By Linda Anderson

Life is full. I sometimes wonder how I will do all that needs to be done. While in a spurt of feeling overwhelmed, it usually becomes clear that it’s not possible for one person to take care of everything.

The Anderson animal family members have wrapped their paws around this situation of needing each other to accomplish daily tasks. They have perfected the art of teamwork with creative solutions and loving cooperation.

My husband, Allen, and I have no idea how our pets decide which chores and responsibilities they will assign to themselves. But we marvel at how efficiently they share household responsibilities. Home safety is a case in point.

Our black cocker spaniel, Leaf, protects us from anyone who drops off something at the door. We need never be concerned about a person delivering a package, the mail, or a newspaper. Upon first seeing, hearing, or catching the scent of of someone at our front door, Leaf confirms his suspicions of an intruder by looking through the living-room picture window. Then he stretches himself as big and tall as a bear (at least in his mind) and scratches vehemently against the pane, barking all the time.


Additional Sound Effects

Leaf’s dramatic house-protection behavior alerts Sunshine, our orange-cheeked yellow cockatiel who doubles as a watchbird. In a symphony of teamwork, Sunshine joins Leaf’s barking by screeching as if his cage were being invaded by aliens.

As a composer songbird, Sunshine isn’t content to screech on one eardrum-splitting note. He varies his warning as befits a world-class musician and creates alarms for every occasion. The mail deliverer rates a distinct series of screeches that would win awards as the musical score for frightening scenes in a horror movie.

When our tiny black-and-white tuxedo kitty, Cuddles, was still with us, she executed to perfection her role in the safety network. If Sunshine was alone in the living room, on the perch in his cage, and someone approached the front door, Cuddles’s job was to find Leaf, wake him if he was asleep, and herd him to the living room. Her entire routine of protection took less than thirty seconds.

Who’s in Charge?

In addition to noticing Cuddles’s role as Leaf’s wake-up call, we always called this tiny cat The Enforcer. She knew the family rules and ensured that everyone followed them. Leaf’s job was to obey Sunshine’s commands for floppy-eared security backup. Cuddles made sure the dog did as he was told.

Leaf, Sunshine, and Cuddles communicated silently about their home-protection tasks. We didn’t detect any visible signs of a household manager, but just a smoothly running operation among pets who are supposedly natural adversaries.

To make their teamwork even more laudatory, the players didn’t always get along with each other in daily life. They vied for power positions and for their humans’ attention and affection. They squabbled over who should get fed first. And yet, for the important tasks, they worked together with military precision.

Spiritual Communities

Our animal companions continue to teach us to treasure being coworkers who transcend individual differences for the good of the whole. They form a spiritual community of Souls living and learning together.

Sri Harold Klemp, the spiritual leader of Eckankar, writes about the principle of spiritual community in his book What Is Spiritual Freedom? Mahanta Transcripts, Book 11:

To define a spiritual community, it is any group of three or more people who are of a common purpose and like mind, who are growing spiritually but usually don’t know it.

Most people are not aware that they are part of a spiritual community, but the community exists whether people are conscious of it or not. What service does it offer? What does it do?

It lets people bump into each other and work out their problems with each other.

A family is a community.

The spiritual community of people and pets in our home helps each of us become more loving team players in all our relationships.

What experiences have you had with animal families working as a team?

—Photos by Allen Anderson