Here we go folks…our first guest post in a series on Beyond Native American Appropriation: Cultivating a Personal, Nature-Based Spirituality.
Although our “blogger circles” overlap, it took Sadie and I a while to find each other. When we suddenly (and finally!) exchanged emails, there was an urgent quality to our connection, as if we were making up for lost time. My first impression of her was of a warm summer sun…straightforward, generative, generous and steadfast. I knew I could trust her because there would be no bullshit involved. Sometimes there is a cattiness in friendships with women that can be tricky to navigate. I had no such worry with Sadie. I perceive her as someone who, because she loves herself, is free to offer love and props to others. The title of her post could be what is written under her skin. When I think of Sadie, I think of the biggest heart.
This story about a very special dog named Duncan is a perfect example of the simplicity at the core of spiritual connection with animals. It doesn’t have to involve flying to magical realms or having super powers. It’s about inhabiting your own human heart and letting yourself be amazed at the infinity within.
Growing up in California and living my entire life on the west coast, it is hard to remember when the term ‘spirit animal’ was introduced into my lexicon. It seems as though it was always there. I remember, however, always feeling a bit confused when it would come up in conversations. Did I have a spirit animal? How would I know? How do people learn what their spirit animal is? Are they making this shit up?? and so on. Often, I felt left out. I didn’t have a spirit animal. Even if I tried to pick one, it never felt right. Deer? no. Bear? I don’t think so. Whale? Again, no.
Then, when I was 19, I met the man (boy?) who would become my son’s father. But back then, we didn’t have a baby. He did however have a puppy named Duncan. Duncan was 6 months old when I met him, and by the time my son was born he was nearly 4 years old. It was Duncan who taught me all about animal spirits, animal medicine, and communication between human and animal.
Duncan loved me unconditionally (as your dog loves you). And the more time we spent together, the more I felt that I knew exactly what he meant. It got to the point where I would lay with him and (I swear) have full on conversations with our eyes. It blew my mind. I had never communicated with anyone who wasn’t human before. Once, when I was talking about this to a friend, he asked me what my Chinese zodiac sign is (I am a dog). I know, I know – there are plenty of other people out there born in any other year on the zodiac and I know many of you can also speak to dogs. But in that moment, when he asked me that, I felt this thing. You know that thing you feel when something is right, or when something lines up, or when you realized your intuition had been right all along? It was some version of that.
At first, you know, in situations like this, I almost feel silly to talk about a dog. The term ‘Animal Medicine’ makes me feel like I should write about eagles or hawks, or rattlesnakes. But that’s just now how it is for me. I have dog vibes, and that is that. I’m so grateful for it. I am grateful for dogs; that for however many thousands of years they have been here for us as our companions, our guides, our friends, our teachers. Anyone of us who has loved a dog (and been loved endlessly back) is truly blessed.
When Asher was born, Duncan got sad. He felt me pull away from him a little bit – the having of a small baby was so intense for me. Gone were the days of rolling on the floor with the dog, and gone were the days of dog in my bed. It was sad, but Duncan respected it. But still I saw the longing in his eyes, the wondering where I’d gone. Eventually I had to leave Duncan and Asher’s dad. And just last year, I heard that Duncan had passed away at 10 years of age, after being diagnosed with doggie cancer. Asher’s dad sent me a picture of him – his whiskers were greying, but those eyes were the same!
Since Duncan, I have loved other dogs. But none yet as much as him. He is the one who taught me things that I feel lucky to have learned in this lifetime: how deeply we can love, how important trust and companionship are, how to trust your senses and your intuition, and how so much of loving is actually about giving. May we all be so lucky to be loved by a dog, even once; what a gift.