Sleepless, and inspired by a brilliant post from Running Elk (which I have just re-blogged), my mind flies, with a spear’s swiftness and certainty of purpose, to the animals which have visited me in my life thus far.
The dominant creature is very definitely the dog, and specifically the border-collie. Jumble is the third of the latter variety I have owned since 1978 – and the first pet I remember as a child was our very temperamental, somewhat vicious, border-collie, Roly, a dog who bit first and asked questions later.
A strange synchronicity hit me just now with regard to Bonne, the first of my dogs, and Jumble, number three: Both originally belonged to a partnership; both came with me when the relationship ended – and both began to fade out within six months of a significant move, though I am still hopeful that Jumbs will remain with me for a bit longer.
Nigel and I were given Bonne in 1978 by friends of ours. When we moved to Somerset and Gloucestershire, from the Aberystwyth area, in the summer of 1981, Bonne, then around twelve, came with us, but stayed with me because I started my job first and did not live in a lodging provided by the school as Nigel did. We split up in January 1982, and Bonne died two months later.
Jake, the middle dog, was another cast-off; I got him from a colleague in 1986, when he was around ten months of age – and he lived to be nearly sixteen. Although originally my dog, he came into my marriage and was my son’s first pet, dying when the lad was three.
Jumble, bought in 2002, a week before the boy started primary school, was our family dog – and, for all the negative aspects of the marriage, was much-loved by all of us and, perhaps, reflected the family at its best. Named after William ‘Just William’ Brown’s dog, he is a blue merle collie, and has always been both sweet-natured and feisty. He never took to children, possibly because of early teasing from some of my son’s more difficult playmates – and, although he wouldn’t eat a whole one (as the saying goes), is inclined to snap at small, high-voiced humans.
As regular readers will be aware, Jumble came with me to Glastonbury, as did Pippa, the rabbit, after my ex and I divorced and we sold the house in Wrington. Like Bonne – for those new to my blog, her name was short for Triumph Bonneville! – Jumble is now declining fairly speedily, which is horrible and heart-breaking.
So, going back to my premise – and my friend’s post on spirit animals – what is the significance of dogs (and, more latterly, foxes) in my life? They are known to represent constancy, loyalty, unconditional love. Many people ‘adopt’ them as children substitutes, as furry babies, because they tend to be warm and cuddly, especially when puppies, and remain playful and childlike in their behaviour.
It is interesting that, in both my major relationship breakdowns, I have kept a symbol of fidelity and emotional idealism (in every sense); that these loyal animals have been my support, giving unquestioning love and affection, when I have been wounded by a significant human in my life. Having that animal in my life, and home, has been both reassuring and healing in both cases, and has created a bearable bridge between past and present, old life and new. I say this because, very often, dogs – and pets generally – do bring out the best in us: They encourage us to walk, to explore our environment, to bond with other, dog-owning, humans; they make us laugh and cheer us up; they can soothe troubled breasts. They attract good memories. Sad ones too, of course, because their life spans are nowhere near as long as ours (in general terms) – and, in the course of a human life time, several loving pets will die and be mourned.
But the one thing we often forget about dogs is that they were, once, wolves; that they are tamed, it is true, but that every tamed animal originates from a wild forebear we forget at our peril. So, I suspect that, when a dog comes prominently into our lives – and, especially, when there’s a string of them – we are attracting, calling, allying with the spirit of wolf as well. And that, on the surface and in the legends at least, is a very different animal to its tame cousin.
Another animal I have a deep identification, magically in this case, with is the hare – and, for a while, when doing ‘Your Unseen Power’ (a course written by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki), I saw these lovely creatures regularly, both in dreams/visions and in the fields around Wrington.
An interesting creature running – or should that be ‘slithering’? – through my life is the worm, or snake, both of which I have long feared and gone out of my way to avoid. As a child, and despite being an Earth sign, I would not rummage around in the soil lest I touched a worm, something I absolutely dreaded. I hated them with a passion quite at variance with anything they had done or, indeed, were!
Something is shifting on that front, though. A few weeks ago, I found a beautiful slow worm meandering around my garden. It did give me a little shock of fear on first sight – but I soon became mesmerised by its colour, its gentleness, its harmless sliding around in my grass – and when, two days later, it made its way into Pippa’s run, I was not worried, and the two animals co-existed peacefully for the half hour they shared a space.
Since then, several of these worms have colonised my compost bin – and a splendid job they are doing too. But the real turning point came on Saturday when I was mowing the lawn: As I turned over a water-bin lid to mow that section of grass, I saw a whole tribe of slow worms wriggling underneath. Now I will admit to a small inner shudder, at that basic phobic level, but then came this huge surge of protectiveness, this absolute determination not to hurt or frighten these animals with the mower. I mowed around that patch until they disappeared into the ground, so scared was I of killing them.
I’ve got a way to go on this one: I still cannot bring myself to touch one, let alone pick it up – but I can now see their beauty, their part in the garden cycle, their right to life. They frighten me for a reason – and that is something I am going to explore further.
I suspect that all three animals mentioned so far have spiritual significance in my life, but I need to investigate further in order to find the deeper, and more personalised, messages.
I mentioned the elderly fox in a recent post – and it was by no means the first such visitation, or fox-related coincidence; in fact, foxes travel in a parallel line to dogs (though not captured or reduced to pet status) throughout my life, with many sighting when I lived in both Headington and Llancynfelyn, and a dying fox howling outside my flat in Weston one night, which resulted in an early morning vet call. It occurred to me at the time that the injured animal had come to me for help and safety.
There is more. Much more. But it is nearly two-thirty in the morning – and I have not slept a night through for days, if not weeks.
Perhaps I will now dream of animals! That would be lovely…
And thanks to Running Elk whose wonderful post has inspired this piece.