Hugs are the universal communication medium for most animals. It may surprise you to discover that I hug all my animals on a regular basis. The reasons for hugging my animals are many, but from the animal’s perspective, it’s a matter of knowing that I’m OK—that I’m not going to hurt them. To keep an animal tame and workable, you need to respect its need for contact with you. Often, people have problems working with their animals because the needed relationship simply isn’t there. Here’s a picture of me hugging one of my chickens, Daisy.
The chickens are actually quite interesting because they curtsey to attract attention and tell me that they want to be picked up. The curtsey is kind of a half bow where they spread their wings slightly as if lifting out a dress. The point is that the hens really do want (and need their hugs).
The rabbits also need hugs and have a different way of demonstrating the need. One of my rabbits, Twilight, will sit on her hind legs and raise her front legs in greeting when I open the cage in the morning. If I don’t pick her up and pet her, she stomps her back feet when I leave to show that she’s really quite unhappy. It doesn’t have to be a long hug, just as long as I tell her that she’s special in her own way.
My two dogs, Reese and Shelby, want their hugs first thing in the morning, when I let them in from going outside. Each dog has her own way of getting petted. Shelby is quite dignified about the whole thing and sits patiently waiting until I pet her. A little nuzzle often tells me that her patience is running out. Reese is quite crazy and runs about in circles until I invite her over for a hug. Of course, it’s not enough to simply pet her back, she wants her belly petted as well.
Every morning Sugar Plum wakes me up by meowing at me and patting my face. If that doesn’t work, she gets Smucker involved (he stomps all over me). Failing that, the two cats get the dogs stirred up. All that howling, baying, and barking is impossible to ignore. Obviously, Sugar Plum wants to be paid for her efforts, and her hug is a required part of the payment. Smucker usually comes in after breakfast, sits on my shoulder for a while, and then sort of slides down into my lap for his hug.
Of course, the hugs don’t just help the animals. Hugs come with serious health benefits for humans too. I’ve noted that my mood improves after my hugs each day. The results are measurable too. Taking my blood pressure before and after a hug shows that it goes down every time. Lower blood pressure and heart rate will help me stay healthy and all it takes is a simple hug.
Some people might question whether my animals really do require hugs, or whether I’m anthropomorphizing natural behaviors that mean something else. At one time, I might have thought that animals really didn’t need the hugs—that their behaviors really did mean something quite different, but time has taught me that they need love too and a hug is one of the best ways to give it to them. Let me know your thoughts on hugging your animals (or hugs in general) at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.