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January 1, 2020

BY SUSAN GOLDSTEIN

Back in the 1980s, I was witness to an early morning event that took place in the kitchen of what my family and I called “the Little House in the Woods.” MacMillan, our Sun Conure, lived in the glass-enclosed porch part of the kitchen facing east.

He was several months old at the time and quite verbal considering the breed. Some of the words he spoke with maximum clarity, while others were muffled requiring ongoing repetition.

Mac had a bit of a narcissistic side as he often spoke the words “Sweet Macmillan,” which caused an array of human laughter. “Thank you” was an expression of his more humble side, and on this particular morning, I could not help but notice the physical enthusiasm surrounding the repetitiveness of “thank you.”

Mac was perched on a wooden laundry rack facing a gorgeous sunrise and doing what looked like a ceremonial bow and, at the same time, repeating “thank you, thank you” over and over again. I felt compelled to stop what I was doing and observe the conversation and activities. The act of active listening requires great presence, and on that note I am grateful for my ability, as my life was transformed because I listened.

What is even more amazing is the experience that followed as the reality set in, that I was watching an animal express gratefulness, the impact of which brought me to my knees.

It is very hard to put into words something that humbles one so much, so that one’s spiritual DNA is rocked out of its chest cavity. In the wee small hours of the morning, in the presence of a fellow Earth Animal, I faced my ego and its shallowness. It was a moment out of time when I also faced the control concept of “owner” and the many times I used the term “dog owner,” “cat owner,” “horse owner,” “bird owner.”

I wept uncontrollably when I considered the fact that I did not own my husband or my two daughters and cringed at all the forms I filled out as Susan Goldstein, owner of an animal. This enlightened process continued while the room filled up with the sun’s golden light. I continued to cry it out and, as this spiritual detox was taking place, I came to realize that if an animal can pray, I clearly cannot own him, and on that very day, I never used the term again.

It’s taken many years to ponder the concept, and I am honored to have been one of the messengers to have led the I do not own my pet movement.

It is now my belief that if we own another living being, it gives us certain unalienable rights to control and perhaps enslave, and to take choices away from another. And perhaps at the root of social malady lies ownership, providing some of the rationale for committing animal abuse or other atrocities, such as the factory farming of billions of animals.

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