The Journey Inward – Callie Is My Unexpected Spirit Companion

 


One of my spiritual companion’s is Callie, my family’s West Highland Terrier. I didn’t know she was to become such an important soul mate in the beginning of our time together. At first, I mostly developed memories of her.

For instance, when we picked her up at a kennel near Mt. Airy, the owner said she was the runt of the litter. Indeed, that was true. She was so tiny with disproportionally large ears.

Eight years have passed; she is now a mature lady. While she sleeps beside me in my office, I remember the night she indignantly refused to sleep in the kitchen and insisted on sleeping with us in the bedroom.

What great joy when I saw her romp in the snow for the first time. During each subsequent snow, of course, her black nose and paws are covered with frozen crystals. In spite of cold, she couldn’t be happier.

Every day I bear witness to her unending skirmishes with squirrels. I laugh when she barks at dogs on the television screen. I admire her patience while waiting for a hand out at the dinner table. She loves scraps; hates dog food.

Every morning when the alarm goes off she will trot over to my side of the bed for a “tummy rub” and then return to my wife’s side of the bed for another.

“Wake up,” she is saying, “This is a new and glorious day. There are doggy things to do today!”

When I walk past her during the day, she will brush her nose against my pants. Is this a sign of affection? I think so. On walks she will become mesmerized by each smell, sometimes the more obnoxious, the

better.

She has an uncanny ability to sense my moods. If I am happy, she heads for the toy to play. If I am sad, she will try to give me comfort. If I am angry, she will cock her ears with displeasure.

I love Callie. Out of that love I have found her to be a wonderful spiritual teacher. Of course, I admire her ability to “be in the present.” I am enlivened by her unconditional affection. But, there is some deeper bond as we grow older together.


When I feel her presence, I sense our connection to other animals and every living creature. We share a history. When the first flaring forth of the universe took place over 40 million years ago, the same star dust composition resides in her body and mine. My ancestors over 15 thousand years ago invited the Grey Wolf to become a member of the tribe. We have been friends with Callie’s kind ever since.

Our togetherness in this expanding and miraculous universe calls from within the recognition of divine purpose. Namely, we are all connected: animals and humans, plants and humans, oceans and humans, fish and humans, skies and humans, trees and humans, and humans and humans.


We are subjects destined for relatedness, not objects to conquer and exploit. Yet, for so long we have forgotten our destiny and ennobled separation. Callie then becomes an object of my own man-centered view, (even my memories, though pleasurable, may partially objectify her), rather than perceiving the world through her canine capacity.

Father Thomas Berry, Catholic priest and ecologist, believed that our emphasis on separating ourselves from the natural world was the beginning of the loss of the sacred. In its place, the “earth was seen as a resource for the development of the mechanistic, the industrial and the technological. Intimacy with the natural world gave way to using the earth for political and economic domination.”

Carolyn Toben, who interviewed Father Thomas, noted great sadness in his voice when he said: “What is happening in our times is not just another historical transition or cultural change. The devastation of the planet that we are bringing about is negating some millions, even billions of years of past development on earth”…. “We must shift from an entirely human centered view of our existence to a realization that the earth is a communion of subjects, a oneness of which we are all a part. It is not a collection of objects for our use.”


Although we are all intricately connected, we are also different with unique capacity. Difference brings creative contributions to the good of all. Yet, when separation abounds the divine connective purpose is broken. Diversity rather than a blessing becomes a problem. For example, when economic and political policies perpetuate great disparities between the rich and poor or middle class we experience an “us” and “them.” The value of being in this together is overtaken by disparity.

We are not to despair. We are here to remedy this situation by co-operating with God’s designing purpose. Each part is of the whole. If we allow this recognition to become a part of us, we will make a difference.

Now that Callie is eight years old I am reminded that she has a short life span. Westies generally live about 13 or 14 years. Already I experience grief that her time on earth is brief. Her time and my time are but a flicker. While we see how fragile and vulnerable life can be, we also can celebrate we are part of a sacred purpose. We are here, both dog and man, to live with an ever deepening sense of the sacredness of divine communion.

(Dr. John Campbell is a semi-retired citizen of Brevard.)

 
 

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