This past November, I had the good fortune to visit Guadalajara as a guest of the Jack Y Junior TV show. My hosts, Mary and Jaime, have taken their years of news broadcasting experience and created a show for pet owners in Mexico. Based on the lives of their own animals, their show explores different breeds, pet activities and health issues for pets and has quickly become one of the most popular shows in their region (Cattie’s note: watch the episode at the end of this post – the section featuring Lola starts at about 29:00).
As part of my visit, I spoke to a group of approximately 40 veterinarians, technicians and other animal health care professionals about the benefits of animal massage and Manual Ligament Therapy. While I was invited with the idea of helping educate them about popular complementary therapies used here in the United States, in many ways it was I who got the education.
Cultural differences extend to all aspects of life, including pet ownership. New to Mexico, I was not sure what to expect from the pet owners I would be meeting, but I wanted to be sure to create a presentation that would inform, entertain and educate while being sensitive to the local culture. I should mention at this point that English is my first and only language and therefore I was also facing a potential language barrier while communicating my message.
I needn’t have worried. The pet owners and pet professionals I met in Mexico shared the same concerns, faced many of the same challenges and lavished the same love and attention on their pets as the people I have met in the U.S., Canada, China, Europe and elsewhere. At its purest, everyone I met was seeking ways to ensure that their pets could live long, healthy lives free of pain. Sometimes that message can get lost in the outward expressions we use to demonstrate our love for our animal companions. Some of the dogs and cats I meet live outdoors, others indoors, some wear clothing to protect their thin skin and keep them warm and others sleep in nests they dig out of the snow for themselves. Some walk on harness and leashes and others roam loose and free. Some respond to a litany of commands and tricks they have painstakingly perfected while others barely seem to recognize their name as they bound from coach to floor to counter to yard, tail wagging and ears flapping.
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In almost every case, there was someone behind them smiling proudly (sometimes sheepishly). Someone who believed this is truly the best, cutest, smartest, goofiest….dog or cat on the entire planet and he/she is mine, all mine.
Of course, I am not blind to the fact that many cats and dogs and other animals live tragic lives of abandonment, suffering and neglect. But if my travels teach me anything, it is that the vast majority of us feel a deep connection to the animals we encounter and that animals often bring out our compassion in a way that crosses all borders, cultures and languages and truly makes us human.