How Animals Teach Us to be Human


Part Two

Part One was about a dog and a cat who taught me a great deal about being human. There’s one more little animal teacher I’d like to tell you about:

Flopsy-Jean Teemley was a chocolate brown Holland lop, and the first child my wife Trudy and I raised together. We’d only been married a few months when we spotted her in the bunny bin at a local pet shop. She was ridiculously cute. But she was also wild and afraid. Rabbits survive by running away, so she spent the first week in her new home cowering in corners. I complained to Trudy that I’d wanted a real pet, not a wild, untamable creature that couldn’t love me back.

It wasn’t until our friend Mary ruffled Flopsy’s fur backwards that we discovered the key to her heart: she may have been of Dutch heritage, but she was clearly a rabid fan of Swedish massage. Somehow, wildly aggressive rubbing demonstrated trust and affection to her in a way that nothing else could. When we did this she’d turn into a happily mesmerized bunny rug. Soon she was waiting at the door when we came home, racing excitedly around our feet, and performing “crazed bunny” leaps for our delight.

By the time our first human child was born, Flopsy was middle-aged. She was wary of this teetering toddler, and soon resigned herself to letting it be the new household entertainer. But she was always near, always ready for a nose rub, a permanent member of the family no matter who else was added.

Flopsy-Jean was seven when she began to die. She’d remained in her hutch for the last two weeks, refusing to eat or even sip from her water bottle. I went to check on her, fearing to find her dead. I put a few rolled oats in front of her (her favorite treat). Nothing. So I stood up and started to walk away.

bunnyminilopSuddenly there was movement in the corner of my eye. Somehow, after remaining motionless for a week, Flopsy had managed to climb out of her hutch and drag herself over to me. I bent down and stroked her nose. She nudged my hand. So I got down on my belly, face to face with her.

And then, in as clear a “goodbye” as I’ve ever received, she pressed her cheek against mine and just held it there. I wept as I told this formerly wild animal I loved her, and then gently cradling her in my arms, carried her back to her hutch.

By the next morning she was gone. But not from my heart.

It was the most profound moment of communion I’ve ever experienced with an animal. I knew—knew—that God was speaking to me through her. What He was saying I’m still unraveling. That He means for us to love and learn from animals, certainly.  But more, I suspect.

Much more.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to How Animals Teach Us to be Human

  1. I used to say that I loved animals more than humans. Today I know that’s not true, but animals speak to our hearts in a way humans cannot. God is indeed a wonderful God to have given us so many ways to love.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. ellie894 says:

    You made me cry with sweet reminder of all the animals who have loved me in my life. Thank you kindly 🕊

    Liked by 6 people

  3. No human eulogy was ever more grace-ful than this, Mitch. Whether you ever know more of what God was saying, you seem to have embraced the special wonder of spirit-to-spirit communion that can happen anywhere – when our hearts are open to it. And evidently, it happens quite uniquely with our animal companions. Thank you for sharing this so eloquently and movingly!

    Liked by 5 people

  4. smzang says:

    a masterpiece of the heart

    Liked by 7 people

  5. I dread the day that I have to let Scout go. 😓

    Liked by 7 people

  6. Such a beautiful story, Mitch. I am truly sorry for your loss…no matter how long ago it occurred.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. joyroses13 says:

    Oh Mitch, my heart! So tender of a memory and reminds me so much of when our dog , who had congestive heart failure said goodbye to us.
    Maggie was her name and she always liked to lie in the living room. This night though was different. My oldest child walked into her room which was dark and Maggie was sitting there right inside the door, like she was waiting for my daughter . There were cuddles and then she left the room. My youngest child walked into his room in the dark and there was Maggie again sitting right inside the door. The same scene was repeated in our room and the next morning I woke up and Maggie had died in her sleep. She was such a sweet dog and I agree with you God can use pets to touch our hearts and speak to us in so many ways!

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I believe animals experience emotion…and love for sure! Your story is so touching to my heart. We had a rabbit, Rabbit Redford, and he was part of our family for years. When he passed, my husband and two sons took him over to the hills and gave him a proper burial. Tears fell from our eyes as we said good-bye. Blessings to you!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Mike says:

    I’m a sucker for stories like this. Anyone who’s lost a pet will shed a tear when they read this. Nicely done.

    Liked by 6 people

  10. Jennie says:

    I love this story, Mitch!

    Liked by 6 people

  11. Pingback: How Animals Teach Us to be Human | Mitch Teemley

  12. CJ Hartwell says:

    Our first “child” was a rabbit too! Mr. Peabody, a dwarf bunny with attitude and a fondness for getting his nose scratched. Used the litter box like a champ but if he got mad at us (for instance, if we left town for the weekend), he’d leave a few droppings in our bedroom where he wasn’t allowed. He was a bit of a stinker but we adored him.
    Loved this story, Mitch.

    Liked by 6 people

  13. A very loving and moving story Mitch. And Yes, animals can teach us a lot about love and devotion.

    Liked by 5 people

  14. Pingback: The Monster | Daily Inkling – Normal Happenings

  15. This was a quiet reflection which I enjoyed. You took me back to the days when I could not have a pet then to the days I made my own decisions, now is the time I enjoy the love and warmth of an odd bond that arrives to fill our satisfaction. I know that those moments were there in my life, I just can’t put it in words. A joy to read Mitch.

    Liked by 6 people

  16. grAnnie Roo says:

    You simply don’t disapoint, Mitch. I relish how this story reminds me that God blessed my life abundantly with unimaginable love that warms this otherwise cool season of aloneness. I am thankful, Mitch. Well done, Sir.

    Liked by 6 people

  17. JoHanna Massey says:

    Beautifully expressed. Thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

  18. Really moving. Pets are wonderful.

    Liked by 5 people

  19. This brought tears to my eyes, what a beautiful experience you’ve had.
    Thank you for such a beautiful heart warming posts, animals are definitely more than what they seem. 💜

    Liked by 6 people

  20. nancyehead says:

    I love the way animals love us. They are more forgiving and show more empathy than many people can try to. Great job, Mitch! God bless!

    Liked by 6 people

  21. Ann Coleman says:

    Oh, this made me cry! What a beautiful story of growth and love. I do believe that God teaches us things through animals, which is why I believe that animals deserve our love and care. Thank you, Mitch.

    Liked by 5 people

  22. I recently lost my parrot. He died suddenly under confusion circumstances that I’m still waiting on answers for. Parrots are a wonderful challenge as companions. They’re not really domesticated like dogs and cats. The day after Ravi passed my world came to a screeching halt and I had to relearn how to go about my day without him. I’m still not quite there yet.

    Dr. Temple Vrandin has written several books about the human animal bond. Highly recommended if you’ve ever had so much as a goldfish. “Animals in Translation” and “Animals Make is Human.”

    Liked by 4 people

  23. I too have a rabbit and they showcase love in the most unusual ways. Whenever I am sad or upset he sits next to me. As if he wants to offer company. It’s been five years and the bond has become more strong than ever. The departure of your bunny makes me sad yet brings a smile on my have. Because you two shared such a precious bond. It is something can only be felt deep in the heart 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  24. *my face, *that can only be felt. Pardon me

    Liked by 4 people

  25. Paula says:

    As you know from many of my FB posts, Scout the Rabbit is a good friend to me. He presents a charismatic personality and a soul as pure as snow. He’s naughty, nice, and contented. I’ve yet to see him ill, but the friend from whom I adopted him knows the rabbit world in and out. She says that a rabbit’s life expectancy is, at best, eight years. Scout just turned three. I hope I have those five more years to love him. He’s a close second place in the Favorite Pet category after my cat, Jane Doe. Yes, animals have that way about them. He can make me a little naughty, somewhat nice, and quite contented.

    Liked by 4 people

  26. Anchors To Windward says:

    I saw my own reflection in the words you wrote here. Thank you for this.
    Have a blessed day!

    Liked by 4 people

  27. ECOSANKU says:

    Animals are better than human

    Liked by 3 people

  28. Anna says:

    Amazing stories!

    Liked by 3 people

  29. buddingb says:

    It made me emotional….
    Thank you so much for sharing this… ❤️🤗👍

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Pingback: Cats I Have Known and Loved | Mitch Teemley

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