©2003 Linda Marks
met my first soul-mate when I was less than one year old. I fell in
love as soon as I saw him. He was steady, loving, and always glad to
see me. His name was Mittens and he was a black cocker spaniel who
lived next door. My mother has pictures of me sharing special times
with Mittens: sitting on the steps at his house with my jacket and
winter hat on, playing on the lawn with Mittens on a beautiful summer
day, and exchanging loving glances when he and I were about the same
size. Great love is sometimes cut short by the rhythms of life. Mittens
died when I was two-and-a-half. My heart was broken, but I never forgot
the depth of our connection or the warmth of his love.
term "soul-mate" is most often used to describe a romantic partner, and
certainly a human being. Yet, some of our deepest and longest lasting
bonds are not with people, but with the cats, dogs, horses, rabbits and
other animals we share our lives with--our four legged companions. As
our world moves faster, as our lives get busier and more scheduled, and
as we have less time to be with family and friends, our four-legged
friends are often the most constant source of love and companionship in
many people's lives. Our four-legged soul-mates provide emotional and
spiritual connection and can serve as our teachers and healers if we
are open to them.
his book The Souls of Animals, Gary Kowalski writes, "To me, animals
have all the traits indicative of soul. For soul is not something we
can see or measure. We can only observe its outward manifestations: in
tears and laughter, in courage and heroism, in generosity and
foregiveness. Soul is what's behind the scenes in the tough and tender
moments when we are most grippingly alive....Soul is the point at which
our lives intersect the timeless, in our love of goodness, our zest for
beauty, our passion for truth. Soul is what makes each of our lives a
microcosm--not just a meaningless fragment of the universe, but at some
level a reflection of the whole." It is no surprise movies like
"Seabiscuit" and television shows like "Miracle Pets" capture the
hearts and minds of so many people. Our relationships with our
four-legged and other animal companions help us feel connected to our
AND TONY: A LOVE STORY
July 18th, Tony Cifizzari heard his beagles barking loudly in his
backyard. He went outside to investigate the noise, and discovered that
a baby wild morning dove had fallen out of its nest and under a pallet
where the dogs had gathered. A retired animal control officer, and a
lifelong lover of dogs and wolves, Tony had worked with hundreds of
animals, but never a bird. He named this baby morning dove Kelly.
took her in the house, got her a bird cage, and fed her meal worms. I
soaked some bread in water and rolled the soaked wet bread in bird
seed. She opened her mouth and I would feed her. I would syringe water
onto her beak, so she would get water. She was very receptive,"
animal can sense when you have a love for wild creatures, whether they
are birds, butterflies or other animals. I deeply appreciate animals,
realizing they are one of the gifts God has given us. You need to
recognize that there is an emotional and spiritual life for animals. An
animal can really tune in to the fact that you recognize that."
knew that Tony was kind and friendly and started trusting him. She
learned to fly onto his shoulder and perch there. One day Tony opened
his mouth, and Kelly took a risk, and put her beak in his mouth. This
was a "first kiss," for the two of them-- a gesture of mutual love and
appreciation. I visited Tony and Kelly, and watched them "kiss" this
way again and again. Over time their relationship continues to deepen.
"As Kelly grows up, she continues to bond with me," acknowledges
Cifizzari. "Every room in this house I go into, she follows me. She
wants to be with me. I've captured her heart and she has captured mine.
So, the two of us have become companions."
never imagined I would be attached and affectionate with a bird,"
shares Cifizzari. "It's strange, but a great glow. You never know what
the next day can bring to you." Tony has also managed to integrate
Kelly into his relationship with Onyx, a 9-year old German Shepard. "At
first, Onyx was the princess of the house and was reluctant to have an
intruder. It is a natural instinct for a dog to want to capture a bird.
I told her, "no," and being the obedient dog she is, Onyx understood
she was not to hurt Kelly. Onyx and Kelly have come nose to nose. Kelly
stands her ground. Onyx is such an obedient dog she would never hurt
Kelly. The three of us now get along well and safely. Kelly has landed
on Onyx's back. Onyx, Kelly and I lie on the bed together. I leave them
in the house alone if I have to go out for a short time. They get along
SAFETY WITH OUR FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS
my nearly twenty years of practice as a therapist, I have had countless
clients tell me how they have turned to their four-legged friends for
comfort, solace, safety and protection in the hardest of times. One
man, who was brutally beaten by his father as a boy, found his lifeline
in his pet dog. When the beating was over, the dog would always appear,
ready to crawl into the boy's arms. This dog provided the only love,
warmth and safety, this man, then boy knew. The dog would snuggle up
close and allow the boy the space to cry and express his pain. He would
take his dog into his bed and curl up tight, with the dog's head next
to his heart
woman whose parents were very strict, judgmental and angry, would turn
to the natural world for acceptance, comfort and love. She would spend
hours outside with the birds and the trees, and befriend all the stray
cats that came across her path. She understood the fear and caution the
stray cats exhibited upon first meeting her. She too felt fear and
caution when she would meet a new person. Somehow the cats recognized
her sensitivity and empathy, and felt safe enough to let her pet them
and sit by their side.
children sleep with stuffed animals at some point in their early lives,
a symbol of the safety our fellow creatures provide. Children's stories
are rich with imagery of animals befriending children, providing
protection,guidance and loving companionship.
US ON OUR HEALING PATHS
than 10 years ago as I was leading a workshop at Unicorn Books in
Arlington, Persephone, the resident cat, provided feline ministry. I
was facilitating a woman who was experiencing body memories related to
childhood sexual abuse. She felt a tightness in her throat and the
strongest urge to throw up. She gagged and she gagged, but she could
not throw up. She disconnected from her emotional experience as she
felt the intensity of her inner urge.
this woman was despairing that she just could not reach her deepest
feelings, Persephone walked through the door. She proceeded to the
corner of the room where the woman was standing, and proceeded to gag
repeatedly and throw up. The group stood in awe, recognizing that
Persephone had just expressed what the woman could not. She had taken
on the healing work this woman was struggling with and worked on this
The Seat of the Soul, Gary Zukav writes, "Behind every aspect of the
health or illness of the body is the energy of the soul. It is the
health of the soul that is the true purpose of the human experience."
Our four-legged friends attune to the energy of the soul, and sometimes
manifest physical illnesses that reflect the healing we need to
undertake. I have a friend who suffered from a congenital hip problem
which caused chronic pain. His dog developed a similar hip problem, as
though his empathy ran as deep as his own body and soul. In a culture
so full of fear and unsafety, I find it no suprise that so many cats
and dogs die of renal failure. In Chinese medicine, the kidneys are the
organ where we process fear.
was struck by the remarkable parallel between the birthing experience
of my recently deceased 17-year-old soul-cat, Querida and my own
birthing experience. When Querida's own mother was in labor, she
crawled into my bed between my legs, and gave birth to Querida there,
as though she was my baby. When Querida went into labor she had a long,
difficult 48-hour labor, giving birth to only one kitten. When I went
into labor with my son Alexander, now 7, I too had a long difficult
48-hour labor. And as fate had it, I too have just one child. Querida
was particularly attentive to me when I was pregnant, sleeping on my
heart at night, and always staying close by.
POWER OF THE EQUINE HEART
Dore, a college professor and therapist who lives in Tucson, AZ, does
equine therapy with his horse Buddy. "The primary thing about horses,"
notes John, "Is that they are always in the present moment. They are
not dominated by mental categories like we are. Thoughts don't
interfere with their presence in the moment. So, that means they are in
their feeling body all the time."
can be incredible teachers about fear and overcoming fear. Fear is
their primary emotion, so they know a lot about fear. "They are prey
animals," continues Dore, "So they have a lot of fear about anything
unusual happening in their environment unless they are trained and can
trust a human to train them. Humans organize around being predators.
Americans organizing around going to war in Iraq is one example. Horses
can help humans be present in the moment, in their body. You have to be
in your body around horses because of how big they are. You have to be
ready to move, to be alert in a different way."
you allow it, horses will provide a space for you to be with your
feelings. I believe horses are flooded with feelings a lot of the time.
Feeling states are physiological. They arise in the body. They flood
the body. I don't think horses have emotions. WIth humans, once there
is a feeling, the mind comes in and starts to appropriate--to label,
express and categorize what is felt. Horses tend to be in a feelingful
state all the time. Whe a human is in the context of a horse, their
opportunity and ability to go to their feeling state is heightened."
can be good emotional mirrors for humans. If a person is authentic and
comfortable in their being, the horse will be that way. In addition to
being such good mirrors for working with fear, horses can also mirror
back to humans other emotional states. If an angry person goes to a
horse, the horse will get angry. If a sad person comes to a horse, the
horse will be sad. Horses provide enormous sympathy. There are endless
stories of grief in humans and going to a horse for comfort. Dore
commented that even a wild stallion will stand with a human and the
human can takes it's neck and cry on it.
COMMUNION: A SENSE OF ONENESS
is an embodiment of the four-legged soul-mate. John Dore comments, "It
is extremely well known in the equine therapy world about the very
solid phenomenon of the four-legged attuning to the human's feeling
state. Attuning means the horse will share in the same feeling state
you are in. It's not empathy or sympathy, the way humans do it. It is
more direct, more immediate, not encumbered by thoughtfulness."
"Seabiscuit," the history of the traumas between boy and horse matched.
The loneliness matched. The caring matched. Red and Seabiscuit
experienced the soul-mate phenomenon, "you're the one I care about"
from boy to horse and horse to boy. At the end of the movie, Red
comments, "We healed each other." Their deep connection led to a sense
of synchrony when Red rode Seabiscuit.
know well about communion, agrees John Dore. "When you ride them, they
will go to the oneness that we are. You become one unit. There is flow.
There are no glitches. This is the best of relationship, true
communion. It's about the essence of us, the level where there is no
difference, no separation. The ego is not involved in that state." I
bet old time cowboys well knew the spiritual experience of becoming one
with the horse.
SPIRITUALITY OF RESPECT
and other animals can ultimately be our spiritual teachers. They can
augment us, guide us and facilitate us. However, to be open to animals
requires the civilized mind to be out of the way. Four-leggeds know
heart much better than humans if not interfered with. The same is true
for children. The key issue is interference. John Dore comments,
"Civilization has been one big moment against the natural flow of the
life force coming through."
can't make it in the way the world is constructed. They can't make it
without free range. In the Southwest, there isn't enough grass for them
to live on. They have become dependent on human beings." The same is
true for cats and dogs. Feral cats and dogs have very difficult lives.
The average feral cat lives three years on the streets. Compare this to
the 13 - 20 year life cycle of pet cats in your household. Feral dogs
fare less well than feral cats. They are truly in need of human
companionship and care.
learned from a teacher that love is not an issue with horses," comments
Dore. "What horses live with is respect. It's a code. They will respect
you to varying degrees. The way you respect yourself, the deeper that
is, the deeper respect you can give to the other being." In addition to
being gregarious and fearful, horses, like many other species are also
herd animals. They need to be together. They also need a leader.
can take over and dominate if they need to," says Dore. "In a herd
there is a dominant stallion and usually a dominant mare. It comes down
to respect. This mare knows the best places to go, so we follow her. If
this stallion is the toughest guy in the crowd, we submit to him." Many
four-leggeds organize their societies to look out for the needs of the
whole. We humans have a lot to learn from our four-legged soul-mates if
only we pay attention with open hearts and minds.
Linda Marks, MSM, has practiced body psychotherapy with individuals,
couples and groups for more than twenty years. She is the founder
the Boston Area Sexuality and Spirituality Network and is the
of Healing the War Between the Genders:
The Power of the Soul-Centered Relationship
(HeartPower Press, 2004) and Living With Vision:
Reclaiming the Power of the Heart
(Knowledge Systems, Inc, 1989). She can be reached at
LSMHEART@aol.com, www.healingheartpower.com or (617)965-7846.