an-thro-po-mor-phic adj. Ascribing human form or attributes to a being or thing not human, esp. to a deity.
Well I can’t say with any certainty that my old blue beer koozie quite fit the bill of a deity but it sure kept my beer cold. The thing is, I have a tendency to become very attached to things. And in return, those things seem to stay with me. Take for example the day my koozie accompanied me to the beach and upon my return home (damn my carelessness), it was nowhere to be found. The next morning, I opened my door and there it was, patiently waiting and ready to resume its duties, despite my irresponsible ways. Surely I had dropped it from my beach tote and a neighbor found it and placed it at my threshold? (However, the Twilight Zone’s soundtrack slowly fills the void of uncertainty.)
I mean, this was not some Stephen King beer koozie or magical amulet… and yet…. regardless, it turned up like a lost dog. Why or how, who knows? But I had attached something personal to a piece of foam rubber. Kinda crazy? Well, how about your lucky piece of wilted cabbage wedged inside your wallet or that fava bean in the bottom of your purse? Uh!! You know you do it. You have little things that mean the world to you, that bring you luck. Of course they merely symbolize luck, giving us comfort, hope. (Or, is it magic and did I just see Rod Serling walking his dog across the street?) Would you say with conviction and without flinching for one second that you are superstitious? And if you do admit it, amid jokes, disclaimers, and qualifications, isn’t there a sense of “Oh, not really.” But seriously, watch a Saints game without wearing our lucky jersey? I think not. Why tempt fate? How many of you claim (as I do) not to take any stock in the God theory? But I bet you make sure you have your St. Joseph’s Day piece of stale French bread ready at your back door for hurricane season. (Toss it outside and the approaching hurricane will veer away. Worked for Katrina but had no affect on levees.)
Superstitions may seem silly but, what if that crack in the sidewalk were to break your mother’s back — wouldn’t you feel just a wee bit responsible? And superstitious or not, I still place much importance upon inanimate objects, like my little dog’s collar. Would I ever consider buying her a new one — heck no! She has been wearing the same one for more than 10 years, and in my heart of hearts it feels necessary. I’m not being superstitious, merely sentimental.
Follow me, if you will, on a sentimental journey. We are about to enter the “Hallmark Card Aisle” of our emotions. (Ignore that man and his dog smoking cigarettes.) Another attachment we bestow upon our things, stuff, and treasures is sentiment. The worst you will be accused of in doing this is being sappy or corny. And folks, no matter how cynical, will still smile with indulgence at your connection to your grandmother’s favorite vase, despite how butt-ugly it is. And you are allowed to feel that your long ago retired moth-eaten teddy bear is still your oldest friend and best confidant. Call this anthropomorphism — I call it loyalty, loyalty to things that give us strength or hope.
Most folks who have pets regard them as members of their family. I certainly do. However, our dogs and cats might take umbrage at being considered part of the human race since we tend to act like fools. But the point is, we value our critters and place their well-being above our own.
Attributing human emotions and reactions to our pets can often be off base. Sometimes they pee on the rug, not to make a political statement, but because they simply need to go. That greeting at the door is not always, “Gawd, I missed you more than life itself”; but simply because they want out that door to play. What we take as devotion is sometimes just a suck-up for treats. But make no mistake, they love and they know loyalty better than most humans do. A little dog named Winston, no bigger than a small shoe, taught us a lesson in such things.
Two Thanksgivings ago my friend Gallivan’s dog, Molly, was in her final stage of cancer. At the time Gallivan was boarding three dogs, one of which was Winston.
Thanksgiving morning Molly began to die — two of the dogs sensing this retreated from her and were exceedingly somber throughout the day. But Winston, moving in close, held vigil by Molly’s side until her time came. Only after Molly passed did Winston give up his post.
We tend to believe only we can truly feel and emote, that this is what makes us human; brands us as a superior being to other creatures. But we don’t stand unique with our thoughts and emotions — I believe there is a soul or depth to all animals. Humans could learn from Winston how to respect a life and tend to it as it departs.
American Indians held that all things in Nature possessed a spirit. I’m not so sure what they’d think of my koozie, but I know they’d have great regard for Winston. (This is where Mr. Serling and his dog share a knowing look, turn and walk away in a cloud of second-hand smoke back into the twilight of the ‘60s.) There may be no magic other than that of our imaginations, our emotions. For within our imagination, little things become grand treasures and memories are kept alive and nourished by the sentiment of our keepsakes. We have no monopoly on emotions; just as small-mindedness can dominate man, valor can live within the smallest of creatures.
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