I identify as an animal empath. That means that I often feel the suffering, joy, pain, exuberance, peace, and various other states of animals. I have been this way since I was a child. Whether it is domesticated animals or those in the wild, I attune to the energetic and emotional states of animals. I always considered this to be a gift, though at times it can be very hard on my heart. Not everyone understands this ability and not everyone considers it a gift. Some people are irritated and annoyed by it. I noticed this when I was visiting an old boyfriend in Puerto Rico many years ago. The homeless dog population in Puerto Rico is heartbreaking. The way the dogs were mistreated, abused, neglected, and harassed was too much for me to bear. I was visiting some friends of my boyfriend’s family at a beach house. They made a dinner of goat stew. I couldn’t eat it. I tried. I really did. But the family that made the stew had also raised the goat and I could feel the pain of the goat in the end of its life. There were many homeless dogs outside the gates of the beach house. I took my uneaten plate of goat stew to the dogs. I tried to be discreet. My boyfriend saw and was irate. He told me how disrespectful it was of me to take the food that was for the humans and give it to the dogs. I felt shamed. I felt misunderstood. I felt like I would have to hide how deeply I was impacted by the suffering of the dogs I saw on the streets.I took this memory with me to the Amazon rainforest recently. There I saw dogs in the most emaciated conditions. It took my breath away. It did not seem possible for there to be any life force in their bodies. Yet they were alive and starving. I cried each day for these dogs. I questioned our guide. He didn’t know why most people with dogs did not feed them. Perhaps they figured the dogs could find their own food in the rainforest. Clearly, they could not. So, I did what my heart told me to do. I took my leftovers from my own meals and fed it to these precious animals. I felt the old memory of shame resurface. I asked the guide if it would be ok for me to feed the dogs. Even though I had his permission, I still felt worried and tried to work quickly and secretly, as though I was doing something wrong or disrespectful. What happened in the Amazon was very healing for me. It was a very different reaction than the one I received from my boyfriend many years ago. My fellow Amazon travelers observed my upset and my desire. They contributed their own leftovers to the communal mug at the table. Some of them even joined me in delivering the food to the dogs. They noticed my pain and made room for it. They honored the empathic experience that was part of my existence. They did not judge me or shame me or make me feel badly about this part of my self that I cannot change. I believe I will always feel the pain and suffering of the precious living beings that share this planet with us. I know I cannot save every homeless animal or suffering being. I know that what I offer through my heart and direct service to those in need is sufficient for the moment and carries an energy of love that ripples in ways that go beyond what can be perceived. I know that it is my duty to behave with compassion, generosity, kindness, love, respect, and appreciation for all life. What about you? What type of empath are you? Learn more about empaths in my free Empath Academy course: https://stephanielevenston.com/empath-academy

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