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Angel Animals Book of Inspiration
Divine Messengers of Wisdom and Compassion
By Allen Anderson, Linda Anderson
New World LibraryCopyright © 2003 Allen and Linda Anderson
All rights reserved.
How Do Animals Remind Us of the Divine?
According to the Kabbalah, at some point in the beginning of things, the Holy was broken up into countless sparks, which were scattered throughout the universe. There is a god-spark in everyone and everything, a sort of diaspora of goodness. God's imminent presence among us is encountered daily in the most simple, humble, and ordinary ways.
— Rachel Naomi Remen, MD
Is there a God? Wow! What a question! Philosophers, scientists, and stargazers throughout history have asked it. Most people say they believe there is a God. But when life throws an almighty curveball, doubts arise. We ask: If God exists, where was he/she/it when I needed help? In other words, sometimes we need a little tangible support for our belief.
Animals seem to offer us comfort by bringing proof of God's existence. Many people, at the time of their greatest suffering or despair, have experienced the presence of the Divine with the help of animals in their homes or in nature.
The following stories of animals, living in the wild or as companions in homes, remind us that, yes, we are supported in whatever ways are best for our spiritual growth and renewal. Perhaps you will be reminded of times when animals revealed the Divine to you.
The Dog Who Discovered God
Mary Elizabeth Martucci South Bend, Indiana
Mary had a little lamb, but I had my dog, Skippy. Mary's lamb followed her to school each day, but my dog followed me to church each Sunday. We lived a block from the church and often played in the churchyard after school. Skippy knew the territory well, and everyone in the neighborhood, including the priests, knew Skippy.
On Sunday mornings, when Skippy walked with me, he waited at the church's side door. I entered that way, always turning to tell Skippy to sit. I was small, and the door was heavy and hard to open and close. Occasionally it didn't shut tightly. One day, I pulled the door closed and took my usual seat in the pew just opposite the side door, several rows from the main altar.
After a few moments, the sound of shuffling feet and muffled voices from surrounding pews interrupted the quiet. Imagine my reaction when I turned toward the sounds and saw Skippy attempting to squeeze his rather large body through the narrow door opening. He glanced at me as if to say, "Okay?" I felt faint, but managed to mouth a strong, "No!"
Skippy ignored me. He waited a second and then slowly, almost on tiptoe, walked toward the altar. Aghast, I froze in my seat. Skippy crossed in front of the altar, climbed the two steps to the left of the altar table, and turned to face the congregation. With the air of a humble fellow worshiper, Skippy lowered himself onto the carpet.
In those days, the church's altar table faced away from the congregation, and the priest's back was toward the people. How clever, I thought, that Skippy had chosen to place himself out of the servers' path.
Simultaneously with Skippy's arrival, the servers marched out of the sacristy followed by the priest, Father John. A hushed congregation collectively held its breath. I was about to burst. I didn't know what to do. Father John approached the altar. First he caught the eyes of the servers, who were looking at him anxiously. Then he followed their gaze to the left. Skippy lifted his head to meet Father John's eyes as if in greeting. Then my dog calmly lay back down.
Father John proceeded to conduct the Mass without incident. At Holy Communion time, I feared what Skippy would do when he saw me approach the altar rail. I had nothing to be concerned about, though. Skippy watched me come and go without twitching a muscle. He also seemed to sense when the Mass was about to end, because he raised his head and glanced over at Father John, seeming to wait for the final blessing. When the priest and servers withdrew, Skippy walked down the steps and back out the side door.
I managed to get to the door quickly and push Skippy out of the church before the priest or parishioners could get their hands on us. I knew my next big problem in life would be to explain all this to Mama.
Surprisingly, neither Father John, the members of the congregation, nor my mother reprimanded Skippy or me. I was only reminded to close the door more carefully. Everyone commended Skippy for his exemplary behavior during Mass.
The following Sunday, Skippy and I took off again for church. I entered the side door as usual, and this time I made sure I pulled it tightly closed. After Father John started Mass, I caught a glimpse of Skippy walking toward the altar. I couldn't believe it! Apparently someone had entered the church after me and allowed enough space for Skippy to get in again.
This time, I was certain Father John would oust the dog. I could feel myself growing red-faced with embarrassment as Skippy climbed up one step, then two, and nestled down for Mass. Father John glanced over at him, turned back to the altar, and continued with the service. Was that a smile I saw on the priest's face?
After Mass, Skippy respectfully waited until everyone had left the church. Since this was his second appearance, Skippy now became the talk of the congregation. People stopped to pet him and say what a good dog he had been. They shared their amazement over how the dog seemed to know where to lie and the respect he showed for Father John and the ceremony. Some suggested that Skippy understood what Mass was all about. Most of the people in the parish found Skippy's behavior amusing and inoffensive. Some even thought Skippy had a right to be allowed to attend church on Sunday.
Accepted by the parish, Skippy was welcome at Sunday services from that day on. The high point of the Mass was when the priest raised the chalice and host. Everyone is supposed to be attentive at that time. Many were not, until they started watching Skippy carefully observing the priest's movements at the most sacred moment of the service. I noticed that attendees started to follow Skippy's example by looking up at the chalice when they were supposed to. I think he made everyone more reverent, alert to their reasons for attending weekly Mass, and mindful and respectful of each other. After those first Sundays, someone began to prop open the side door with a wooden block. Skippy no longer had to struggle to squeeze through the opening. For as long as he wanted, God's house was open to him.
Skippy reminded all of us that animals have always served the saints in many ways, most notably Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Martin de Porres, and have been loved and protected by them in return. When I was eight years old, my dog, Skippy, took the saints up on the promise that even an animal could honor his Creator in church on Sundays.
Has an animal ever helped you realize your reverence for the sacredness of creation?
Q: Is There a God? A: Meow!
Mary Ellen "Angel Scribe" Cottage Grove, Oregon
A twenty-five years old, I began exploring spirituality. I knew there was a God, but I couldn't see or feel God. You might call me a believing skeptic.
Around that time, my husband, Howard, and I took our first vacation together. We rented a motor home and brought along our shaded-silver Persian cats, Channel and Camelot. We left Vancouver Island, Canada, and headed to Lake Chelan in Washington State. At the campsite, we put the cats on their harness-leashes. A short time later, we noticed that Camelot had wiggled free of his harness and was gone.
Of all the animal companions I've loved, this shy, gentle creature most relied on me and trusted that I'd protect him. I had adopted Camelot from someone who raised him in a cage, so the cat had not learned how to fend for himself.
We were devastated at the thought of losing Camelot. We walked around the small town of Lake Chelan calling for him and offering his favorite treat as a reward if he'd return, but to no avail. For the next four days and three nights, we wandered the streets all day and into the wee hours of the morning. We left word of our precious Persian's disappearance at the radio station, newspaper, and local schools, soliciting the help of the townsfolk in the search for our missing cat.
As the sun rose on the last morning of our vacation, we were still walking around the town calling out for Camelot. Since it was 4:00 in the morning and we had to return home, we knew this was our last chance to find him. We had done everything humanly possible, and I recognized that Camelot's fate was out of my hands. At that point, I passed my heart into the hands of God and said, "If you are really out there, if you really exist, please show me where my cat is."
The most unusual thing happened next. I felt the invisible hands of God — or perhaps the hands of loving angels — on my back. These hands guided me in the opposite direction from where we'd been walking. They then pressured me to turn to the right, walk another block, and walk to the end of the street. I followed their guidance for about a quarter-mile, and then the feeling lifted. I felt confused. "What was that all about?" I wondered.
I called "Camelot" one last time. From under a bush, twenty feet in front of me, a scared, thinner, fluffy, silver Persian cat meowed. Camelot walked out and stood there, waiting for me to pick him up. He blinked his huge, green Disney eyes at me. My heart melted and rejoiced at the same instant.
We carried Camelot back to the trailer and put him in front of the water and food dishes. Channel walked over to him and swatted him on the head with her paw. Her look implied, "You sure caused a lot of trouble."
The story of our missing cat soon spread around the entire town. When we pulled out of the motor home park for the long trip back to Vancouver Island, we told the gatekeeper that we'd found our cat and she burst into tears. She said, "Today is my twenty-first birthday, and finding Camelot safe is the best present anyone could give me." There certainly are kind people all over the world.
Camelot's disappearance for those days helped me discover and understand how the divine power of God works in our lives. The cat's disappearance was mandatory to my spiritual growth. If he had not taken flight, I would never have been desperate enough to pray for the first time in my life — and then have the hands of God/Spirit/Angels lead me to Camelot. For me, this was a miracle — an epiphany.
Is there a God? We must all answer this question in our own way and in our own time. Asking the question seems to be the key. And maybe an animal will help reveal the answer.
Could animal messengers be alerting you to divine intervention in your life? Has there been a time when an animal helped you know that the Divine was near?
The Presence of Teddy
Rose-Marie Silkens Sayward, British Columbia
Teddy is a black, tan, and white collie mixed breed. To my eyes, she's a dog of exceptional beauty, and we've been together as best friends and companions for nearly fifteen years. Teddy and I share an understanding based on total mutual commitment to each other. I have never doubted that Teddy would give her life for me without the slightest hesitation. My paltry human love cannot equal her unequivocal devotion. I have always described our relationship by saying, "My dog and I are completely bonded." But I had no idea how true this statement was until I was diagnosed with cancer.
Through the stages of my recovery from three operations, Teddy stayed near me, sleeping beside the bed, watching my every move. She was clearly anxious and upset when I felt uncomfortable or distressed.
Then came chemotherapy. I had been able to cope with many of the difficulties so far — the loss of body parts, the fatigue, the side effects of medication — but the thought of losing my long hair during chemo plunged me into depression. On the good advice of a cancer nurse, I had my hair cut short at the start of treatment. This would forestall the shock of seeing clumps of it falling out.
Over a three-week period, handfuls of hair separated from my itchy scalp. Each loss brought me greater distress. My coping skills quickly eroded. One evening, I sat in my rocking chair, pulling out tufts of hair and sobbing energetically. Teddy lay on the floor beside me and watched intently. Suddenly she began to pull at the fur on her tail. Before I could stop her, she had ripped out a few clumps.
Teddy's action, of course, stopped my tears and self-pity. I went to bed that night marveling at the depth of this dog's compassion.
The next morning, I found Teddy sleeping in a mass of long black hair. She had yanked out almost all the fur from the midsection of her tail, no doubt with considerable pain. Her beautiful black tail and its white plume now looked like a funny little rat's tail with a pale-colored brush on its end. Then Teddy looked up at me with her devoted little face. It was as if she was willing me to feel better. I could almost hear her saying, "If you have to lose your hair, I'm going to lose mine, too."
Teddy and I both appeared a bit strange that summer. In the fall, when her winter coat came in, Teddy's tail quickly began to look better. My hair took a quite a bit longer to return, but I never cried about it again. Sharing my loss with my best friend Teddy took the sadness away.
Has an animal climbed on your lap when you were ill or sad and warmed your heart? What messages have animals conveyed with their actions when you most needed comfort?
Send in the Cows
Monica O'Kane St. Paul, Minnesota
One afternoon, while visiting a farm and standing in its pasture, I was bursting with anguish over a personal relationship. My head drooped. My shoulders were crushed with a ten-ton block of grief. Tears flooded my face and soaked my shirt. I pleaded silently, "Somebody please be with me!"
Then, through my watery veil, I saw a herd of about fifteen cows and calves coming out of the woods. Feeling cut off from all human support, I welcomed their presence. Slowly but steadily, the whole herd advanced. At first I feared they were going to chase me out of their pasture, but then I realized that they didn't seem menacing. Some cows walked a wide berth around me and came up from behind. Others ambled straight toward me.
I've been in a pasture with cows before, but none had ever approached me. They'd usually wander timidly away unless a farmer with feed was nearby. But these cows completely encircled me. They each stopped when they came within five feet, seeming to sense what would be comfortable for me. I felt no panic. Instead, I found myself being strangely consoled.
To my surprise, a white-faced cow halted directly in front of me. I watched, transfixed, as a tear formed in one of her eyes and spilled down the side of her nose. At first, I wondered if the cow might have an infection, but when I looked into her eyes I saw that they were perfectly healthy. I concluded that this cow could be empathetic — sympathizing with me as I shed my own tears in her pasture.
Gradually my heaving sobs subsided into noisy gulps. Eventually I cried silently. Meanwhile, the cows seemed to form a barrier between the cause of my turmoil and me. I'd fruitlessly hoped that humans would comfort me this way. In answer to my plea, I'd been visited by a herd of cows. After they moved away, I felt a peaceful calm wash over me.
A year later, in the midst of praying, I suddenly remembered the farm animals who had so unexpectedly visited me in the pasture. I realized that God had been answering my prayer. God was saying, "Don't you remember that collective cow hug I sent you a year ago? I directed my creatures to you, but you didn't recognize my touch, my love. Today you do. But then I ministered to you in your isolated agony through the cows."
I felt gratitude for the bovine hug that had relieved my sadness and reassured me that I'm never alone.
Has an animal used an unusual way to help you feel less alone or abandoned?
Season's Eternal Song
Eden Prairie, Minnesota
In spring in the beaks of birds you can find
Wiggling worms, pumpkin seeds, straw for nests,
And sometimes a song of freedom
Sung by a bright red one, carried
In the sounds of all the seasons
Past summer's whistling winds,
Through the dying, bright,
Crackling yellow leaves of fall and
The imperceptible thud of soft, silent, falling snow.
This freedom song, eerie in its cadence,
Incarnates in a cardinal,
Released in its red voice,
Colors the buds green and gold.
White winter melting into green
Gives birth to spring.
In this same beak, music lessons for the young
And during the quiet time when the leaves are still,
Feathers ruffle the moment,
When the spirit of the song
In a silent hush passes on.
Excerpted from Angel Animals Book of Inspiration by Allen Anderson, Linda Anderson. Copyright © 2003 Allen and Linda Anderson. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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