Do animals hold on to the past?

do animals hold on to the past

Recently, I was on stage at an event answering questions and giving random audience readings. One woman raised her hand to ask a question,

“Danielle, I rescued my dog three years ago. All I know is that she came from a rescue organization in Kentucky. She’s afraid of a lot of things and I think it’s because of her situation before I rescued her. Could you ask her what her life was like before me?”

As you can probably guess, I’m asked some version of, “do animals hold on to the past?” a lot. This is such a juicy question for so many people!

Here’s why: as normal human beings, our pasts very commonly inform our present. Have you ever noticed how we label ourselves according to our past?

I’m an abuse survivor.

I’m a phi beta kappa.

I’m a high school drop out.

I grew up in New York.

I played football in high school.

This is also why we so often look for labels/stories to apply to our animals.

He’s a rescue from Kentucky. His mother was a puppy mill dog…

She’s been to four homes already and we’re her fifth. She’s been through such a tough year…

He grew up with three cats and they were the best of friends. When they died, he went into a depression and had to be given up for adoption…

How many times have you heard the whole “story” behind how this animal ended up here (or why this animal ended up here).

Well, that’s the human side of things.

The animal side? Animals think and feel very differently from humans in this respect! Animals live in the present moment. It’s that simple. Given the opportunity, animals will easily and gladly let the past go, so they can live fully in the now.

Being fully present in the now is how animals survive in the wild. They can’t sit around worrying about the damage their abusive parents did for example, as that would make them less aware of their present surroundings and therefore more of an easy target for predators.

When I do finally intuitively ask an animal about their past, what do they usually say? “What cares about that Danielle. I just want to talk about my food, the love I’m getting, the fun, what I’m teaching Sally….”

There is a lot that we can learn from animals on a deep, soul level basis (just read my Animal Lessons book to learn about that!) but for the day to day? All we have to do is look at how beautifully they model for us living in the present moment.

Give it a try for an hour today! Live like your dog, cat, horse, pig… live like NOW is all that matters because really that’s true 🙂

Love & Light,

5 replies
  1. Mila Lanfranco
    Mila Lanfranco says:

    You are absolutely right, and it is because of acceptance, the present, living in the moment is what matters to them , I learned that from my pups.

  2. Shanann
    Shanann says:

    I absolutely believe animals live in the present moment but it does seem that they do have some kind of “memory” or programmed pattern created from past experiences. It’s just like they learn to sit, go to their crate, and know when their person is coming home. It seems the same mechanism that allows them to remember that would also create a patterned memory to respond to negative stimuli, or things in the present moment that seem to represent something in their past negative experience. Just like a dog learns to sit in response to a voice or hand command then gets a treat or love, they could learn to cower in response to hand coming near them if that hand coming toward them always resulted in being hit in past experiences. So interesting! I guess regardless of the story behind the behavior the goal is to replace it with something new but I must say as a human it can help to understand the story behind the behavior in order to more deeply connect with the animal and know what might help create the new behavior. I think the key is to not get hung up on the story and keep reinforcing it with sympathetic energy. Empathy is wonderful but I don’t believe sympathy serves well. So holding empathy with a new direction, along with recognizing the lesson for me and doing my own inner work seems like a good approach.

  3. Paris Yves Read
    Paris Yves Read says:

    Thanks Danielle- I often wonder about this- I see and feel that some of my adopted parrots have a lot of fear from their past experiences- so there are obvious signs they have memory of their previous experiences- I don’t know if i can say that they just forgive and forget their past- as they have a memory, it would be impossible for them to forget their past abuse etc- I’d love to explore this further- especially for abused animals eg slaughterhouses- and then what does that mean for people who eat meat/ pigs/chickens etc? And the issue of animals reincarnating is interesting too-= thanks!

  4. Sharon A McElwee
    Sharon A McElwee says:

    I have heard you say this many times and I am sure you are correct but I have a cat who is just mean to one of my other cats and I was told by an animal communicator it is because in her past a big white cat was mean to her and she cant get over it. I can’t explain it, it was hate at first site.


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