by Rachel Ann Ridge

“Walk on!” I said to my miniature rescue donkey, Henry, while giving him a gentle tug on his rope. “Walk on” is the first verbal command a donkey must learn when being trained, and I was hoping he would learn quickly so he could go on walks with me. Henry turned his soft brown eyes at me and gave me a look that clearly said, “Nope.”

Henry did not move a single inch.

“Come on, Henry,” I said, giving another small tug. “Walk on, buddy!”

This time, Henry began to move . . . but not forward. Like a train on a turntable, he began to pivot slowly—one foot crossing over the other—until he was turned in the opposite direction. Rear end facing me, he cautiously put one back foot in my direction . . . and then another . . . and so proceeded to walk backward with me along the path.

“Oh, my dear little Henry!” I had to chuckle. I didn’t know what could have occurred in his past to cause him to be too timid to walk forward, but I knew it was important to let him come along on his own terms. Eventually, as he learned to trust me, his backward-walking ways faded, and he learned to face forward and “walk on” with jaunty little steps.

This simple exchange taught me a valuable lesson about animals—and people. And as I’ve thought about the pets that have graced my life over the years, I’ve realized they have each taught important life lessons!

Here are seven things your pet is trying to teach you:

1. Trust is the bedrock of every relationship. When trust is present, your pet will be a loyal companion. All training is based on trust: If good behavior is consistently praised or rewarded, your dog or cat will learn that you are a trustworthy leader. Consistency, routine, showing up when you’re supposed to, treating others with respect . . . these trust-builders are just as valuable for people, too.

2. Be in the moment. Your pet isn’t worried about what might happen tomorrow. He is not concerned about crossing off items on a “To Do” list. Your dog or cat is fully present in the moment—enjoying a shaft of sunlight on the carpet or snuggling close to be petted. He or she is trying to tell you This moment matters—to simply focus on where you are and what you are experiencing now.

3. Slow down. Our pets remind us that the best kind of life isn’t frantic and fast-paced. When we fill our calendars with activities and responsibilities, we begin to think that “busier is better.” A slower lifestyle is not only healthier for our bodies but also good for our mental and emotional health.

4. Connection is important. Our pets have an innate sense of connection. It seems they’re able to tell when we are hurting or need a good cheer-up session, such as when a purring cat lets you know she is happy to be near you. They can also let us know when they have a need. For example, a dog who puts his paw on your lap communicates that he wants your attention. My donkey Henry stands at the fence and brays so I will scratch his fuzzy ears. It’s wonderful how our pets can remind us to let others know when we have a need—and to pay attention to the cues around us so we can help others in meaningful ways.

5. Appreciate the small things. Playing fetch with a dog, rolling a ball of yarn to your cat, scratching the ears of your donkey, letting your parakeet perch on your shoulder . . . the small things in life are the best things. Our pets appreciate each gift of time and attention (and let’s admit it: treats) as if they’re the BEST THINGS EVER IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. Their joy in the simple pleasures teaches us to notice and take pleasure in the gifts that grace our own days.

6. Be your authentic self. Your pet never puts on a facade, pretending to be something he is not. If pets had sleeves, they would wear their hearts on them. Such lack of pretense invites us to be our own true selves with our pets, and their complete acceptance of us—just as we are—teaches us that we should live freely and without fear.

7. God cares for and loves His creation. The incredible variety and beauty of the animals in our lives—and throughout creation—teach us about a God who created and sustains this world. When we connect with animals and nature, we are experiencing an important aspect of a loving God that we would otherwise miss.

“Ask the animals, and they will teach you,” Job states in the Bible (Job 12:7). It’s a verse every animal lover and pet owner can take to heart, knowing that through Job’s words, God invites us to learn from His creatures. By opening our eyes and hearts, we become aware of how God’s wisdom speaks to us in unexpected ways—sometimes through our very own pets.

Scripture quotation is taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

About the Author:

Rachel Anne Ridge is the author of several books, including her upcoming release, Walking with Henry: Big Lessons from a Little Donkey on Faith, Friendship, and Finding Your Path. A professional artist and designer, Rachel has also served as a writer for Going Beyond Ministries with Priscilla Shirer. She blogs at, where she encourages women to find joy and beauty in their daily lives. Rachel is married to Tom and the mother of Lauren, Meghan, and Grayson. She makes her home in Texas.