In 2005, I lost my best friend. He was sensitive and high strung and anxious in the rain. When he passed, my poetry publisher drove from Mississauga to bring me a figurine resembling my risen Bear, a Yorkshire Terrier with a halo and wings…
Similarly, Los Angeles based Lori Spagna rescued a dog, she called Kenya, sixteen years ago. The dog became a lifelong teacher and healer, she says. Spagna says Kenya is still teaching her though she no longer has a physical body. “Kenya ignited the compassion in me,” she says. “She developed the gene, the most important gene you can have…A lot of people who don’t have animal companions don’t understand the kind of love you can have for an animal. Kenya was my child, the most beloved love I’ve ever known.”
Spagna’s relationship with animals also deepened when she radically transformed her life after a series of near-death experiences while living in Maui. She asked, ‘how can I be of service to animals on a global scale?’ As a result, she has worked as an animal communicator, canine behavioural expert, professional intuitive, Reiki master, and energy healer for the past 20 years. She focuses on a spiritual, holistic approach to communication and healing for every living being–in person and via telephone, Internet and Skype. She will be featured in a soon-to-be-released HBO documentary called Animals in the Afterlife and will be publishing a book entitled 2 Years in Maui.
Spagna also leads manifestation and healing circles where she teaches about the Universal Laws which she says govern us all. “I help people and their pets tap into their true power via the Universal Source which connects us all to live their best. When you’re tapping into this field of infinite consciousness we’re in a field of energy. When you start accessing it is so blissful. So incredibly beautiful you don’t ever want to leave. Animals teach us the most magnificent lessons. How to tap into this Source, how to read energy,” she says.
These beliefs are based in part on her study of quantum physics. “Energy is matter in perpetual motion. There is nowhere energy is not. Particles connect everyone and everything,” she says. “Particles are energy moving at different speeds. Even when the physical body dies the energy survives, it just transforms. Energy perpetuates. The soul continues to exist with or without the body.”
In her “Animals in the Afterlife” series on YouTube she teaches and gives readings to pet owners who are searching for their animals who have passed. “This dog has crossed,” she tells a woman named Marg. “You are punishing yourself. He has deep love for you. At the time of the departure there was organized chaos, mad-scientist energy. Forgive yourself, release this dog. He’s still around you. It‘s not healthy.” She tells a distraught woman named Tamara: “You have to release that sadness. It’s okay. The animal is still around you. He is still teaching you.”
Spagna’s readings reflect her belief that the Creator is calling us to a new consciousness at this time. “Animals are helping us to wake up. I get a lot of messages from them,” she says. “Animals make an agreement to come here and learn and teach. When they have fulfilled their contractual agreement they are out of here.”
Spagna believes that dogs and other animals offer authoritative advice because they are often old souls who have incarnated. Kim Sheridan, another respected authority on these issues and the author of the award-winning book Animals and the Afterlife, agrees. Animals are spiritual beings, she says. Her research and beliefs are based on several consultations with animal communicators. In her book, she recounts many stories from people who have had visits from their deceased pets during near-death experiences, dreams or in conscious states. Acclaimed psychic and best-selling author, Sylvia Browne, also cites such accounts in her book All Pets Go to Heaven.
But for those who wish to turn to more traditional sources on these matters: the Bible, for instance, offers many references to animal presence in heaven. Some Christians have reflected on the writings of St. Francis of Assisi who believed that God loves all living things and that God, people and nature are interrelated. It is only logical, he said, that dogs enjoy a place in heaven.
Other religions vary on these views, but many share St. Francis’ belief that we will reunite with our pets in heaven because it is a place of ultimate happiness and our animals often make us happy.
But Cambridge-based pet owner, Liz Bennett, says, “in 1998, when I made the decision to put my dog, Teddy, down, I had my other dog in the same room. I believe the soul carries on to the next adoption.” Similarly, Kitchener-based Tony Zanette says he placed his dying dog in the same room as his new puppy “so the soul would transfer.”
The celebrated British writer and veterinarian, Dr. James Herriot, disagreed. The author of All Creatures Great and Small believed, without a doubt, dogs have a soul that will join us in the spirit world.
Cambridge-based, Lee Anne Johnston, also a writer and a mother who holds an M.A. in English, agrees with Herriot, but focuses on her memories of past dog companions. “Most of the time, I just carry them with me and they are light and loving baggage,” she wrote to me.
Like Johnston, many people have shared their personal experiences of losing dogs for others to read. CanineCancer.com offers a website called “Afterlife” where people can post stories of supernatural events they say have occurred after their dogs have passed.
Brenda Ropp, a medium at the First Spiritualist Church of Galt on Grand Ave., is also generous with her stories of animals on the other side. “In my mediumship readings I have been able to bring through animals that have passed in spirit,” she says. “I believe that animals have a different consciousness and perceive things differently than we do as humans, but like humans they have a great love for those that they have left behind and want to touch out to them to let them know they are still around and care.”
She recounts a story of a reading she gave to a fellow she calls Gary whose dog came through to tell him he did the right thing in putting him down. The dog had undiagnosed cancer and was relieved to be saved from continued suffering. As proof of his identity, he asked Gary to think about the dog’s right eye. Gary choked up and confirmed that he thought the dog had gone blind in that eye.
Ropp, like Spagna and Herriot, believes in eternal progress to every soul and says dogs, too, have souls and progress to the hereafter. “They have advised me they are waiting for their loved ones to pass and that they will be there to greet them,” she says. Furthermore, she adds, “this has also been proven in my readings where I have brought someone through and they advised being met by loved ones and their pets!!”
Kitchener-born William Lyon Mackenzie King (1874-1950), Canada’s longest-serving Prime Minister, was also a spiritualist who engaged in séances. With the aid of a medium, he tried to communicate with his mother’s spirit, his grandfather (William Lyon Mackenzie, leader of the 1837 Rebellion) and his predecessor, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, as well as many others. He believed that he could confirm political decisions with their support. Like Spagna, he also had a deep relationship with dogs. He owned three Irish Terriers, all named Pat. In 1931, King recorded about one of them: “…dear little soul, he is almost human. I sometimes think he is a comforter dear mother has sent to me, he is filled with her spirit of patience, and tenderness and love.”
In his new book, Soul of a Dog: Reflections on the Spirits of the Animals of Bedlam Farm, bestselling New York Times author John Katz is also sensitive to canine kinship. Like some of our greatest thinkers–Aristotle, Plato and Thomas Aquinas–he is consumed with the question ‘Do animals have souls?’ With wit and wisdom he tackles some other tough questions: Do these creatures have consciences, possess free will and reason, shape their own lives? He also relates stories of the many animals he lives with on his 90-acre farm in upstate New York.
Closer to home, Becky Alexander, an award-winning poet and president of the Cambridge Writers Collective, says “dogs must have souls, as their living spirits are so strong.” She has heard a saying that “heaven is where every dog you ever loved is there to greet you.” She still mourns the loss of her dog, Tippy a Border Collie-Sheltie cross, who passed away eight years ago. “I grieved even more than when my beloved father died,” she says. “She appears to me in dreams, though.” Still, Alexander plans to embrace the future with a similar canine companion. “Both of my parents passed away at age 82, so that may be my destiny. I’d like to acquire a Border Collie when I’m 71, as these amazing dogs live only 10 or 11 years. My plan is for both of us to go out together.”
Tags: Becky Alexander, Border Collie, Brenda Ropp, cancer, Galt, home, Irish Terriers, James Herriot, John Katz, Kenya, Kim Sheridan, Kitchener-based Tony Zanette, Kitchener-born William Lyon Mackenzie King, living, Liz Bennett, Lori Spagna, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Sylvia Browne, Universal Source, YouTube