I’m a strong believer that every animal has at least one lesson to teach us on our journey. Here are the lessons I’ve learned so far.

Dogs: Dogs love you on your worst days. Dogs love you on your best days. Dogs love you when you yell, cry, laugh, or a combination of all three. Dogs appreciate every little thing you do for them and are the most loyal creatures we can ask for. Dogs absolutely love unconditionally. If I could change anything about dogs, I would lengthen their too-short life span without a second thought. Dogs unfortunately showed me true heartbreak. They become our best friends and a true part of our families, but they all have to leave us too soon. Dogs taught me that grief is the price we pay for love.

Cats: Cats are complex animals with complex lessons. First, I need to clarify one thing: there’s a huge difference between regular indoor cats and BARN cats. I’ve only had barn cats in my life, so I can’t write about the fluffy, declawed, clean, indoor cats. Barn cats are tough. Tough to keep alive, tough to find, tough to micro-manage. When I was little, I was continually devastated that I couldn’t smother them with love. I had a lot of barn cats. The two toughest were (by far) Luigi and Stereo. There were both black and big and ruthless. They tolerated me. As Stereo grew old, he got away from killing gophers and rabbits. He settled with killing only a few mice a day. After a while, Mom started letting him in the house. He became fond of the fireplace and became an indoor/outdoor cat (my dad will deny this.) Cats taught me that it’s okay to be tough and it’s okay to change your life and it’s definitely okay to be alone.

Chickens: If you read my first blog, you know I believe chickens are the spawn of Satan. They taught me how to run, climb fence at record speed, watch my own back, and how to forever fear something that’s 95% smaller than me. Chickens, (roosters in particular) are mean and I’m pretty sure they take pride in this. They’re pompous, rude, and did I mention mean? However, if you grew up on a ranch you know there’s really no escaping chickens. All of the other animals on the ranch started to seem pretty freakin’ nice compared to the chickens. Chickens taught me (although I was reluctant to learn anything from them) you have to live with the bad to appreciate the good.

Fish: Everything dies, or does it? I’ve had a goldfish for 10 years. 10. I won him at the carnival, but he was kind of a burden on the rides so I put him down in the shade. When I came back a few hours later, he was no longer in the shade. The bag was scalding hot and he didn’t look so good. I took him home and put him in my aquarium. He was apparently fine because it only took him a few days to eat all of my other fish. After about a year, my mom told me I had to get him out of the house because he was weirdly big and creeped her out. After a while of struggling with ethics and personal moral values, I decided to dump him in the horse trough on a really cold day. I remember this because I was pretty sure he was going to get belly-up within a few hours. He didn’t. Unfortunately, he’s still alive and well and won’t die. Ever. He swims kinda crooked and turned pure white, but he seems as happy as if he had good sense. His name is Carni.

Horses: My friend Codi Uecker once summed up the most important lesson horses were able to teach me over the course of 22 years. She wrote, “I think about all of our successes and all of our failures. It never mattered which occurred, just that we did it together. The number of failures we earned only made our time of triumph that much greater.” This is how it always has been and always will be. Always.