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Lessons from Pets On Why You Should Never Say Never

My young tortoise, Malti, rests between attempts to circumvent the potting soil bag that blocks her entry into the passage behind the ginger plants.

Recently I was hanging out with my folks for Mother’s Day. We had nearly the whole crew there – me, my parents, their dachshund Flash Gordon, Malti, and, of course, Pearl.

This is typical for us – a family gathering isn’t a real family gathering unless it is interspecies.

I have adored reading since I learned how to read. Many nights since, it is a real battle of wills between my love of reading and my love of sleeping to see who will cave first. I have a tendency to find a teacher whose work I love and immerse myself in their books – and only their books – for weeks or even months at a time…however long it takes to begin to master even the basics of what they have to share.

But while I frequently have to read and re-read and re-read again and again to grasp fundamental lessons on determination, resilience, positive visualization, intuitive living and staying the course towards my dreams, my interspecies family members have never read a single book on any of these topics.

They’ve never needed to. They just do it instinctively (thanks and you’re welcome, Nike).

In a single family gathering, I can witness multiple instances of this truth.

For example, our dachshund, Flash Gordon, loves to chase small lizards. He loves them so much he will even ignore a plump squirrel, tail wiggling in challenge, to pursue a sprightly lizard interloper. 

No lizard is too quick and no obstacle is too great to block his pursuit, no matter what my mom yells at him.  Every time he sees one, he springs into action, clearly convinced victory is his for the asking (although what he would do if he ever actually caught one is anyone’s guess).

Malti, my young red footed tortoise, loves walking behind my mom’s tall camouflaging ginger plants. They are as tall as the side of the garage and incredibly dense. Behind them there exists a small dark leaf litter-lined passageway that is just tortoise-sized. During certain seasons, it is more safe to let her go back there.

But in spring and summer in particular, the risk for hidden snakes is high so we try to block the entry points. This doesn’t deter her. If anything, she becomes more determined and creative, trying to move what are essentially mountains to gain entry. Even if I pick her up and put her on the other side of the lawn, she remembers exactly where the ginger stand is and heads for it with single-minded resolve.

I probably shouldn’t even get started about the dogged determination of my longtime avian companion of 19 years, Pearl. Pearl is the soul of determination and resilience. Always an “only bird,” and a seriously pampered and spoiled one at that, he has adapted admirably to the addition of not one but two shelled flock members over the last five years.

He was bullied in the nest, losing three claws and a wing tip in the bargain, but he has never even given the slightest indication he is aware of these handicaps. If he wants something or someone, he makes it known right away. He is rather famous for jumping on top of waffles when he sees one on someone’s brunch plate. This is just his way. If you remove him he will just try again until he succeeds (which is our excuse for why we never try to remove him….that and “cuteness”).

What I learn from my interspecies family members and all of nature every day is that good things come to those who repeatedly visualize them and never say (or hear) the word “never.” I guess my main point is that, in Pearl, Malti, Bruce and Flash Gordon’s world, there is no never. There is no need for a never. There is no need to settle or even think about settling. If it doesn’t happen now, there is always later today. If it doesn’t happen today, there is always tomorrow.

In other words, if at first you don’t succeed in a) catching the forbidden lizard, b) sneaking behind the ginger stand, c) claiming the prize waffle, keep trying. You are always just one attempt away from victory.

Today’s Takeaway: Do you have someone (human or not-human) or something in your life that teaches you what persistence, determination, resilience, hope, possibility looks and acts like? I’d love to hear about your inspirations!


Lessons from Pets On Why You Should Never Say Never

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2019). Lessons from Pets On Why You Should Never Say Never. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 May 2019
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