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This is the first time I have posted here. I work at a university, am not an academic, but enjoy the discussions broached on this listserv as a lover and defender of animals. I could not disagree more with that assessment. Frankly, both Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama have greatly disappointed me. Yet another reason I have abandoned religion to practice a spiritual way of life. People call animals 'soulless' and even 'stupid' which I find to be offensive as well as dismissive when nothing could be further from the truth. I have had dogs, cats, and horses all of my life. They have shown me unconditional love which to me is God expressing it through them. Horses in particular helped mento process emotion and they are actually quite honest and clear in their communication--if one is willing to learn their language. I can 'hear" them, which was pointed out by my therapist and I felt like I had been 'outed' due to the experiences with non-animal people described by others in this thread. Dogs and other therapy animals bring joy and a sense of connection and/or empowerment just by being around them because of their kindness and empathy. My family members used to express similar sentiments and thought I was odd. As an adult, I have chosen to be with like-minded individuals as much as possible because non-animal people just don't get it and I really feel sorry for them. I truly believe the Universe has sent animals to teach US not the other way around. Mary --