Old dogs, war dogs, puppies or strays,
Poetry has power to brighten our days
Dog stories and poems are best read aloud,
To an audience of one or a theater crowd.
SIGNS and SYMBOLS
The Owl and The Bear, a true story
Your dog protects you, guides you. You get that but this true event of an ominous owl and an enraged bear demonstrates a whole other level of spirit guides you may have "sensed" at some point in your life.
You may just get a creepy feeling or if tuned in, you realize there’s something significant about that animal’s behavior. It depends on how much of a naturalist you are. When an animal speaks to you in unexpected ways, don’t dismiss it.
If you see a hawk and he draws your eye and then, knowing you are watching, lifts off and flies due west, what did the hawk say to you? Maybe nothing. Or perhaps the communication was as clear as when you are deeply engrossed in something, you glance up, and there’s your dog sitting by the door, patiently waiting for you get the message.
Primitive peoples have always paid attention to signs and symbols, noting animal behavior as either normal or meaningful. Beliefs dissolved into folk tales as we became more “civilized” and lost touch with the natural world.
We take for granted holding a phone and talking to someone a thousand miles away but are blown away to learn that whales and elephants communicate over 300 miles - with no electronic gadgets! We are tantalized by the smell of steak on the grill but can’t imagine how a dog can smell cancer and point out the affected area of the body.
Woodpeckers are symbols of imminent wealth or good luck. If a family member is sick, a visiting woodpecker is a sign that person will get well.
On the other hand, an Owl is a bad sign. We think of the Owl as wise but have you ever wondered how that concept filtered into our beliefs? The Owl is actually a messenger of evil, sickness, even death. When seen in daylight, he is particularly powerful and the closer the Owl is to one’s house, the closer the relative who will be affected.
This may sound strange to someone boarding a trans-Atlantic jet with a laptop in one hand and a cell phone in the other but I have personally had an experience with an Owl which was beyond logic. From the first day I was hospitalized for "the flu" my eye was drawn to the picture window in my sixth floor room. Centered in that perfect frame was an ominously threatening mechanical owl mounted on the parking garage roof across the street.
I knew nothing about the owl symbol or what it represented. The three foot tall plastic threat to the parking garage pigeons went back and forth on a mechanized track, the end of which faced my room. There he would flip forward and back several times towards my window, as though threatening me. Finally, the chain would reverse direction causing the owl to turn around and repeat the endless sequence. Was is the pain meds that made me delusional as the nurses suggested? On the third day my demands were finally met and I was moved to another room.
Too late, my condition had rapidly deteriorated, necessitating two emergency lung surgeries. At one point, the hospital was going to remove me from life support. I had signed no "Living Will" and my sister-in-law, daughter, and best friend joined forces to stop them from pulling the plug.
I spent six weeks in hospital and another six weeks on chest tubes at home. My surgeon said I defied the odds. I didn't tell him about the bear but I'll share it with you... While unconscious, I dreamed a dream so powerful that the vision was the first thing I remembered when I regained consciousness. Even today, it is real and it comforts me. I was lost, frightened; you’ve probably had a similar nightmare. Desperate, I felt that I would surely die. As I wandered in a dark, dangerous forest, I became overwhelmingly tired. When I could go no further, there was suddenly a beautiful meadow with flowers and I heard the most glorious, crystalline voice singing, of all things, Ave Maria. I’m not Catholic. Go figure.
In my dream, there suddenly rose up a mighty bear, towering above me, just like in the movies. The ground trembled from his angry roar as powerful paws threatened an unseen enemy. As corny as it sounds, I lay there watching the terrible sight and did not cringe. In fact, I was strengthened because I knew he was protecting me. I felt small and helpless but safe in his presence.
The bear’s challenging roar seemed to go on forever and ever and I can still remember the feeling vibration in my whole body. Then he dropped to all fours, seemed to be listening … and disappeared. Poof! Gone.
I don’t know at what point in my fight for life this occurred. Only that I survived. When I regained consciousness and became coherent, I spoke of this “dream” to my daughter and her companion. My daughter was awkward as she held my hand and assured me it was okay. Her friend, a Sioux family adoptee, said nothing. His expression said it all.
Perhaps the bear was simply a drugged delusion as I teetered on the brink of death but why? Why the most powerful relative of the dogs I've treasured all my life? I share this, risking ridicule, hoping it will open your minds.
Some animals, some of the time, are messengers and the most common housecat or an exotic zoo tiger may some day "speak" to you. Open your mind and listen with your heart. Animals are part of the mysterious signs and symbols heeded by man since we first stood upright.
Perhaps that's why my paternal ancestors, the First Americans, called them spirit guides.
Reprinted from September 2009 ShowSight Magazine