Ben and Denali – Companionship That Transcends Time

When someone you love walks through the door, even if it happens five times a day, you should go totally insane with joy.

Denali

I came across something today that moved me to tears within minutes. I am a sensitive woman, but few things move me to tears that easily.  This did.

Maybe it’s because I can relate to saying goodbye.  Or maybe it’s because I know what it’s like to love another soul deeply, with every fiber of my being, that I would do anything to help them.

Regardless of why it moved me, I would like to share it with you.

Normally I wait until the end of the week, for my Soulful Sunday posts, but I couldn’t wait. It’s too amazing.  Please take a moment to turn inward, and set aside all of life’s distractions to watch something truly beautiful. You’ll be glad you did.


This is a filmmaker’s tribute to his beloved and loyal canine companion.  The video, Denali, is told from the point of view of the dog. – quite hilariously at times.  It’s so well done.  And other artists have recognized it’s brilliance: The film premiered at 5Point Film Festival, winning both Best of Festival and People’s Choice, and was an official selection at Telluride Mountainfilm.

This short film is a gorgeous and poignant expression of friendship, gratitude, honoring a beloved companion, and unconditional love.

This film is a celebration of life.

It’s a celebration of real friendship.

It’s a glimpse into how powerful a bond can become between a person and their beloved animal companion.

It’s something that I hope you can experience one day.


As I have written about before, friendships come in all shapes and sizes.  And this film shows us just that; an illumination of the resilience we can create together with the help of true friends.   But as many of you know, these friendships have to end sometimes.  That’s just the crappy part of this life.

And as Ben shows us in his deeply moving film …  

There’s no easy way to say goodbye to a friend, especially when they’ve supported you through your darkest times.


Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Whatever we were to each, that we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be the household word it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was;
There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of your mind because I am out of your sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near just around the corner…
All is well. Nothing is past, nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before,
Only better and infinitely happier,
And forever we will be one together.

~ Henry Scott Holland


Denali on beach

Love Transcends Time and Space.  

All of the souls you loved are never lost.  They are merely a thought away. 

Keep them close to you in your heart. 


Related Links

What Our Dogs Teach Us About Aging by David Dudley

Ben Moon

In ‘Denali,’ Remembering a Man and His Dog

Don’t Wait. It may be too late.

There Is No Death

Don’t Wait. It may be too late.

 Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.― Voltaire

Suneset shoreline

Two of our friends died suddenly and tragically on Mother’s Day.  It has been a shock to everyone who knew them.  They left behind countless friends and family, and their beloved rescued canine companion.

We are all mourning in our own way. We are all feeling the effects of this tragedy differently; some inwardly and some outwardly.  My grief comes and goes in waves.  My husband on the other hand, shares it all, bares it all, and makes no apologies or excuse for what he’s feeling.  He laughs when he needs to, and cries when he’s moved.

He is the one who brought something to light for me during all of this.

We had both been gone when we heard the horrible news.  When we returned home we went out for a bite to eat, to get some perspective and discuss the details of what we knew about the tragedy.  Something he said at dinner resonated with me, and keeps coming back into my awareness:  “You know, when I first heard the news, all I could think was NO NO NO NO NO that’s impossible. Then my mind quickly switched to feeling an overwhelming sadness at the fact that I can never tell him all of the things I want to tell him.  All of the things I should have said.  I have so much I want to tell him.”

That hit me hard.  My husband was right.  That chance is gone.  Game over.  They are both gone.

You may be wondering, Why are you sharing this with me?  How does this have to do with our companion animals? 

 I am sharing this with you because life is precious, and the ones we love could be gone in an instant.

Life is dear and too short to put off sharing our thoughts, feelings, and gratitude for the ones we love, the ones that make us laugh, and even the ones that push our buttons.   This includes the animals we have in our lives; the ones we care for at a facility, shelter, or in our home.

Those annoying behaviors or frustrating personality traits (whether friend, family, or pet) instantly disappear when their life is extinguished.  All we see is their beauty and their light.  All we remember is the best of them.

So why aren’t we seeing the best in the animals and people we love that are still alive?

It’s easy to complain or become annoyed with the people we love, the family and friends that drive us nuts, and the coworkers that we could do without.  But understand this: no matter who they are, or what they represent to you, they are in your life for a reason, and their presence matters.  The animals that we care for at home or work are in our life are also there for a reason.  Even when they make things more difficult or frustrating at times, they still add value to our lives.  Look for that value.  Look for a reason, for each of them.  I promise you, if you look hard enough, you’ll see their value and their individual worth.

Every soul in our lives is a gift.  They are either a teacher, a mentor, or someone you are teaching and mentoring. Every person, animal, and circumstance in our lives can be a great teacher.  There are countless lessons to be learned by all of them.

I am grateful beyond words for every teacher in my life.  Many of them came in forms that I would not have chosen, but lessons were learned because of them.  Two of my animal companions are currently teaching me lessons that I would rather not learn at the moment, but I have to remind myself to thank them for being in my life. Their presence is invaluable.

Who we love, and who we care about need to hear it.   Every day.  Tell the ones you love how much you appreciate them, how much you value their presence in your life, and how their life has affected yours.  Look past those annoying traits, and the buttons they seem to push in you.  Laugh at it.  Blow it off.  See them for who they really are. Look beyond the surface to see the best in them.

Appreciate them. Thank them.  Spend time with them.  Shower them with love.  Tell them how you feel, even if it’s a tough truth to be told; be humbly and graciously honest.  Be kind.

That’s love.  That’s living life to the fullest. That’s how we make life meaningful.  That’s how life becomes a miracle.  Don’t wait.  Show them, and tell them now.

heart-with-hands_gratitude

 At the end of the day, let there be no excuses, no explanations, no regrets. ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Those On the Journey with Us

Those who make the journey with us

You only have to look around at your soul companions, who are making this journey with you, to realize how blessed you are.

Friendship of the Furry Kind

The-Perfect-Friend-Snoopy

Friend is defined asone attached to another by affection or esteem; a favored companion; to have a friendship or friendly relationship with

Friendship is defined as:  a relationship of mutual affection between two or more people.  Friendship is a stronger form of interpersonal bond than an acquaintanceship.

Companionship is defined as:  the relationship of friends or companions; fellowship

Why do these definitions matter?  Well,  I just learned that today is National Best Friend Day.  When I heard this I started to reflect upon the best friends in my life.  At my age I no longer refer to my friends as “best friends”.   I have soul sisters, great friends, soul brothers, and close friends, but each of those descriptions are more like categories or labels that don’t really come close to describing how dear each of them are to me.  Then I got to thinking about how there have been times in my life that I did have friends that were better than others, and some of these friends were animals.

I learned many years ago that soul mates come in all shapes and sizes.  One of my soul mates and best friend in life was a canine companion.  Her name was File’ (pronounced Feelay).  She belonged to another family when I first met her, but I adored her even then.  I had my own dog at the time, but File’ had a special place in my heart.  I was her caretaker when her humans had to leave town. She lived with other dogs that I equally loved, but for some reason, she and I really bonded.

Fast forward to 2005, and hurricane Katrina came to town.  I was forced to evacuate with my animal menagerie and File’s family asked me to take File’ with me, because she was badly injured from a recent (and ongoing) rivalry with another dog in the household.   I agreed of course, and we weathered the storm elsewhere.  I ended up adopting File`several months later.  It wasn’t expected, but it seemed like it was meant to be.

Fast forward to many months later and things began to fall apart in my life.  I had a huge, nasty break up that seemed to never end.  Then I had to move four times in six months.  Who was by my side through all of the drama and emotional rollercoaster?  – File’.  She was always there, never complaining, never judging, and ceaselessly loving me and helping me to weather my emotional storms.  She never left my side.  File`s devotion to me was unlike any that  I had ever known.  She was a guardian and  a protector.  At the same time, she was a gentle spirit, so full of love and life.  She knew me better than I knew myself.  She was my soul mate.  The bond we shared is what creates worlds.  It was magical.  It was divine.  It was a gift from above.  We spent every moment that we could together and we went everywhere together, adventuring and exploring.  Then one day her body gave out suddenly and she had to leave this world.

Me and File' on the levee in New Orleans
Me and File’ having a picnic on the levee in New Orleans

Her ears were often the first thing to catch my tears.   ~Elizabeth Browning

Kisses from File` on my 30th birthday
Kisses from File` on my 30th birthday

As I said before, soul mates come in many shapes and sizes.  My husband and I refer to each other as soul mates and the best of friends.  What we share is unlike anything I had every known or imagined.  We are truly blessed.  Now that my husband is deployed, I find myself somewhat isolated from friends and family.  All of my closest friends and family live states or countries away.  I am a fiercely independent woman, so being without my husband for the better part of a year, is not as horrible as it sounds to most.  However, at times, I miss my friends and my husband terribly.  When I am feeling down and blue, missing the favorite people in my life, I still have a devoted friend by my side to lift my mood.

This friend’s name is Hocus Pocus and she walks on all fours.  Yeah, once again, life gave me another furry friend to keep me laughing, smiling, and on my toes when I am riding the solo train.  Although I cannot compare canine companionship to that of the companionship and friendship that my husband and I share, I do see some similarities; unconditional love, acceptance, compassion, joy, humor, trust, and empathy.

Me & Hocus Pocus on a road trip
Me & Hocus Pocus on a road trip

Although there are many forms of friendship, some of which may vary from place to place, certain characteristics are present in many types of friendship. Such characteristics include affection, sympathy, empathy, honesty, altruism, mutual understanding and compassion, enjoyment of each other’s company, trust, and the ability to be oneself, express one’s feelings, and make mistakes without fear of judgment from the friend.

Many other species of animals share a very large space in my heart.  These friendships range from giant tortoises, to parrot of all sizes, and of course, the feline persuasion as well.  But there is something truly special about sharing your days and nights with a companion animal that sees you literally at your worst, and yet they stand by your side every moment, every day, without judgment.  To be able to share adventures together, to explore life together, and to challenge you in so many ways is such a blessing!  To be able to truly be yourself in the presence of an animal and they still love you unconditionally is a remarkable gift.  I believe this is one of the lessons that they are here to teach us; how to love each other unconditionally – when we are at our worst, without judging.

Today I thank two of my best friends for showing me how to love others wholly, how to love and accept myself completely, and how to help others to do the same.  Thank you, File’, for being my best friend and sharing your soul with mine.  Thank you, Hocus Pocus for coming into our lives and for keeping me busy while your daddy is away keeping the world a safer place.

I am forever grateful to you both.

Beaching with my Best Girl
Beaching with my Best Girl

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras

The Passion of a Little Girl

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The year is 1979.  The town is Wichita, Kansas.  I am three years old.  Playing outside is one of my favorite things, but playing with friends outside is even better.

Samson and Sheba are my favorite friends. They are beautiful. Samson’s hair is light blonde like mine. It’s wavy, but gets really curly when wet.  Sheba’s hair is short, sleek, shiny, and black.

They are my very best friends in the whole wide world.  We do everything together.  We play.  We laugh.  We explore.  We run.  We nap.  Sammy even lets me have piggybacks on him and Sheba offers me an endless supply of kisses.  I love them.  And I love my life.


Life seemed so simple at that age.  Playing outside for hours on end and getting dirty with friends was it for me.  I loved my best friends more than anything.  And they loved me. They were mine. They were loyal.

They were dogs.

Sammy (that’s Samson’s nickname) was a golden retriever and shepherd mix.  Sheba was a black lab.  Sheba was calm, reserved, and regal.  Sammy was goofy, happy, and always smiling.  They both exuded love, and of course, slobber and kisses.

My mother rescued them when they were only a few weeks old.  You could fit each one in the palm of your hand.  They were part of our family, but strictly “outside” dogs – a concept that seems so strange and foreign to me now.

Sammy and Sheba ruled the back yard.  I remember the path along the fence line of our yard that Sammy had created from casing the perimeter of the yard multiple times a day, wearing down the grass to what eventually looked like trails.  Sammy was our protector.  Sheba was our soulful girl.

Playing with my best friends in our backyard was heaven.  We would play for hours.  They were always one step in front of or behind me, always watching out for me.  I would crawl into their simple but sturdy wooden dog houses that my father had built.  Once I had squeezed my way into their house they would come in after me, excitedly licking my face then squishing me with their massive, warm, furry bodies.  We would sit there until I was too hot or had enough and was ready to get out.  Then we would run and chase, play and hug, and get dirty some more.

They were my family.

We communicated with each other as if they were my real brothers and sisters.  I knew how they felt. I understood what they wanted, and they did the same for me.  There was true peace and happiness being in the presence of those two animals.

That was bliss to me.  Still today, when I am running, playing, or find myself covered in soil, hair, feathers, scales, or slobber I am happy and at peace.  Being with animals is one of the greatest enjoyments on Earth for me.  And yet, somehow, even at three years of age, I knew that I wanted to experience that happiness and connection with animals  for the rest of my life.

Nearly 37 years later this is still true.  Even looking at the picture of my two best furry friends from childhood brings me to tears. That was joy.


Animals of all shapes and sizes have been one of the greatest joys in my life from the moment I came into this world.  As early as I can remember when I was asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  My answer was emphatically, “A veterinarian!”  To me, a veterinarian was someone who helps and heals animals. I just knew that I wanted to be like that.

Well, three decades later I am still someone who helps and heals animals.  Whether it’s an insect, a dog, or frog, animals have always been on the receiving end of my assistance. All species of life are near and dear to me; I have never seen them as lesser than me; they have always been my equal.  But I have noticed that the roles have changed a bit nearly forty years later.

They are all helping and healing me.

The passion I had at three years of age has taken many forms throughout my life, from exploring vet school, completing a degree in Wildlife Management, working in nature centers, a highly accredited zoo, and beyond. I accomplished that little girl’s dream, but I still have many more dreams to fulfill with animals and nature.

I think back to being a little girl.   I had no fears.   I was filled with a sense of adventure, exploration, and complete adoration of the animals of the land, sea and sky.   That fire was ignited as a child and it will always be in me.

I am still on that mission.


I have created this blog to explore the many adventures, mishaps, and lessons that I have learned from my animal companions (and nature) and to share them with others.  By doing so, I hope to help others better understand their animal companions and improve their relationships with them.  I also hope to help other Empaths better understand the delicate balance that we need, and how animals and nature can in fact, help us heal and grow in ways we never expected.

There is always more to learn and explore and many adventures to be had.

But for now, I think I’ll go outside and get dirty with my dog.

Summer of 1979 with Samson and Sheba ~ my two best friends

 

Dogs are our link to paradise. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring — it was peace. ― Milan Kundera

 

 



 

Safety Note:  Riding on dogs and smothering them with hugs is not in a child’s (or dog’s) best interest.  Fortunately, Sammy and Sheba were very patient, accommodating, and inviting with the way I showed them affection.  As you can see, Sheba’s moth is open – a behavior indicating she is at ease with me leaning on her.

But most dogs are not this tolerant.

Today I teach workshops on how to safely and respectfully show our canine companions affection without compromising their stress levels or a child’s safety.

If you are interested in learning more about canine body language, please visit these links:  here and  here  and here .  And I invite you to learn about dog and child safety here.


 

“Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole”– Roger Caras