The Animals Within
by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1993. All rights reserved.

Call me Pooh Bear.

My three-year-old son is Piglet. We walk side by side, the best of friends, in pursuit of adventures. All things are possible.
Some days I am Rabbit, who frets and worries, or the bouncing Tigger, especially after a cup too much of coffee.

Then there are those somber, feeling-sorry-for-myself times when I'm accused of being Eeyore. "Thanks for noticing me."
Benjamin, my son who is sometimes Piglet, depending on his mood, sees people as animals. This is quite normal, the childhood experts assure me.

A Hug from Pooh

Young children dream animals too, or so I've read. Owls and bears and cows and dogs impersonate people in their fantasies. The courage of the lion or the stubbornness of the goat matches the traits of family members or friends.
No one has to teach children to make these connections. They do it naturally. It probably comes with being human.
Some Amazonian native peoples believe that when you are born there is an animal born with you at the same time. It lives with you and protects you, even if you reside in the city and it dwells in the jungle. When you die, it dies with you to guide you back to the spirit world.

Most cultures have animal guides of one sort or another, whether it's Coyote the Trickster, a witch's black cat, or Flipper.

As a species, we moved out of the jungles and the forests long ago, but there are still wild places within us. Our brains have gotten bigger and more complicated, but there's still an animal brain at every stem that's watching out for snakes and getting anxious about dinner.

If you hunt or fish, you've probably experienced this animal more recently. Stalking a prey or butchering a kill exercises a bond that's as old as human history. Eating the flesh of an animal, whether baked or broiled or fried or barbecued, can be a spiritual experience. Life succumbs to life.
Vegetarianism, for all its merits, lacks this primal communion.
As a parent, I find that one of my more distasteful chores is shattering illusions and reinforcing our culture's agreed-upon realities. When Benjamin runs around on all fours, barks and starts to drink from the dog's dish I must remind him that he is a boy, not a dog.   

There are no ghosts in the dark, I tell him, and no spooky pumpkins hiding under the bed. Pretend lions are not real and hyenas are not likely in Idaho.
And no, I am not Pooh Bear

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