Dedicated to all our “guardian angels” who walk beside us disguised as dogs, and to their humans who walk them “home.”
I have been to that “place” many times before and that feeling is all too familiar . . . I always know where it is taking me, and it’s always when I feel most vulnerable.
It’s a place where this reality is not “real” . . . it’s almost as if I transport part of myself to a parallel universe. It’s where I go when I hear the animals . . . where I said good-bye to Lucky, my mare, and it’s where I was when Nicky died . . . because I saw, and I KNEW that he did not die in my truck that night, that he sat up. It just was not in this three-dimensional hard world.
That “parallel universe” is just as real to me as this one, and it’s where I spent much of the last few weeks with Annie.
Why she fell victim to distemper, I will never understand. She was an adult dog that was up to date on all her vaccines. She fought it for six months, with me by her side. She had her own pen with pillows, blankets and bed, close enough to us but with a little bit of a buffer zone to protect the others. I was going to give her every chance to live and for awhile it seemed that she might succeed. We had a daily routine. She was the first one I tended to each morning and the last one I put to bed each night.
Throughout the day and in between my tending to the others, I massaged her with essential oil blends, did acupressure treatment, all the energy work I could think of, and often just held her as I quietly sang or whispered to her. She looked forward to our routine, with that beautiful, bushy tail flagging and wagging high in the air when I called her name.
But despite her happy energy, the “gunk” in her eyes never completely cleared up, a significant indicator that the disease was not gone, and eventually this horrible virus moved into the neurological stage.
I knew that there was a possibility of seizures and I wanted to spare her that, so one Friday morning, she didn’t greet me with a wagging tail, and she showed no interest in her food. I suspected that it was time so I called our veterinarian, put her in the front seat of the truck, and drove to the clinic.
We were the last call of the day for our vet and she is one of the most compassionate humans I know. Her kindness extends not only toward every animal who is lucky enough to be in her care, but also to the owner/clients.
Annie seemed to be asleep on the passenger side and the vet quietly opened the door. She came with the drugs and needle in hand. Annie lifted her head, looked at the vet and the needle, then stood up and moved away from the veterinarian and lay down close to me and faced her as if to say, “oh, no you don’t.” Her message was clear to both of us. . . she was going on her terms and it was not going to be by that needle.
I consulted a little while with the vet about the possibilities of reversing the neurological damage, and the prognosis. Annie was not in pain . . . she just seemed to be tired . . . yet still had this amazingly strong will to live. Every fiber of my being told me I had to honor this in her. I kept getting the same message from her that I got when I was stressing about her having puppies and my not knowing what to do to help her. . . “Trust me. It will all be fine.”
So I took her home and spent the evening holding and petting her, and making sure she had enough water. About 4 AM, I went back in the house to check on the other dogs and to get some sleep. Annie was resting quietly.
About 8 the next morning, I went out to her, opened the big door, as always, and my first word, as always, was “Annie” . I took one look at her and immediately jumped into “high gear.” She was taking her last breath just as she heard me call her name, and I rushed in to hold her as she passed. She had waited for me, and much like her whelping, when she had the puppies all by herself, with no difficulty and all tucked into a bundle in a warm spot, she did this final leg of her journey her way, with great class and courage. She caused me no problems, no seizures or thrashing, and she spared me the doubts of that dreadful decision. The only “problem” she caused was my broken heart . . . and that was not her fault.
I sat for quite a while with her . . . just stroking and talking to her. The rest of the dogs were watching quietly and respectfully . . . even though I was late with getting them out. They knew. It was such awesome respect from them. I wrapped her in her pretty blue blanket and put her on her bed. As I stroked her beautiful and still luxurious fur, I felt that losing Annie was in some way a “game changer” for me. It tested my faith in God, in everything.
Once again I had been faced with begging God for a miracle, and once again, I seem to have been denied. Could he really not spare the life of this precious girl who wanted so badly to stay? It was hard for me to not be angry.
I went inside, called our vet to let her know and then contacted the crematorium in Roswell . . . who agreed to meet me halfway to get Annie at 6 PM that evening. But it wasn’t until I sat down to rest my body and my mind, that a series of surprising, “small coincidences” . . . moments that could have been easily overlooked if I had been fixated on my grief and anger, that not only brought me comfort , but validated what I have always known in my heart . . . our pet companions are much more “in sync” with the Universe, with life, with God, than we ourselves are . . . and because of our arrogance, we discredit many of their abilities, including the ability to communicate, love and heal us (and their buddies) from “the other side.”
As I was sipping the last of my coffee, Sunshine got in my lap, and started to tremble. She was fixated on “something” in the room. I checked to make sure that there wasn’t something off . . . like a tarantula crawling on the wall. She just kept watching and shaking. When Doodlebug came into the room, he was also staring at the same spot.
I knew it was Annie. Sunshine was the one who passed the distemper from Frankie to Annie, and I believe that Annie was telling her it was ok. I’ve known that many of my dogs have the ability to “see” souls . . . my mom’s dogs always knew when she was around. Sunshine is especially “psychic.” I just kept talking to Sunshine and to Annie most of the day.
In the evening, I put Annie in the truck and drove to Tinnie, a small town down the road, to meet Iris, the crematorium lady. Annie had been dead for 9 hours, and yet she was not stiff, there was no odor of decay. It was as if she were just asleep. I put her in the front seat.. When I transferred her to Iris’ vehicle, I said. “She doesn’t seem to be dead. You know, I did not have a vet confirm that she is dead. Why isn’t she stiff?” Iris was so kind. She checked her pulse and said that there was none.
The whole way home I thought about Jesus rising from the dead after 3 days and about Lazarus being brought back from the dead. And I thought of miracles being so possible. I was fully expecting to get a phone call from the crematorium that Annie wasn’t dead. And I was making plans on what to do next, how to get her quickly and to a vet.
The next day, I did indeed get a phone call and my heart was in my throat when the caller id showed it was from the crematorium. Sadly, though, it was not to tell me that Annie was alive. . . Iris had just misdialed.
I have always said that my relationship with the dogs in my care was part of a spiritual journey. They allow me to belong to them . . . what a gift and honor for me. In this “place” I go to when I communicate with them, time is not linear. Annie did “rise from the dead” as I felt, just not in this dimension. Animals are so much better at seeing and operating in and in between these realms. We, on the other hand, are so entrenched in this reality and our human “executive brain” always blocks anything that doesn’t “fit.”
This worldly existence and how everything is so connected seems like such a mystery. We know so little about our physical, biological selves, the role of energy and “silent” genes, and even less about that of other animals. The intangible, the spiritual, is even more nebulous and many of us have to operate on faith and intuition.
My background is higher mathematics, not about numbers, but about advanced theoretical concepts, the pure science, the area that deals with multi-dimensions, warped space, the time continuum . . . things that connect directly to quantum mechanics, string theory, molecular behavior, light and energy. I often wonder how much of this existence is an illusion. It’s very difficult for me to accept the “concreteness” of this three-dimensional existence when mathematics proves that there is so much more. Just because something is based on science, does not mean that it is not spiritual. As a matter of fact, the more advanced scientific research becomes, the closer it comes to the “God-principle.”
We’re all made of “stardust,” . . . physically . . . the same elements that give birth to stars, exist in us . . . every living being. Spiritually, we are pure energy, souls that have a body . . . all of us, every living being, including our dogs.
I have often felt that the soul of a dog is made up of the same energy as that of an angel . . . they are born embodying pure, unconditional love, and they are the only species that will leave their own to be with their claimed human.
Some of my dogs have come back from the “rainbow bridge” . . . and even though we recognize each other, we treat this return as a new chapter of a beautiful novel that we are writing together. Annie decided that she won’t come back. I can only describe her powerful presence as the soul of an archangel. . . a very “old” soul.
A dear friend of mine recently said to me, “It’s all just one life. It’s not the life of a dog, the life of a cat, the life of a human. It’s Life . . . the same for all.” In our ignorance and arrogance, we destroy at least 6,000 dogs every day in animal control facilities. Annie could have been one of them. What a travesty it would have been, more so for me, and what a tragedy for all of us that this continues to be the norm. I can’t help but feel that each time we kill, each time we extinguish a life, we destroy a part of our own soul, whether we participate actively or simply sit back and allow it to happen. The dogs understand what is happening, and yet they continue to love. Annie is proof of how profound a dog’s perception is.
Maybe someday we humans will evolve to a point where we honor all of life without differentiating between human and non-human . . . equal value to every living being. Maybe at that point we will understand the meaning of unconditional love, and just maybe, we will see life through clearer eyes . . . much like that scene in the movie “Field of Dreams” where the banker brother suddenly notices the baseball players who had been in the cornfield all the time and asks in surprise, “How long have they been here?”
We look, but we don’t see . . . it’s not that “things” suddenly appear . . . we just learn to see with “better eyes.”
My precious Annie still walks beside me, guides me and watches over me as always. She used to let out this high-pitched squeal when I would go to the horses . . . almost as if she were yelling, “For God’s sake, be careful!.”
I count my blessings every day for each of the souls that finds his or her way into my life. Each has helped me to grow, each has enriched my life immeasurably.
Often when the “spirit” moves me, especially when I open the barn door, I still just call out, “Annie,” and I can see her flag that tail and run toward me . . . eternally happy and enthusiastic . . . she is just a step away from me, and never gone.
Thank you, my angel girl, for choosing to be in my life. What a gift you have been and still are.
Good night, Annie.
Extraordinary Dogs Inc. is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit public charity dedicated to providing rescued “death row” dogs with the skills and training to help them become extraordinary canine friends for life to their adopted family.
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