As anyone who knows me, follows me on Twitter or is connected on Facebook knows, a couple of years ago The Magnificent Beast, a gorgeous tank-sized black dog came charging into my life. I hadn’t consciously intended to have another dog in the house; yet as my beloved Australian Shephard, Kash got older and declined in health it should have been a natural inclination to think such thoughts. When the kids begged me to consider it I actually replied every time, “No way!”
Of course the Divine has other thoughts at times and often knows what we need better than we do. Last year a friend posted a photo of his beautiful black lab mix on Facebook after an unexpected move and asked if anyone could help the woman who was fostering him with a break every now and then. I spontaneously thought, “sure, I can do that.” Something about the photo called to me and inspired me to help this friend since after losing his buddy Ace a few years ago, I knew Kash would enjoy some canine companionship for a short time. As a bonus it might even stop the kids from pestering me about a new dog. This dog had a forever home, he was just separated from it temporarily.
Well…”a short time” became a permanent love affair almost immediately when my friend saw the photos we began posting online of Hank’s adventures and recognized that this dog had found his rightful home. *Hip Hop Peachick in particular loved taking him to the lake an on neighborhood runs since Kash could no longer venture much away from the house. Nearly blind and hard of hearing, Kash really belonged safe at home. (*Formerly known by the blog names The Peachicklet and Nuclear Son, my youngest, now 17, has a new pseudonym thanks to his budding career as a recording artist and the fact that he now towers over me and can no longer be considered the “chicklet” of my flock.)
A few weeks into our relationship it became patently obvious that “lab mix” was secret code for “mostly Rottweiler” in describing this dog. He didn’t act like my childhood Labrador Retriever at all and soon began demanding a lot of energy if I wanted to have any peace in my own home. Honestly…it was a struggle for a while, one that I contemplated more than once giving up on. Very quickly Hank’s suitability as an amazing support for my life in many ways became obvious, right down to him helping me down the stairs every morning.
Caring for this dog and the rest of my household also suddenly required me to stand fully in my assertiveness and power. No longer could I phone in certain days. not even full-on Pain Days. No, Hank the Tank required that I demonstrate that I was in charge at ALL times by showing up fully or else he would. He quickly illustrated to me all the ways I had not shown up in dealing with certain Alpha Dog members of my family, too.
If you’ve never experienced a Rottweiler who thinks he’s in charge of your household I encourage you to imagine a loud-mouthed drill sergeant with four legs and a tail. Oh, and in addition to the insistent barking, there’s also a Chewbacca imitation that he pulls when he has things on his mind that I’m just not paying attention to.
A few weeks after Hank came to live with us I became very unexpectedly embroiled in legal proceedings to protect my good name and my rights. The exercises I was going through ensuring Hank knew that I was the pack leader in the household were spiritually appropriate to exactly what I was having to do to protect my legal rights with a former spouse who was the epitome of the alpha male. Since I have always looked spiritually to my relationships with my kids and animals as I determine right action and learn what I need to learn to be successful in life and in healing, this development was a very powerful connection for me with Hank.
The ways Hank challenged me were a surprise because I thought I knew “Lab” energy and what I was getting into by agreeing to foster him. As soon as Hank came to live with us I felt a connection that harkened to my childhood dog, Chad, a beautiful and very lovable black lab. I immediately wondered if Chad had returned to me across time. Looking at the energy of these two pictures taken spontaneously and decades apart by onlookers kind of brings it all home. My new black dog arrived at a time when I am embracing more fully my decades long calling in shamanic healing, so it feels rather uncanny now to think back on Chad and how he’s tied to my relationship with Hank.
According to the man whom we acquired him from in the late 1960’s, Chad was short for “Chadron” or Charon, the guardian of the underworld. In Greek mythology, Charon is the ferryman who carries souls of the newly deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron, the division between the world of the living from the world of the dead. Many mythological heroes such as Heracles, Odysseus and Psyche, among others – journey to the underworld and return alive, carried on their journey by the boat of Charon. Of course at the time this meant nothing to my 6-year old self. Yet now, as someone whose life has been rather defined by a near death experience, and whose natural path of becoming my own hero in getting and staying healthy, this timely realization thanks to Hank brought me power.
You see, as a young girl, one of my first brushes with a feeling of powerlessness was the slow and deliberate loss of Chad to our elderly neighbor who lived across the street. We began arriving home to play with him after school only to find him gone. As country dwellers, Chad had the run of our 10-acre property. So when this (well-meaning, I’m sure) neighbor noticed us leaving on the school bus each day not long after we got him, she began a systematic campaign to, well, steal him, basically. She told us he was “lonely.” Soon she began inviting him into her home and feeding him ground hamburger and Snickers bars as she did her own overweight lap dog who never saw the light of day and who was considered her “child.” After many, many trips to retrieve him it became obvious that we were powerless to change her “adoption” of my precious first dog. I can remember many fits of emotion towards my parents that we weren’t fixing this problem. This was one more instance in my lifetime of conditioning about adapting, not causing a scene, and “being nice” as a young girl. Sadly, when Chad became so old and obese from the diet of Snickers bars and hamburger we only found out after the fact when this neighbor had him put to sleep. It was the ultimate blow to my sense of personal power. We weren’t even consulted about our own dog’s life and death.
So fast forward a few decades and here comes Hank. One night as my court appearance loomed heavy on my mind I posted a plea for prayers and strength from my Facebook friends for what I knew would be a hugely stressful appearance out of town. Hank’s former owner chimed in and suggested that I take The Magnificent Beast to court with me as my defender and protector. Moments later, Hank came in to my bedroom and started loving on me and rolling around on the carpet trying to hug me, once again reminding me that when we’re open to love, it soon shows up in our lives. Sometimes in the most unexpected ways. The combination of this freely expressed love with Hank’s overt Protector of the Realm energy just makes his place in my life and in my heart that much fiercer. And at that moment, I gotta say, this was a comfort to my bones.
Standing in my own power and protecting my personal boundaries in the legal situation soon led to my attracting a new, real life legal protector. And the court appearance was miraculously canceled. I was literally driving out of my neighborhood headed to the freeway to make the 5-hour trek when I got the call.
This was just the first in a long line of blessings that this precious being has brought into my life. His habit of greeting me at the bedroom door every morning and escorting me down the stairs, leaning into me to provide support for my declining coordination, one step at a time in sync with me left me in awe when I realized he innately wanted to help me. And the look of pure love on his face each time he greets me leaves me breathless at times.
Animals truly are angels with four legs, aren’t they?