Friday, September 18, 2015

VeganMoFo Day 18: Honoring my Muses

Today's MoFo Prompt is: "Honor a human or non-human animal who inspires your veganism."

this doodle is a nod to the people who inspired me, all those years ago, to choose veganism. My co-worker and good friend Jen E, who was the first vegan I ever met. Sharon Gannon and David Life, yoga teachers who handed everyone in class (including me) a "Why Vegan?" brochure from Vegan Outreach. And that Vegan Outreach brochure that opened my eyes to the suffering involved in the egg & dairy industry, and immediately and forever changed my conviction.

This prompt was hard for me, because I had a lot of ideas, and I wasn't sure which road to take. Honestly, I've been vegan for so many years now, that vegan just feels like who I am. It sounds weird to say it, but I don't really feel like I need inspiration to be vegan anymore. Since the first moment I "went vegan," I haven't ever once wavered in my conviction that this was the right choice for me. My route to veganism came through yoga, and was a continuation of my path toward "ahimsa" - the yogic principle of compassion and non-harming. This has been and will continue to be the principle that I think of the most often, in all branches of my life (diet, actions, speech, thoughts) - and that I strive toward with ever higher standards. To be hurt feels terrible, and to hurt someone else feels even worse. I don't want to be a part of it.

Still, I needed something more to post about... so, of course I thought of the animals. I live in a community with abundant wild life (humpback whales, dolphins, deer, hawks, owls, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, etc). I love sharing my world and my community with these non-human beings. But the animals I get to see and engage with every day are our sweet pets, of course. Just now, Mr VE&T and I are sitting on the sofa, and all five of our pets are here with us.

Footie loves to be outside
Lately we had to start keeping him inside at night because there have been a lot of coyotes in our neighborhood, and sadly, many cats have gone missing. It's sort of wonderful to know that there are beautiful coyotes in our area, but also scary for our kitties. Footie is so upset about being kept inside at night. But, at least he makes the most of his daytime hours by getting out of the house!

I know it seems a bit overboard to have five pets, and maybe it is... but they are each so individual, so particular with their personalities and idiosyncrasies. A funny thing happened when we got Footie (cat #2) a couple years ago -- all of a sudden, Yummers (cat #1) became such an individual! He and Footie are very different people - with radically different personalities and boundaries and spirits. When Yummers was the only cat, those behaviors seemed cat-like. But after the arrival of Footie, they seemed uniquely Yummers-like. And having five pets helps us see each of them as the little individuals that they are.

two crazies
Snoopy is a little nut: A pint-sized packet of joie de vivre. When we got him, he brought along his enthusiasm for howling. I don't think Stevie or Dottie had ever even considered howling, but now they love to howl along with him. Dottie usually gets confused and just starts barking with her ear-drum splitting maniacal bark, but Stevie has become an adorable howling pro. She gets so excited about it that sometimes she has a hard time stopping. Kinda like when you start laughing during class and it just gets worse and worse and you can not stop laughing. 

Dottie likes to carry our shoes into the bedroom and leave them on our bed. It's so cute. She used to chew them up (totally less cute), but now she just gently transports them to the bed and leaves them there.

sorry for the weird light in this video
Also, Dottie loves loves loves to learn tricks and perform tricks. If you teach her a trick once and don't do it again for 5 years, she will still remember it. She used to really love doing "roll over," but now that she seems a little older and more creaky, I don't ask her to do it on the stone tiles outside. You can see that they're all pretty into, but no one's got the Laser-Like-Focus of Dottie Bonkers.

Stevie & her little blue ball
Stevie learned to play fetch just a couple years ago, and now she is wildly in love with her squeaky ball. Friends, can you tell how WONDERFUL Stevie is??? She is such an amazing animal, so full of emotional complexity. I love her so much. When she puts her little ears back like that it just makes my heart explode. SO CUTE.

One of the things that amazes me the most is Eye Contact. What on earth is happening in that exchange??

I find it totally mysterious and amazing that we can actually share our living space with members of other species. The gentle allowances and understandings that we arrive at, from years of co-habitation and without ever exchanging a single word is truly a marvel.

Sweet little Yummers. When we first got him, we would rejoice when he would sit three feet from us. We called it "the long-distance snuggle." Nowadays, he cuddles up right between us on the sofa. We call it "taco time" because he is like the taco filling, wedged in between us. 

I woke Yummers up from his afternoon nap for this video, and he was grumpy about it.

Lately I have been especially appreciating our sweet old cat Yummers Potatoes and the harmony that we have together. We've had him for 15 years now (!!), and after so many moments and years together, there is so much trust and understanding between us. It's amazing how Musty and I can decipher his complicated meow code, we can anticipate his every move and desire (oh, now he needs you to open the back door. *two minutes later* now he needs us to open the other back door. ha ha!), and we can certainly tell as soon as something is amiss or off-kilter with him. By nature, Yummers is cautious, and (to be honest) a bit of a curmudgeon. But gradually, and reluctantly, he has come to trust us. It makes our sweet moments with him even sweeter. We love him so much and it feels like an honor to have earned his trust and affection.

Day after day, in countless little ways, I see our pets experiencing the world around them with enthusiasm, fear, caution, playfulness, focus, disinterest... it's really not all that different than a day of my own life. When I see images of livestock animals, I can deduct with total certainty that each of them is a unique being with his or her own piggie preferences or bovine preferences or goosey preferences. I know that to get to know each of them, over a period of time, would unveil a unique and marvelous being inside - a being worth knowing and protecting.

The path of compassion and non-harming is a hard one. It's so tempting to give in to snarky humor or snide remarks. It's so alluring to think nasty and vengeful thoughts toward someone who has slighted me. But it doesn't feel good, and it doesn't sit well with me afterwards in my heart. I might struggle in those arenas still, but veganism seems like a clear and obvious (and tasty) way that I can reduce the circles of harm originating with me. In my heart, I have constant faith in the merit and worth of all animal lives, including people, and of the universal desire in all beings for love and safety and learning and nourishment and connection. And that is really what inspires my veganism.


  1. You embody compassion, Amey, and it shines through so much in this post! I loved this: "I find it totally mysterious and amazing that we can actually share our living space with members of other species. The gentle allowances and understandings that we arrive at, from years of co-habitation and without ever exchanging a single word is truly a marvel."

    I feel the same way so often. Sometimes I'll look at one of my pups and just think, "Wow. How incredibly lucky am I to share this life with you?!" It's so strange and wonderful.

    Here's to positive and intentional veganism!

    1. I am so touched by this comment, Kelly. Thank you so much! <3 Aren't we lucky to know one another? people, pets, animals, all in it together!

  2. Such a nice post! I loved all the videos & illustrations especially for Yummers; old kitties are the best! :D

  3. Jennifer2:52 PM

    Amey, this is a beautiful post. It made me tear up. Your love for not only your own pets, but all our animal friends, comes through so strongly.

    I lost my best dog friend Buster, whom I'd been with for 14 years, back in July. My heart hurts when I think how much I miss him but it explodes with love when I think of the times we shared. Your comment about eye contact brought the remembrance of that connection back to me again.

    Hugs to all your 4-legged pals!

  4. I completely agree that having more than one kitty is the best way to see how distinct cat personalities can be. We have two and marvel everyday at how exactly opposite they are. You are so right that what seems cat-like turns out to be so much more unique in comparison!

  5. i love absolutely everything about this post. thank you for sharing it!! <3

  6. Aw I feel like I got to know your pets so well from reading your blog through the years! I wish I could have pets, but apartment living doesn't seem fair to them, nor is it allowed by the landlord. I always fantasized about having a little bulldog named mustard. Haha! I would love to have dogs and cats, but maybe I'll have to live vicariously through you and yours!!

  7. This is such a beautiful post Amey. I love the videos of your gorgeous guys and girls.
    Re the eye-contact, I read an article recently about that. Some researchers in Japan found that gazing into the eyes of your dog results in increased levels of oxytocin (bonding hormone) in both the human and the dog and it creates a positive feedback loop - that's why it makes us feel all gooey and lovey-dovey inside. So cool!

  8. Anonymous9:29 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings on ahimsa -and all the videos too!- If I did this prompt over again I would choose you as inspiring me :)

  9. Lovely. A really well expressed post and the videos are great.

  10. I LOVE your furry family so much.

  11. Amey, I have really been enjoying all your posts, but am particularly intrigued by the idea of ahimsa. Any ideas of where I can find out more about this principle? thanks

    1. Carole, thank you for such a nice question. One of my favorite books for learning about the principles of yoga practice in a really accessible way is called "Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life." I know there is a short, but clear, chapter in there about ahimsa. Ahimsa is the 1st of 5 "disciplines" in the yoga practice - and it is considered to be the true cornerstone of all Yoga Practice -- so every subsequent pursuit and endeavor and learning should first be non-harming (to self and others). This is an essay I wrote a long time ago, but it is a quick introduction to the idea. Let me know if you have any other questions. I love talking about this stuff!

  12. So beautiful, and I loved seeing your kids in these videos and reading about each of them. Our companion animals really are such amazing individuals, as are all animals everywhere. <3

  13. I totally relate to this post! We truly saw our older cat's personality when we adopted the other kitties. I realized they each have their own personalities, but it is accented when there are multiple kitties/dogs in the home.

  14. That is a priceless post. I enjoyed reading it so much, and watching the videos =)


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