As if losing a beloved pet is not heartbreaking enough, the thought of never seeing them at all, in whatever afterlife you believe in, can be devastating. Native Medicine teaches the power of animals. Native Americans believe animals and their spirits can be harbingers of learning and bearers of messages if one knows Animal Medicine. I have decided to share my experiences and perhaps you too may be comforted in knowing that animals do have souls!

I am an eclectic Pagan and Witch. From the time I was a child I have loved animals. I love all animalsfrom feathered friend to slithering snake to hair throwing tarantulas. I have loved them all. As I matured, I left the teachings of my childhood religion. I think I was on my way 'out' the day the lecture evolved around animals having no souls. I know our community does not abide by this and I for one have had so many animals, each unique in its own way or "personality" I have never doubted that animals have souls. Where there is intelligence, in my opinion, there must be a soul and just because an animal or insect's intelligence may be labeled instinct, does not mean there is no thinking. It only means we have no means of measuring it. Let me modifythat. People at large have no way of measuring it but I do. I had a cat that actually played hide and seek with me! Every time we played, I picked a different home base and he always knew where it was. When my first dog died, I grieved for her horribly. I felt her crawl under my bed every night and jump on my bed at intervals just as she did when she was alive.

Suddenly a cat showed up on my doorstep. This cat actually left its owners of sixteen years and moved in with us. Now, most have heard how cats do not like moving and yet this cat did. But, it does not end here. After a month and receiving the healing this cat brought me, I was getting a glass of milk from the refrigerator. This cat was sitting on the chair we kept by the telephone in the kitchen. Suddenly I heard a noise. It was the sound of my dog's nails clicking on the linoleum just as they used to when she was alive. I stopped and stared at the spot when the clicking stopped. So did my cat. Then I heard the clicking again that went through our door and down the stairs until it faded away completely. I knew she had decided to move on knowing the cat she had sent was helping me heal. Since then, I have many animals and stories that could fill volumes that are all true. There was the time one of my cats lay dying in the hospital and the cat that had played hide and seek with when he was alive took me on my first astral travel to the animal hospital. I did not remember much but I did see him there and he was ill. The next morning I was awakened early by the telephone the next day. The vet had called to tell me a miracle had happened. My cat had healed.

For me, the issue of animals having souls was no longer moot. It was fact. Thirty years ago, I began my independent meditations into alternative belief systems. I was first guided to Native American Animal Medicine. Looking back, it all made sense. Through my meditations and readings, I began to accept that not did animals have souls, they had spirit medicine. They had power. As I began to look into what my totems were I found amazing correlations. I love all animals but there were some with whom I had a natural affinity my whole life: horses, wolves, dolphins and big cats. These are, among others, my totems. Now I knew my spiritual path would lead me increasingly to earth based beliefs. I have called my totems to assist me with finding guidance during hard times, for protection-especially for my daughter. The sudden surge of spirit power within myself that I experience at these times could wake me up from a deep sleep.

Not a day goes by that I do not make note of the first animal I see outside nor am I surprised every spring when ants invade my house and I will not kill them. Every year, they come around, I discovered, to give me a message and until I realize what it is, I am invaded. When I find that 'eureka!" moment, they disappear. Neither my husband nor I will kill spiders. We simply move them outside of the house. As a writer, how could I possible kill the animal that is the essence of creativity? We have bats that live under our roof on our porch. I have affectionately named them Elizabeth-Patrice and Bob. You see we have a large pond by our house and during the West Nile scare a couple of years ago, Elizabeth-Patrice and Bob had nightly feasts and we had absolutely no mosquitoes. We feed the skunks that live under our porch leftovers from dinner and when we have encountered them at night, it is almost like neighbors passing each other and saying 'Hello". Both Bats and skunks are very significant to me personally. Bat medicine is a very challenging one to call to oneself. It will require brutal and painful self-examination and accountability before one can move forward from one phase of life into the next. I have called upon the bat to help me fight my shadow self, my inner demons and depression. A painful process I can assure you yet afterwards I always find a new path to follow with a lighter heart for I always gain self forgiveness. Now skunk medicine can be very funny. It can make you very popular or unpopular. As a solitary eclectic, skunk medicine has literally kept unwanted visitors at bay. I have peace within myself and within my home for only my closest friends and family come by to visit. My teacher in Native ways, Ceremonial Chief WhiteEagle of Narrowsburg, New York has taught me how to free the spirit of a dead bird and how to accept its medicine so that its power on the side continues to grow.

Of all these wonderful experiences, I have had some on the astral plane that have amazed even me. Years ago, my husband and I got a puppy. It was his first marriage and my second and we were both animal lovers so we began our joyfully with our combined menageries. We got Sheba so she would the first dog that would be 'ours', not his, not mine. My daughter also dogs and cats of her own. Needless to say, we relocated to a farm so all of our animals could have a wonderful life. Sheba used to play with my daughter's dog Penny. One day, I let out the dogs and hung outside with them as I always do. A sudden storm rolled in. All of the dogs came quickly in except for Penny and Sheba. The lightning and thunder was incredible and along came Penny but with no Sheba. At the time, Sheba was only about five months old. I ran out in the rain calling for her, desperately hoping she was just hiding nearby.

When my husband came home from work, I tearfully told him what had happened. By this time the rain had stopped. I continued walking the woods on foot and the roads while he saddled up and took to the trails where she might be hiding. We could not find her. We hunted for her all the next day into night. I was beside myself. I couldn't sleep from the time she disappeared but finally succumbed that evening when it became too dark and late to look anymore.

Suddenly, I felt wide-awake. I got up from the bed and decided to walk to the window. Sitting outside were three of the biggest hounds I had ever seen in my life. I could hear them speak thought they did not even bark. I knew they were asking for instructions. I instructed them to run and go find Sheba and they ran off, bounding down the road. Not a word was spoken. The words were thought.

After that I turned to go back to bed and saw myself lying in bed. I walked over, sat down and reclined into myself. When we woke up, I just told my husband, Ralph, to go out and look for Sheba becuase he would find her "today". I would tell him my dreamtime experience later. A couple of hours later, he returned with a frightened, but happy to be home, puppy. He passed construction workers working on one of the side roads and asked if they had seen a puppy fitting Sheba's description. Indeed they had. As my husband turned to go back to the truck to look in the aresa, one of the men said, "Hey, there she is!" She was cowering under some fallen branches from a tree. When called her she ran into his arms and came home.

As Sheba grew, she became was such a character! She slept with us on the bed, between us and I would fall asleep rubbing her fur inbetween my fingers. But, during the day when the bed was made and the bedspread on teh bed, the bedroom was off limits. Sometimes, just for fun I would leave the door open. She would sneak into the bedroom and then shut the door behind her! I would walk in and when she knew I caught she literally would smile- teeth showing from one end of her mouth to the other!

And then, at a young age, Sheba died. I grieved for her everyday. I grieved because she needed emergency surgery and did not survive the night. The guilt I felt that Sheba may have been aware that she was in strange place away from home when she died, tore at my soul. The Irish in me would choke down tears but when Ralph wasn't around the Hsipanic in me would sob with sorrow.

It was one of those bitterly cold winter afternoons and the chores outside at the barn had frankly made me very sleepy. I decided to take a nap. It seemed that no sooner had my head hit the pillow that I fell asleep.

Suddenly I did not feel tired anymore. I sat up and turned to get a cigarette. I figured I might as well get up and go into the living room. As I turned, I noticed myself lying there. The hand that rested on the bed was resting on the bed but THROUGH me. I stood up and looked down. My feet were not on the floor at all but about two feet above it. I walked through my bedroom door and into the living room. I saw my husband my husband and Jack (my daughter's boyfriend) watching television but they did not see me. I sat down on a chair and suddenly running toward me, two feet above the floor as I was, was Sheba! She ran into my arms. I cried and hugged her and told her how much I loved her and how sorry I was that she died alone. I told her I missed her and wished she were still with me because I missed her so much. She sat in front of me, wagged her tail, and gave me that smile. Then, she turned and I watched her walk away. I went back into the bedroom, reclined into myself once more and did not wake up for a few hours. When I woke up, I knew she came to me to ease my grief and she did. I have not cried for her since. Most of our animals are rescues. We found them abandoned, starving, freezing to death, or malnourished because the owner could not afford to feed them. Some were almost hit by cars, some were hit by cars and rehabilitated and adopted by great people. Still others were found when only an hour old and so on and so on. We have returned lost pets, adopted lost animals and placed lost pets. It is what we do.

One such animal was Colorado. He was a magnificent red Spanish Mustang. Although his name was Colorado, he has been born in Nevada and almost died when under a year old due to a bad heart. We got him when he was a year and half old. He was truly beautiful. He had a thick, wavy mane and tail and he had the classic "waffling" of the hairs in the front of his legs so typical of Spanish mustangs. He was highly spirited and I loved watching him run around the field, kicking up his legs and galloping around. He did wheeze which is why he was a pasture puff as we horse people call them. However, he was more than that. He was family. When I would go out to pet him, He would gallop full speed toward me and stop on a dime in front of me then lower his head for me to scratch between his eyes. Like all the other horses, at feeding time he had to wait for his grain. (You see all of our horses must get a kiss from us before they eat.)

One winter morning, as usual, my husband went out to feed the horses in the barn. He does that while I walk the dogs, do poop patrol, feed the dogs and make sure the ones on medication get their medicine. I also straighten up the house, clean and start laundry before I go out to help clean stalls. That morning, he came to the back door right away panting. I looked at him. I was terrified of what he had seen.

"He's dead!" He cried, "Colorado's dead!"
"What?" I screamed and ran out only in my bathrobe into the freezing cold.

He lay like a deer, legs folded under him, nose resting on the ground in front of him. I walked over to him as if not to wake him from his sleep and fell to my knees patting and hugging his majestic neck. I stroked the mane that only yesterday flew in the wind but his might gave way to the weakness that had always been his heart.

We somberly and tearfully took care of the other six horses. My husband cried as I did. Wordless, we knew we had our other horses who needed their routine also. After they were fed, watered and hayed I went into the house and called Chief WhiteEagle to let him know what happened.

Within an hour, he was there and his wife, Cathy, hugged me and cried also. What followed was an amazing gift from the heart of this spiritual leader of twelve nations. He did a special ceremony for Colorado in his stall to honor him because horses are sacred to Native people. First, he put feathers in his mane. Then my husband put his hand in fine cornmeal to place his mark upon Colorado so he would be known on the other side as ours. He then did a ceremony and the mares started whinnying. He explained that the mares are the first to acknowledge a passing spirit.

Shortly after the stallions joined then. He further said that now, he spirit has left this plane completely. (When the stallions join in, the work is complete.)

We had never lost a horse before and I personally have known them to live to fifty so here I was with a beloved stallion dead at the age of seven. We were again in a sorrow so deep we were speechless. That night I took Colorado's picture into my spirit room where I have all of my altars and placed it on my animal altar. I lit a candle for him and cried until my whole body hurt. I went to bed, crying silently as we Irish often do.

I have learned one thing from all of my astral travels. There are many places and many realms and no two are alike (so far). Sometimes the experience can get lost in the memory in transit back into the body so sometimes there are very odd things within the realm as if to help. Things that I can program myself to remember when I wake up which, in turn, triggers the memory of the experience notice.

It was twilight. It was not day and it was not night. I was walking along a dirt road. I really did not know why I was there. Suddenly, coming up the road toward me was an Indian. He was rather old and dressed in brown. This was not unusual to me. I have seen amazing things in my travels but what was odd was the fact that he was driving a Jeep! I thought to myself, why would anyone need a jeep over here? Why would an Indian be driving a jeep? I then said to myself. This does not belong. It is a trigger factor that I must remember. Remember the Indian in the Jeep; remember the Indian in the Jeep. I repeated this to myself over and over again. As he drove closer, he smiled. I smiled back and nodded my head. Then he pointed toward the road he had just come from and I knew he was telling me whatever it was I was there for was in that direction. I began walking. I did not walk far when there he was! Colorado stood in the middle of the road. "Colorado!" I gasped which I thought must have been a scream but as, usual, there was no sound. He stood in his former majesty, neck arched, head proud, mane and tail as it had always been. He walked toward me. I saw the feathers in his mane and then the handprint on his chest, where my husband had placed his hand. He stopped in front of me and put his head on my shoulder. He then pulled me gently toward him until my shoulder was under his throat with his head and jaw on my shoulder blade. I put my arms around him and I could feel the power of muscle.

He was whole and powerful and more alive than he could ever have been if he lived. As it always is with these travels, I awoke the next morning in my bed. The first thought that came into my mind was an Indian driving a Jeep. And then, I remembered....

When one loves animals as we do, their passing is losing family. We have had dogs and cats that have lived to twenty! We have others that died prematurely. Each one is a painful loss but is our beliefs that get us through. Native Americans call all things "people". There are rock people, plant and tree people and animal people. They all have spirit. I felt the power of our Mother Earth's people as well but those experiences are for another time but even for Mother's people there is life after life. We observe this with each turn of the wheel with every change of season, don't we? As for my animal people, they have souls. They have 'told' me so.

Please go to my Animal Memorial page on my website and be comforted. Cate

Author's Bio: 

Cate was not always a shaman. In the early 80’s, she co-founded “The Brooklyn Literary Center” in New York City, which unified writers and promoted their performances and workshops. She performed her works and facilitated writing workshops. Cate also continues to write political columns for New York papers. As an advocate for the elderly in her community, a long career in advocacy for the disabled and a disabled writer, she developed the main spiritual ingredient: compassion. As a practicing shaman, gifted intuitive and 'witch', she was called upon by her spirit guides to share earth based values and wisdom. In her book, "Gifts Of The Spirit", she shares her personal challenges and the tools she discovered to better navigate this material world. She is dedicated to teaching spiritual empowerment as the creative and metaphysical factor to change. "Gifts Of The Spirit" ISBN 1-59286-876-2