My confusing relationship with animals …

Nothing is straight forward, for me anyways, and often times, if we are being super honest, things can be rocky, and confusing, sometimes funny, or upsetting. I grapple with my relationships I have with animals almost on a daily basis, one because my very profession is working with animals and teaching others how to understand them, and two, they also feed my family. Love them, eat them, care for them, kill them, use them for service.

Hypocrisy or life? A conundrum of sorts.

In the 1960’s my grandparents lived on a lake in the northern Ozarks, the sunfish posed a problem for the more native fish, so it was open limit, catch as many as you want, and even those you don’t want. And we did. We would get a huge game of baseball going with all of the lake kids, and used the sunfish for ‘baseballs’, and our ‘bats’ were canoe oars. My grandparents considered it lawn fertilizer.


This was the same grandmother who tenderly fed and talked with her squirrels each morning out on her porch, tended to her dogs like royalty, and allowed us to raise a duck in her house, Gerty, who followed us on all of our adventures and was just as much a friend as any human I knew at the time.


At the same time, I had pet rats that I greeted each morning, lullabied them at night, and fed them with care. Tony, Sunshine, and Chave, they were important to me. It was a lesson in friendship, care, and animal husbandry. Tony would watch TV with me, and was my first animal that taught me about tricks and relationships. I loved him so hard. And he loved the lady rats equally as much.

And I cried when they died, and buried each one with ritual and ceremony, sending out invitations to each family member, actually demanding their presence.

I openly and lovingly invite predators and opportunistic scavengers to live in my home with me. I love dogs, I connect with them. I have their fur and muddy prints on my floor, without complaint, and their warm bodies to snuggle up to each morning. I cannot imagine my world without them.

I will pour boiling water on an ants nest in one of my raised beds if I start loosing produce, I consider this war. But I will set live traps for the northern short tail shrews that are eating down my produce, and drive them a quarter of a mile away to relocate them to a hay field.

I have swerved off the road to avoid hitting a rabbit, but I serve dead rabbit to my dogs.

I cannot shoot a wild animal or witness this type of death, but I can prepare, serve, and eat elk, deer, moose, and pheasant that someone else has killed.

I hang out with vegans and vegetarians, and eat mostly a plant based diet, with occasional animal products, and sometimes meat. To each his own, I eat what my body wants, depending on the season. I am not militant about one way of eating or another for humans, just make it healthy and know why.

But for my dogs it is raw. I would never support a plant based diet for my dogs.

I can no longer have the smell of cooking pork in my home, and beef is heading that way, the smell makes me nauseous, but I can fill my car with 700 pounds of slaughtered animals for our freezer to feed to my dogs, grass fed and from local ranches, I support humane life and death in order to feed my dogs.

I ponder this weird world in which I live all of the time. Why death for some animals is not hard for me to handle, but the death of others is like a kick in the chest. Is it relationships, kindred spirits, necessity and a primal instinct?

I recently read Hal Herzog’s book, Some we love, Some we hate, Some we eat  If you are like me, and have questions about your relationship with animals, this is a great book, I highly recommend it. And now it is time to go an exercise my predators, as I drink a cucumber juice, and thaw their raw sardines for lunch. I confuse myself sometimes – Nancy



9 Comments Add yours

  1. Tricia Breen says:

    You are a very good writer, and I go out of my way to read your blog. We are a very conflicted species. It is not unlike the fact that we love our neighbors, but are willing to kill those that don’t look like us.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Tricia, thank you and yes I agree, Nancy

  2. peacelovepointers says:

    “Nothing is straightforward, for me anyway…” Yeah that’s my life in a nutshell. 😉 The only thing that is straightforward is, I love my dogs, they love me, and we help each other through life. Always. Til death do us part. Period.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      It is good to know how real that love is as well ❤ Nancy

  3. Teresa Tanner says:

    Love the family picture, everyone is awake and following your every word. The visit to grandma was great today.

  4. LeeYong Wong says:

    I can totally relate… I became a vegetarian ten years ago… and at this point I pretty much consider myself a vegan… I’m extremely proud to be one.. but yet I have a 4 yr old dog and three cats who are meat eaters… would I ever have them not be what they are meant to eat??? Of course not!!! BTW, I’m a raw feeder too – at least with my pup… I’ve tried raw with y cats – that was a no go! 🙂

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      I have a feeling there are quite a few vegetarian type human eaters that feed raw, this is refreshing to know, Nancy

  5. cindy knoke says:

    I am so much like you. So aware of how this selective selection of pet or pest, eat or protect, is fundamentally so hypocritical and I do it too, even though I am moving very much away from it, as it is creating too much cognitive dissonance. We each parse out our morality, convincing ourselves we are right. Maybe it would be better just to admit we aren’t.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Cindy, After reading Hal Herzogs book, I am going to venture to guess there are a great number of people who face this dilema more often than not, or are becoming more aware of it. For me the older I get the more aware I get, and the more glaringly obvious this is to me … Nancy

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