

Which brings me to the teachers. I’m on the fence as to who the teachers are. On the one hand, I’m inclined to say it’s the humans, but that is very human of me. Of course I want to be the one who’s considered part of the elite. In reality, we are all the teachers—foxes, bears, wolves, cougars, bobcats, porcupines, coyotes, chickens, buffalo, horses, burros, and yes, even humans. We all have something to teach and something to learn. We will each gravitate to the personalities or temperaments that we align with, but we will learn from each and every experience and connection that we make. Lessons can be profound or seemingly insignificant, but they will stay with us and come to the forefront when they are needed.

With this realization also came the understanding that without being able to make a personal connection, it’s difficult to see the individuals that these lovely creatures are. It’s much like grouping each grade level into “freshmen” or “seniors” instead of seeing each individual as a person. The only difference is that animals look nothing like us and can’t communicate in what we humans see as speech. But in the end, it’s just another soul speaking another language. If you resonate with them, you can make a connection without being able to understand each other’s exact words. It may just be a timid lick (like a smile across the lunch room), but it could also be one of the connections or lessons that lasts a lifetime if you just give it a chance.

Dawn Harrison is the Office and Ranch Manager at Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. With a diverse background ranging from accounting and customer service to animal caretaking, her true passion is to help enrich the lives of animals, one being at a time.

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