“Call my chiropractor, I did it again!” comes the muffled cries from the large lump beneath my blanket. I am paralyzed…by pets, and I’m paying the price for twisting my torso for their comfort yet again.

But, seriously, who could expect me to move when my West Highland white terrier, Keely, is three-quarters under the covers beside me and has her little head draped over my throat; my cat, Giles, is perched high on my hip; my second Westie, Blanche, is nestled in my knee pit; my second cat, Xander, is curled up and purring in my arms; and my third Westie, Ambrose, is snuggled against my feet? Nothing short of the smoke alarms blaring is going to get me out of my bed until the critters themselves are good and ready (meaning they’re hungry, have to go outside, or have detected a squirrel has crept into their yard).

I know I’m being used. A line from the musical Oliver! comes to mind at these moments: “Consider yourself part of the furniture.” But I wouldn’t trade my role as their human ottoman for the world. My pets, which also include two finches, Atticus and Scout, who thankfully opt not to sleep in bed with me, are the most important “people” in my life, aside from my hubby, who fortunately feels the same way.

Before you rag on me, yes, I know full well they’re animals. I feed the five carnivores a raw-meat diet, something I never serve my human friends and family. I discipline them when they squabble over a chew toy or jump on the kitchen counter, take them on long walks to teach them to use a loose leash, make them wait to let me in doors or down stairs ahead of them, etc. Most of the time I actually am their pack leader.

But in bed, I’m just another animal.

The presence of these warm, loving creatures brings me a depth of peace and happiness I truly cannot adequately describe. Suffice it to say, I would not willingly live without animals. I need them to survive emotionally as much as they need me and my opposable thumbs to survive physically; they suck at operating can openers and/or cleaning their own litter boxes.

I purposely avert my eyes from the omnipresent gruesome news stories, those that redundantly prove the depths of depravity of which we humans are capable. Instead, I watch my four-legged companions at play or pet them while they’re sleeping in a patch of sunshine and instantly achieve a Zen-like state. They’re never part of the world’s problems. I’ve never once read headlines like “Kamikaze Kittens Bomb Seafood Factory” or “Tyrannical Terriers Turn Terrorist.”

Yes, they do all instinctively go after rodents, but there is never malice aforethought in their actions, so it hardly equals the evil some homo sapiens do out of greed, jealousy, fear, addiction, or for the sheer perverse thrill it gives them.

Humans are the only creatures that can and do create suffering for themselves and others. Dwelling on past wrongs that can never be altered—playing the endless-loop tape of “if only…”—or fretting over a future that has not yet arrived—listening to “what if…” bounce off the insides of our craniums—our minds struggle to live anyplace but where we actually are—not yesterday, not tomorrow, simply now.

Letting go of all that is over and done means never having to harbor a grudge or feel stinging regret. Animals, having no concept of the future of the economy or the swift destruction of the environment, or the ongoing wars in the Middle East, reside happily in the moment and teach us, if we pay attention, to do the same.

I never achieve that state of acceptance, of peace, better than when I’m surrounded by, even buried beneath, my furry family members. Nothing keeps me in the now like listening to their purrs or puppy snores and/or watching them chase phantom squirrels in their sleep. My heart swells. I sigh, smile, and resolve to call that chiropractor when we all finally get up…if my arm will still move. Under the weight of my cat, it’s been asleep quite a while.

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