|Irene and I. Notice the secret of Irene’s happiness in her fat little paw!|
Ever since childhood, I have both consciously and unconsciously looked for animal equivalents for people I encounter.
This helps me see understand them better—and offers surprisingly accurate clues on how they might behave in the future, and how one should deal with them. (Of course, if one has read them wrong, and got the animal wrong, then you are in trouble). Both J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman mine this territory with their patronus and daemons, animals which provide an objective correlative, an exact equivalent of a human’s inner spirit.
Some people have the personality of big bounding dogs. Some of petted cats. I remember an American fellow church-member who had the hunted flickering eyes of a hunted rabbit. It turned out that she was from an abusive family, had been put in care, married well, made good. Her eyes, however, told their own story. She would never be entirely relaxed, entirely open and disingenuous; she remembered the days of being hunted, so to say. She was always, figuratively speaking, on the edge of her seat, ready to flee. You could never get the whole of X, just as a wild rabbit will never be entirely tame.
Irene had a classmate who for the six years I’ve known her, always struck me with her unpleasant “swinish” expression, I’d say, as I warned Irene to steer clear of her (maternal intuition!). In Year 7, she turned deeply nasty, writing filthy anonymous letters, stealing kids’ medication, trashing their belongings, Lord of the Flies territory. Her face had told the tale years before—as did her mum’s face which bore the identical expression.
Our family had a big debate on holiday as to which animal we were. When I was younger, I was definitely a puppy, a big bounding golden retriever, perhaps. Now, I would say, I am becoming a cat, perhaps a Siamese or Persian cat. All cats need to be happy is a warm sunny spot somewhere, and a saucer of milk. They have an unerring ability to find the warmest and most comfortable spot even in a cheerless, cluttered room. Amid scenes of devastation, war, tsunamis, earthquakes, you see cats, curled up and comfortable in a sunny corner amid the wreckage. While they will consent to being petted, if you ask them nicely, they are emotionally independent. And while I would rather be comfortable in comfortable surroundings, I find I can curl up and be happy anywhere, with my laptop, and a book, and a figurative saucer of milk, i.e. a snack. So I travel well, and enjoy it.
Roy was more of an emotionally independent cat when we got married. Now, he has morphed into a dog. A big mastiff or Saint Bernard, shaggy, affectionate, home-loving, devoted to those he loves. Or perhaps he is a big hairy German Shepherd, fiercely loyal and devoted, though snappish when pushed too far. (He generally doesn’t read my blog; isn’t that wonderful?) And while we are generally the kind of cats and dogs who enjoy snuggling up together, we are sometimes proverbial cats and dogs!
If our older daughter, Zoe had a daemon or patronus, it would also be a shaggy, good-natured, home-loving dog, a big fluffy sheepdog, which is what Roy always lovingly called her. Irene, at present, is a sleek, pampered cat, rather pleased with itself, though people’s personalities change through life, depending on the hand life deals them.
So, if you were an animal, which animal would you be?