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Pull up a chair, my tribe, and I’ll tell you a story, of the Before Times, which I rarely speak of – of my life before illness, which was an unusual one by anyone’s standards. It is a bitterly cold night here on the Mountain, 8 degrees and snowy, and gazing at that snow, so incredibly fine due to the very cold air, I see it sparkle in the deck lights, and am reminded of another snowy night, so long ago, almost half a lifetime now…

I remember…
…being a single mom living with my 7 year-old daughter in a very poorly-built log cabin, with no running water, in Ohio. I hadn’t planned to be there on my own… a marriage had recently ended badly, leaving me broken-hearted and financially-ruined. I found myself enrolled in college, learning to be a naturalist or forest ranger by day, and returning home in the evenings to a great deal of responsibility… “living rough” had seemed a fine idea when I was married to someone who people compared to the “Marlboro man,” but it was a daunting prospect for a woman alone…

After a long day of college classes that involved much hiking, near sunset on a bitterly cold Winter evening, I wearily climb the steep hill to the cabin, my daughter at my side. It is cold inside, too – the cabin is heated only by a woodstove, and, being incredibly drafty, requires a constant, roaring, fire, but the fire has been banked all day, down to a slow burn. I pile on wood and get it warming up, then move outside to chores as the daylight fades.

I break the ice in my rain barrels, and tend to my two horses, and feed far too many wolves. With what little energy I have left, I scrape together dinner for my daughter, and try to be there for her. I don’t do a very good job. My situation is overwhelming, is desperate, and I don’t know how I will get through it. I am deeply depressed, but trying not to show it.

But after she is tucked in bed, I pull my boots, coat and warmest gloves back on, and go back out into the biting cold to split wood. I have just used up all the already split wood to warm the house for the evening. Cutting and splitting the wood by myself is a never-ending chore, and I cannot get caught up.

The Moon is full and bright overhead, reflecting off the snow, and I can see my way clearly. I have no outside lights, so I glance up, thankful of the Moon’s brilliance. The snow crunches and squeeks under my boots, as it only does when it is so cold. I struggle to put a snow-covered log up on my chopping block. The splitting maul is lifted and brought down on the log with a well-practiced, if exhausted, stroke, and that moment is when the Magick happens, when everything changes…

The snow and ice on the top of the log suddenly explodes up around me in a powder-fine cloud, and every single flake, every single speck, sparkles in the moonlight with glittering rainbows, as it flies up around me and ever, ever, so slowly falls.

It is as if I have been showered with finely ground diamonds, or fairy dust, each speck shimmering with all the shades of the rainbow – deep blue, purple, scarlet red, fire orange – and the bright white of the Moon as they fall.

It is perhaps the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, and all because we were out of wood on a cold winter night.

I stand there in astonishment, as the cloud of glimmering diamond snowdust settles on and around me, and then gaze up at the bright Moon above me.

If I had needed a sign that even in one’s darkest hour there is Beauty, there is Hope, then I had surely been gifted with one, and I had, indeed, needed just such a sign.

It seems it is a fine and beautiful night for chopping wood after all, and I split enough for several days, laughing like a child as the rainbow-sparkling snowdust falls all around me and the glorious Moon shines down from above.

The memory of the unexpected and breathtaking Beauty of that night is a treasured one, and one I think of often. It holds and sustains me through the dark hours, and helps me find the Beauty, Inspiration, and Hope, to keep going… just as it did then.

The Moon is Magick and Mystery,
yes, and so are many other things.
If we but look,
there are signs and guideposts
all around us, pointing the way…
We have only to open our Hearts and truly See.

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September is here, there’s a cool nip in the air at night, a few leaves are starting to change… Summer is coming to an end, and Autumn is beginning.

For many of my dearest friends, this brings a deep sigh of relief, and a hope that the worst is over. For almost everyone I know, it’s been a difficult Summer, full of one personal crisis after another, just as it has been for my family.

Sometimes, it’s hard to see the way forward when a crisis strikes, to find the Path you should follow. You look around in confusion and see only obstacles.

“Fauna” by Charlie Terrell

When I found this beautiful image of Fauna, Guardian of the Wood, I was reminded that, often, looking to Nature will help me find the clues and inspiration I need to find my Path again.

Sometimes, it is as if we stand in a deep, dark forest, surrounded by thick trees and brush, knowing not which way to go. We have lost our bearings, lost our way, lost our Path.

Fauna reminds us that when we find ourselves lost in the dark Forest of Life, to listen to our wild Hearts, and follow the Deer’s Trail, and we will find our way.

Deer Trail by Heather L. Loyd, via Flickr

What does that mean, to follow the Deer’s Trail? Well, the Deer are creatures of habit, and travel well-worn paths through the woods and meadows. Their cloven hooves cut deep into the earth, and pack it hard into a narrow dirt trail. Their paths often intersect and overlap with the paths made by humans, and many a hiker has lost the human trail when they veered off unknowingly onto a deer trail.

But deer also go places humans wouldn’t think to go – but could go.. They go over fallen trees, instead of being stopped by them, trees you might have to climb over. They go under bushes in perfect tunnels – perfect for their size, and for your’s, too, if you’re willing to scramble and crawl through where they go with ease.

Deer who doesn’t want to get his hooves wet!

Many’s the time I’ve run down a deer trail, barefoot, hair flying, as One with the Earth, being the Wildling I am in my Heart. And many’s the times the deer trails have shown me unexpected routes through, around, over or past obstacles.

Sometimes we look for a way forward in our lives, a clear trail, and seeing only our obstacles, we don’t see how we can do it, but if we’re willing to view them from a different angle, to scramble & climb, the Path may become clear. That is following the Deer Trail.

Once upon a time, following a deer trail literally saved my life.

Many years ago, when I was in my 20’s, my husband & I were looking for land to buy, and checking out Tennessee around the Smoky Mountains. We had already looked once at an incredibly beautiful and huge piece of land, something like 2-300 acres. Before we made an offer, we wanted to give it one final, really good, going over, since that’s a lot of land to check out.

We had parked our trusty Suburu at the gate & walked in, marveling at the forests, the open meadows, large cedar trees, beautiful big rugged stones, and a lovely lake. It was gorgeous, and I just loved it.

Poly Tunnel

Then we came to an area that had a tractor sitting by it, and a large tilled spot. There were three very long poly tunnels over it, the kind you use to protect plants from frost. It seemed to me that first frost should have been past, and I could see some of the plants were just about touching the tops of the inside of the tunnels, which were around 4′ tall, but I couldn’t see what they were.

So I took a look, as did my husband. They sure weren’t the tomatoes under my poly tunnels at home! No, they were pot plants, and each tunnel had plants in different stages of growth. The oldest plants were starting to bud, and were almost ready for harvest.

We looked at the sheer number of plants, looked at each other, realised our car was parked at the gate by the road, and said in unison, “We’ve got to get out of here, NOW!” It had to have been hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of weed, street value, if not more. This was backwoods Tennessee. We knew what would happen if we were caught up there – we’d just disappear. And nobody even knew where we were.

Then we heard the sound of an ATV heading our way, and decided we would be better off to split up – that way there was a higher chance at least one of us would make it out alive. We took off, running for our lives, in different directions, on land we didn’t know at all, this only being the second time we’d set foot on it.

I wound up coming to a hill that led to the creek that bordered the property, and I knew if I got to the creek I could follow it to the road.

Greenbrier Vines

My feet flew as I followed a deer trail down the treacherously steep hill, only to find, half-way down, that the entire bottom of the hillside, as far as I could see, was covered in a giant thicket of greenbrier, 6 or 7 feet high. It looked completely impenetrable, and to my eyes, the deer trail just ended at the edge of the greenbrier… until I leaned down, and saw it went into the greenbrier thicket.

I heard the ATV getting closer, and voices, but they couldn’t see me yet, so I followed the deer trail, into the greenbrier. The deer apparently aren’t bothered by the thorns, and I found a well worn tunnel they’d made, about 3′ high, with dirt on the bottom.

I crawled thru the greenbrier on hands and knees, while it grabbed at my clothes, my arms and legs, slowing me down. At one point, I froze when I heard the ATV stop at the top of the hill, and people talking. I was completely hidden in the seemingly impenetrable greenbrier thicket.

They moved on, and I eventually emerged, scratched all to heck, but the deer trail had saved me. I met my husband at the car and we took off, and passed on Tennessee entirely!

There is always a Path for us to follow, although at times it’s hard to see. For those of you struggling, who can’t see a way forward, listen to your Heart, and try looking for your Path from another angle. The way may be found in an unexpected place… and you might have to crawl through some briars first. But you will find your way again!

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My Dad, Feb., ’06

Today my father, Joseph L. Collins, passed away, but just moments before he did, I had a great and rare blessing, and I would like to share it with you.

My father was 84, and had been in the hospital a week, before being moved to rehab. However, he took a sudden turn for the worse early yesterday morning, with pneumonia and organ failure.

I spoke to him yesterday, and told him goodbye, and that I loved him, over the phone. I could hear him trying to reply, thru his oxygen mask.

My brother, Clay, flew down yesterday to be with our father, in Tampa, and hold vigil.

I spoke to my brother about 10am this morning, and he said that my dad wasn’t really conscious, but the nurses said that my dad was aware of those around him, and to keep talking to him.

I asked my brother to hold the phone to my father’s ear, intending to tell him that it was okay to move on, and that I loved him. The arrival of doctors & nurses interrupted this, and my brother said he would call me back.

The minutes turned to hours, and I heard nothing.

But, I felt a strong call to the porch, to sit & rock & survey the Woods.

Almost immediately, I very strongly felt my father’s presence.  I didn’t know if he had passed away already or not, but I could feel him standing there in front of me, and that there was a Divine Presence there with him, as if it was behind him. He was just radiating great Love.

I could not exactly see my dad… it was as if he stood in front of a very brilliant Light, so I could only see my father’s silhouette. That Light, I knew with absolute certainty, was the Light of God, and it was so bright I could not look upon it. But it was much more than Light… it was tremendous Love, Joy, and Peace.

My father spoke to me, then. I could hear his words, in his own voice. He said he loved me, and then he gave me an incredible hug: he enveloped me in Love; he wrapped me in Love like a warm blanket on a freezing cold night. It was such an amazing feeling, and really, there aren’t words for it.

We often say, “God is Love,” and the few times I have been so touched in this way, it has brought tears, as it did today… but they were not tears of sadness at the realization that my father was passing away, but tears of overwhelming Joy & overflowing Love. My heart was so full of Love that the extra Love came out as silent, effortless, tears, and I found myself smiling, to see my father with the Divine. I believe, and my experience has been, that God, or the Divine Presence, is Love, is Joy, is Peace… it is all those, and much more, and those were with my father, because God was with my father, when he came to say goodbye to me.

I told my dad I loved him, and always had, no matter the distance that had been between us. He asked for my forgiveness, and I told him he’d had that long ago. He said he was sorry for the past, and I said I was, too. He asked what I’d done to my shoulder, and I told him, and he said I lived in a beautiful place. I told him he was welcome anytime.

Then he scolded me a little, noticing how very ill I am, and saying I hadn’t told him just how sick I am. I asked for his help then, explaining that my work here is not finished yet.

“God is with you now,” I said, and I asked him to touch me with healing & strength. I closed my eyes, and felt him touch me, touch my heart, and my heart & soul overflowed with radiant Love & Joy again. Tears streamed down my cheeks, and I felt myself smiling what I know must have been the most transcendent smile of my life, because when my dad touched me, I felt God touch me, too.

We both said that we’d always Love each other, and that Love never dies.

I could feel him being pulled away then. It was time for him to go Home, to go with God, and I could only feel peace and joy to feel him go.

I was still filled with the “afterglow” of this experience, when, within just a minute or two, my brother called. Our father was still alive, but just barely, and my brother was going to hold the phone up to his ear as he’d said he would.

I hesitantly explained that I no longer needed to talk to our dad, as I already had, and a bit of what I had experienced. I explained that I’ve had other experiences like this, since I was a child, starting with my grandma’s passing.

Within a few minutes, my father passed away. The nurses said they’d never seen anyone go so very peacefully.

My heart aches now for my brother & sister-in-law, my niece & nephew, and all those who will be mourning his passing.

But, because he stopped by here on his way, I got a rare glimpse of the Loving Arms of the Divine that are now holding my father tight. I know that he is now wrapped in that same Love and Joy that brushed me briefly, and he is experiencing it in a much, much deeper way than I did. I cannot be sad for him.
He has gone Home.

– This post is dedicated with great Love to my nephew, Clay, Jr., and my niece, Erin, who are mourning their Pa-Pa very deeply. He will always be watching out for you, and he will never, ever, stop Loving you. Neither will your Aunt Kelly.

My Dad & I, Feb. 2006

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“WILDLING”:  noun. a wild plant or animal, especially one transplanted into a cultivated spot.

*

I want to be wildling again;

born of Earth & Sky,

Rain & Wind, Tree & Rock.

I want to feel the Silence

in my Soul again.

I have remembered

who i am.

*

Creating Peace:

a return to Symmetry;

the right space & place for all.

Opening to openess.

Space to move,

space to breathe,

only the Sacred belongs.

*

Asking the Silence within

what is really needed.

Strip it down.

Essentials:

what holds the

Heartstrings and Soul

in space, in place.

Giveaway

all that doesn’t contribute.

*

I will be wildling again,

born of Earth & Sky,

Rain & Wind,Tree & Rock.

I feel the Silence

in my Soul again.

I am not afraid,

for I am

Wildling.

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Note: This post is about my spiritual path, part of the Wolfdreams category of my blog. It will likely not make much sense to many people. But it makes sense to me.

The message was short and cryptic: “Follow the Patterns to the Stillness within.”

I had been resting, which became meditating, which became journeying. It was the voice of my Guide, reminding me of things that happened long ago, and of an ability seldom used. I scrawled it down, lest I forget.

I had remembered…

I was quite young. I was setting the table for dinner, putting the silverware out by the plates. I picked each fork, knife, and spoon, out carefully: I had to get the right ones. It was not a question of there being different sets of silverware, and needing to get ones that matched. No, it was much deeper than that. I wanted to get the ones that belonged out that night, and to put them at the correct place on the table – picking out the one particular spoon that just felt right with the one particular fork and the one particular knife.

My mother thought I was confused about where the knives, forks & spoons went, but I wasn’t. There was just a feeling of rightness, of belonging, when I put certain ones together in certain places. My mother was impatient with my slowness, and took them from me, and set the table, while I tried to understand why she didn’t follow the flow of rightness I felt.

Much later in life, I still feel it, but not often, not as strongly. Usually, it’s when I’m being creative:

Stringing a necklace, beads arrayed around me. Sifting through a dish of near-identical beads to find the one particular bead whose energy just fits with the other beads I have strung, Trying out different combinations of beads to get them right. Not because of how they look together, but because of how they feel together.

I eventually started calling this Patterning. Arranging things so that they fit into an invisible Pattern, where the energy will flow more easily. Something which I could feel, sometimes, but not quite see.

We know now, through physics, that everything vibrates with a particular frequency. Even things that are virtually identical in appearance vibrate in their own particular way.

Is that what I feel and sense? I don’t know. All I know is that to feel it, the invisible pattern of rightness, I have to be at a very still & quiet place inside. Words cannot be flowing non-stop through my mind.

People spend their whole lives practicing meditation, or prayer, towards one goal: silencing the mind and stilling the soul in order to be open to the voice of the Sacred within.

Silencing the mind is the tough part. I remember the moment I started thinking in words, rather than experiencing life in the moment; allowing things to happen without spending time thinking through them from every angle; without the chatter of the noisy mind filling up my head. You know what I mean, I’m sure – the mind goes on and on, never ceasing with it’s chatter, about everything, every aspect of our lives. Words fill our heads constantly. We “talk to ourselves.”

What I felt as a child, in that moment when I realized the silence within was gone, replaced by words, was a deep sense of loss. I was very young, but I knew that something priceless had been irrevocably lost.

I’ve never known anyone else who remembered the moment they started thinking in words, although I haven’t asked too many people – the strange looks I got after the first couple of attempts were enough to persuade me that others didn’t experience life the way I do.

Maybe, it was an expression of the Asperger’s Syndrome I didn’t know I had until recently. Maybe, people with autism can see and feel things that other people can’t, but which are very real, nonetheless, and are interacting with those things. I know only my own experience. I know I was bewildered at the seemingly random way people did things, and I was acutely aware that other people didn’t feel the need to follow the patterns I saw. My mother says I used to stare at her a lot, as if I was trying to figure things out, and indeed, I was.

The message from my Guide, “Follow the Patterns to the Stillness within,” was like a message in a bottle washed up on the shore; a reminder of the past, and a pointer to the future. To let go of my thoughts more; to spend more time with a still mind; to follow the sense of rightness that comes with certain actions; in order to return to that place of peace, stillness, and quietness, so I can hear the voice of the Divine more easily.

In some ways, you could compare what I feel to the way a river flows. You can spend your life fighting the flow of the water, or you can give in, let go, and let the current take you where you are intended to be.

I think I’ve spent far too much time fighting the flow. Time to let go.

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There is a lovely little book called “A Little Dog Like You,” by Rosemary Sutcliff, that sits always on a shelf above my bed. As one customer-reviewer writes:

If you’ve ever loved a dog, this book is for you. This slim volume is written and illustrated so that even a very young child could appreciate hearing it read, but any adult who considers himself or herself a dog lover will be enchanted with it. The book follows a dog through its life and, sadly, to its end, but the story doesn’t stop there. There is so much love between the author and her dog that the author is certain she hasn’t seen the last of her pup — and she’s right. You may need some Kleenex tissue for the final pages of the story, even though the book ends on a decidedly high note.

I believe we are all – animal and human animal as well – the combination of not only our environment, and experiences, and genes, in this life, but that even more, that an eternal soul lives in all of us, animates us, and gives us life, and contributes heavily to who we are.

It’s pretty easy for me to believe, to know, without a shadow of a doubt, in reincarnation, because I have always, my entire life, had past life memories. My earliest memories are not of this life – they are of a very horrible death in a previous life. That shaped my childhood in many ways, as I tried to sort out who I was, what had happened, and why no one else seemed to remember anything. (Had I been born in Tibet or India this would have gotten figured out much quicker, as no one doubts a child when they talk of past lives there. But I wasn’t, was I?)

Through my life – this life – I’ve been blessed with some wonderful experiences, often coming out of the blue, of connecting and re-connecting with soul-family, spirit-family. I think we are often reunited with those we have spent previous lives with.

When it comes to animals, that means that, given their short lifetimes, and humans’ long ones, we sometimes have the chance to re-connect in this life with those we’ve loved and lost.

Which, having been said, leads me to Kasha & Kyla, and our new pup, Kodi, and Shunka.

Longtime readers will know of the connection I had with my beloved black German Shepherd, Shunka, who passed away two years ago. I always knew he would come back into my life, or rather, his soul in another form – it would be him, but not him, because while the soul would be the same, he would have had experiences in this life that would lead him to be his own unique individual self.

Kasha is a very good example of that. When we found Kasha, in the Richmond ASPCA, I wasn’t looking for a dog – my eldest daughter, Terra, was. But there she was. I felt what I described as “the soul tug” when I told the story of finding Kodi.

Kasha seemed to know me, desperately wanted to see me and be with me, just as Kodi did, and I felt, looking at her, that she was the reincarnation of one of my wolf-dogs, Kyla. In the first days of having her, she exhibited some of Kyla’s unique canine characteristics, like sleeping in a particular position with her head hanging off of the bed – one of Kyla’s preferred sleeping positions.

There was also the matter of her “telling” me her name was Kasha – we had adopted her, and since she had been picked up as a stray, were trying to figure out her original name – trying out a slew of female dog names on her to see if she would come. But she didn’t. Until I sat down with her and stopped thinking about it, and she looked at me, and I heard the name “Kasha” in my head. I tried it. She came. And has come reliably to that name ever since!

But Kasha is, and isn’t, Kyla. As the days passed, she stopped sleeping with her head hanging off the bed. Some of the other traits unique to Kyla also faded away, as I accepted that she was, and wasn’t, Kyla.

Enter Kodi. Who seems to be, and not be, Shunka.

I really didn’t think he’d come back to me that fast. I thought he’d find someone else who needed his help. I knew, in a way I cannot really explain, when he was born into another body – Shunka’s spirit still came when I called, but it was slower, more distracted, and I could “see” that he was linked into a body.

When I felt the soul-tug with Kodi, I tried hard to not compare him with Shunka. Not to look for Shunka in him. To just accept that he was Kodi.

But then yesterday happened, and what an interesting day it was.

First, Kodi became convinced there was something under a pile of plastic tubs and a stuffed duffel bag in a corner of my room. He was going to excavate it himself, so I helped avoid general destruction, and then when I’d moved enough things, he stuck his head into the mess and pulled out a plastic squeaky ball that had been Shunka’s, a present to him on his last Yule (and which had likely been in the same place ever since he passed). Kodi carried it around the house and played soccer with it and generally enjoyed it for hours… this dog who didn’t even know what a toy was when we brought him home just over a week ago.

Then a couple hours later, Rhiannon came into my room, literally speechless. Kodi had been playing with his ball, but when it landed by a large rough quartz stone in her room, he chose to pick up and chew on the rock instead. Shunka was renowned for his love of rocks, and we still find rocks he dug up outside and brought in scattered in dusty corners.

Rhiannon and I had a talk, then, on the “forbidden subject:” about things Kodi had done that were so uniquely Shunka-like. The way a dog who didn’t seem to have had much time with humans reliably knows the command to sit the particular way we do it – with a hand signal instead of saying it. Wrapping himself around my head on my pillow. Seeming to know where everything was in the house. Seeming to know Kasha, and Kasha seeming to know him (she who really couldn’t stand my grand-dogs when they came to visit). Even the way he treated me as a canine, wrestling me, and the time he bashed his head into my lip, causing my teeth to cut the inside of my lip. Shunka did that many times.

There was only one way to really tell. And I hesitated to do it. I didn’t want to be disappointed. I didn’t want to expect too much.

But as Rhiannon and I sat talking about the two boys, who look so different, Kodi started barking & pawing at the door, because he likes to lay in the doorway (any doorway). I called him. I shooshed him, Cesar Milan style. Told him “no,” a word he doesn’t seem to respect a lot. Told him “stop it,” words he does seem to respect. And still he stubbornly continued.

So I did it. I said it. “Shunka.” One time. Not loud.

His response was instantaneous. He stopped his pawing, whipped around, a slightly quizzical expression on his face. He came, looked into my soul with his big brown eyes, and sat, looking up at me.

Tears ran silently down Rhiannon’s face, and swam in my eyes.

He is.
And he isn’t.

I feel very blessed. Twice blessed.

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How do you pinpoint the moment you know you’ve finally found the right dog to add to your family? How do you pinpoint the exact moment you knew? The moment you fell inexorably in love?  Perhaps it was one of these – or all of these – moments:

We walked through the kennel at the animal shelter, leading Alpha, the very nice dog we’d come to see, towards the outside door & the outside dog yard. The cacophony of dog voices was overwhelming – 15 kennels on each side, each with either an adult dog or a litter of puppies, all screaming for our attention. Rhiannon was already out the door as I passed the kennel with the gold & red dog in it, and felt the tug at my soul, the one that said “Stop!” I motioned to her to come back, but she wasn’t coming back into that racket.

We returned Alpha at 4pm, the shelter’s  closing time, and I followed the tug to the gold-red dog, whose shelter name was Maverick. I knelt in front of his kennel door, and brown eyes looked into brown eyes. He licked my face energetically, then proceeded to throw himself at the door, trying to sit in my lap, jump into my arms, despite the chain link that separated us. He rubbed his body so hard against the wire mesh that shedding fur billowed out in a cloud.

Rhiannon looked on, and asked me, “Is he The One?” I struggled to answer. How could I know, so soon?

But I had almost tried, without thinking about it, in those few moments, to lean my forehead down to his giant chestnut head, to touch my forehead to his, in a greeting known throughout the world: Namaste, the Divine Being in me sees & recognizes the Divine Being in you. Shunka was the only dog I’d ever done that with, and Manitou the wolf-dog before him.

There were many dogs there, all dogs who deserve a good home, a family to love them. But this one dog, he caused me to feel a tug at my soul, at my heart, that I hadn’t felt for any of the others. Not for Loki; not for Keegan.

We had to leave him, after ten minutes of stolen time. The shelter was closed. It was also full – at or over capacity, I learned that night, through Facebook. Our quick decision on Maverick or Alpha could save a dog’s life. I put in a pre-application through their website that night.

We spent time discussing Alpha & Maverick. Well, the discussion of Alpha was short. He’s a nice dog, but not for us. Maverick was not at all what I had expected, or, where I had expected, to feel the soul-tug. A Rottweiler mix of some kind, with the shape of a Rottie, but a glorious chestnut & golden coat, with black guard hairs on his back. And no tail – it appears, like most Rotties, that he was born without one. Silky-soft floppy ears completed the Rottie look.

I wanted a dog that was medium sized, with prick ears, and it would never occur to me to even look at a dog without a tail. I’m all about canine body language, after years living with wolf-dogs. And a male dog – the bonds of a woman with a male dog, and a man with a female dog, are just different from the bonds of same-sex canine/human. There is no need for instinctual canine sex-related dominance issues, so they can be equal partners. (You must remember, my spirit-shape is a wolf, and I often think like one!)

Rhiannon wanted a large dog with floppy ears, a soft coat with lots of fur. She liked Alpha, but rationally knew his energy level was too high for us. She loved Maverick, too, who had spared a few moments of time to gaze into her eyes & give her doggie-kisses. Rhiannon had felt the tug, as well.

We were back the next day. We took Maverick out to the dog yard, and watched, played, and petted him for an hour. We were also liberally covered with doggie-kisses. But we also did things gauged at testing his temperament.

He was having his belly rubbed, when I picked up one foot, to see if he was used to having them handled. He yanked it away, and my hand was on his neck instantly, a low growl rising in my throat. I’d done this with many wolf-dogs, and wolf-dogs only speak wolf – canine signals are all they understand. This was an alpha-roll, establishing my place as dominant over him. I could only use one hand, because of my torn shoulder, but I only needed one. He struggled momentarily, my fingers, acting as surrogate teeth, digging into his neck, while the growl filled my throat. It took only a few moments before his instinct kicked in, and he went limp. Test passed with flying colors.

A few minutes later, I was sitting in the grass, when he approached & gently took my chin & bottom jaw in his massive mouth. My heart melted. Rhiannon watched with wide eyes. It is a wolf thing, the acknowledgement of the dominant, or alpha, member of the pack. Some dogs never do it. Shunka never did, though he was very willing to offer kisses. Kasha will barely even offer a quick lick.

The last time I felt canine teeth close gently on my bottom jaw in respect was when Manitou did it. Manitou was one of my wolf-dogs, my soul-mate, and long gone from Earth. But it was Manitou I had dreamed of all night long.

If there was any doubt left in my mind, that this big, golden chestnut Rottie-mix was meant to be with us, it was soon dispelled, as I put it to the ultimate test.

The shelter has horses, and the dog yard sits in a corner of the horse pasture. Rhiannon walked over to see them, and was pleased when Maverick trotted along beside her to go see them closer. I sat on the lone chair, and did what I was most afraid to do: I opened my heart, or heart-chakra, fully.

There used to be a time when I could – and would – open my heart, open my soul, and reach out and touch an animal’s soul. I loved doing it when riding my beloved horse, Cherokee, dropping the reins, riding bareback, horse & rider becoming one being, if only for a few minutes. I loved doing it with aggressive guard dogs, quieting their growls & barks with a touch of my soul, and walking up to them, usually staked out on a short chain, to be greeted with kisses, while their owners stood by, slack-jawed with bewilderment. They often were abused, and rarely loved, and I lavished them with love as long as I could. It is my Gift.

But somewhere along the way, between the abusive marriage & divorce, the chronic illness, I stopped trusting myself, and my Gift. I closed up my heart except for a chosen few.

Now I sat under a tree, and opened my heart & soul wide, and took in the world around me. I felt Rhiannon’s bright spirit, with Maverick beside her, though they were behind me a good ways, and my eyes closed. I felt the manic energy of the dogs & cats in the shelter. The horses. And then I called out, with my soul. I felt Maverick turn his attention from the horses & Rhiannon, felt him head my way. I followed his path with the eyes of my soul. And then he was there, his head under my hand as Rhiannon would tell me his head had been under her hand.

Rhiannon came back & I shared the experience with her. Her eyes swam with tears. Yes, was the answer, he is The One. A warm, peaceful, serenity filled us both.

I know it will not be effortless. He will need to learn manners. But he passed his cat-aggression test, so at least we can feel that Dusty will likely be very safe. He hasn’t met Kasha yet, but in about 4 hours we will bring him home.

We found The One. After so many months of searching. Now to figure out his name…

Maverick or CODY!

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