My friend met me at the door, holding her grand baby with one hand and a leash in the other, at the end of which was a huge dog. “Come on in. Vox won’t bite,” she said, but the memory of a ferocious stray dog growling in my face made me pause. I reminded myself that, just like people, animals appear in our lives when we need them most.
I slid past the furry, gray head sniffing my belly. As I scooted onto the ledge in front of the fireplace, Vox, licked my hand and I shuddered. He nuzzled his round head against my leg, the reflection from the fire dancing in his chocolate-colored eyes. I scooted a bit further from my new pal.
Then I remembered the dream I’d had a few nights before. I was sitting on a couch with a humongous dog on either side of me. Everyone around was afraid of my canine company except for me. They were my protectors, my totem animals.
The huge, round face staring up at me was the same face as the one in so many of my dreams. I ecstatically asked my friend what kind of dog it was, and she tells me it’s an Italian Mastiff and known for its protective nature and, as with most dogs, loyalty.
The big dog’s presence suddenly comforted rather than unnerved me. The large four-legged creature made me feel safe. I scooched back and stroked Vox’s head as I welcomed the message that washed over me like a wave of warmth from the fire—I am protected and secure. I have guidance and can stop worrying that I will trust others too much and myself not enough.
Other animals have crossed my figurative path—everything from spiders and butterflies and birds to squirrels and deer and fox. Each has delivered a vital message at critical intersections and provided the clarity I needed at the time, regardless of whether I was struggling to make a decision, or just needed confirmation that I was making the right one.
Often the emergence of an animal inspires me to adopt its habits so I can adapt more easily to what’s going on in my life. Such was the case when I first learned about totem animals. A co-worker told me to react like a skunk to the person who was stirring trouble for me. She said to choose my battles wisely, not use all my energy on fighting, because my reserves will run low if I snap at every obstacle along the way. Rather, I should be like a skunk who stalks the forest unbothered by much fiercer animals and spraying sparingly because it knows it takes weeks to build up the reserve of its stinky weapon. It doesn’t even draw blood to protect itself, just walks confident in the knowledge that it will make the correct decision and act should it need to.
My wise woman friend told me I’d soon encounter one, and sure enough, on the way home that day I drove over a dead skunk lying in the middle of the road next to my exit.
Many animals and insects have crawled across my path since that skunk—none any more important than the other—and just like humans, tend to come in and out of my life. There are also the select, loyal members of my inner circle who remain close and nudge me out of the proverbial ditch when I get derailed. I hope to never run out of treats to toss to all the helpful critters, nor out of hugs for my human helpers along the way.
Guidance isn’t stagnant. It flows around us like currents of the very air we breathe—and is just as necessary to our survival. Insight shines through the most amazing places when we’re receptive.
So, put on your big elephant ears, and listen to the guidance all around you. It just may be barking!
Michele Zirkle is a native of Meigs County, author of “Rain No Evil” and host of Life Speaks on AIR radio. Access more at soundcloud.com\lifespeaks.