Tag: dogs

Walking with Ziggy

Walking with Ziggy




I took my Ziggy to the property on Sunday, a 22-acre piece of land in rural Harvard, Illinois, that our mom left to my sister and me when she passed three years ago. It’s beautiful land, woods and virgin prairie; sacred land where family members died in a horrible fire and where indigenous people lived and died a century before.

This was only the second time I’d brought Ziggy here. He came to live with me four months ago, two days before Christmas. It was too cold for this Jack Russell from Kentucky to be spending more than short spurts of time outside, and anyway the snow-covered, quarter-mile driveway would have been impassable. We had to wait for the snow to melt, for the air to warm, for Ziggy’s fear of cars and open spaces and new experiences to subside—not disappear altogether, they may never do that—just subside enough for the trip to be fun, to not make him tremble with anxiety.

A balancing act, this. A tightrope walk.

My Elika, the mini American Eskimo who was my dearest friend, my spirit sister, my co-teacher and co-healer, the beautiful being who was, who is, the beat of my heart, loved this place so completely that she asked to be buried here. And she is. Right over there, under those trees, the headstone gifted by a student: “Elika, Forever in My Heart.”

In her last months, when she was being bludgeoned by bladder cancer, this place pulsed life into her.

My little Ziggy has suffered at the hands of humans. He told me that he’d had a family, that one day they put him out by the side of the road. The shelter I removed him from had gotten him from another shelter in Kentucky, who had rescued him from a hoarder. What kind of nightmare must that have been? How long was he alone without his family, how long living in a tangle of canine bodies?

This was our second visit to the property. The first had been the week before. Ziggy knew right away that the property is special. He had been tentative about walking into the cottage. OK, more than tentative; he had cowered at the door. It took much coaxing to get him to come inside, and then he had turned around, pushed open the screen door, and let himself back out.

But he wasn’t afraid of anything else—not of the crackle of the bird seed bags, not of the sight of me lifting the feeders off the poles and placing them on the ground (he is most often afraid of things moving above his head), not of the whoosh of seed filling the feeders. When we walked in the woods, he stuck close to me, not dropping back or running up ahead, but he wasn’t overwhelmed by the newness of this place, by the deviation from our safe routine.

This time, this second time, he was even more relaxed, maybe even happy to be here. He jumped out of the car and began exploring. He walked into the cottage a bit less tentatively and even followed me into the storage area where the bird seed lives in a metal trash can that made that hollow metal-trash-can noise when I pulled off the lid.

He watched me fill the feeders with curiosity, and then, in the woods, dropped back to explore, to sniff a large tree trunk that had fallen across the path—normal doggie things, you are probably thinking, but for this formerly trembling, terrified little one, this sweet exploration was a precious gift.

We came out of the woods at the head of the driveway and kept walking—all the way down. Halfway back up, I sat down. Ziggy sat, too, and let me take his picture, which he ordinarily doesn’t like. “What is that thing in your hand?” he seems to ask. “I don’t like it.”

We talked a bit about this and that. I told him how much Elika loved this place.

Relaxed, grateful that Ziggy was, too, I dozed in the sun, allowing daydreams.

It was spring, and there was Elika digging a hole along the wall of the cottage. There was no point asking her to stop. She was oblivious to anything else around her when she dug, her face a mixture of intense concentration and joy.

Years before, when she was just a pup, we had gone to the beach near our apartment in Chicago. It was spring; dogs were allowed on the beach in the off-season. Elika started digging a hole in the sand. I had never seen her do this before. She dug and dug and dug and dug, devoted to her task. Digging not just down, but sideways, deepening and then lengthening the hole, swiping sideways with her front paws, left then right, left then right.

A man walked by with his little boy, five, maybe six. The little boy walked over to Elika. He stood next to her, watching her, then dropped on all fours and started digging next to her, mimicking her strokes, deepening, then lengthening the hole. Kindred spirits flinging sand.

My precious girl, the beat of my heart, gone two years but not entirely gone. Sitting halfway up the driveway on that spring afternoon, my heart ached with love and loss. I smiled at the precious black and white dog curled at my feet. “Come on, little one,” I said. “Let’s go.”



Pam Sourelis is a writer, animal communicator, and Reiki practitioner.

You can learn more about her work with animals at WingedHorseHealing.com

Dog Love is Love

Dog Love is Love

Dog Love is Love



A couple of days ago, I read an article by a man who had recently lost his dog. He and his wife had made the difficult decision to euthanize their beloved friend.

The author was struggling to explain why the loss was so painful for him and his wife. He didn’t describe the dog or the things they loved to do together or any little quirk in the dog’s personality or anything the dog may have taught him.

Instead, he gave reasons gleaned from studies:

  • Dogs and humans have a bond stronger than any other human/animal bond because dogs have been living with humans for over 10,000 years.


  • “Dogs provide us with such unconditional, uncritical positive feedback.” The reason? “They have been selectively bred through generations to pay attention to people.”


  • Losing a dog can seriously disrupt a human’s daily routine, which can revolve around the needs of their “pets,” especially at the end of the animal’s life.


My immediate, and fairly long-lasting, response was annoyance. Why is it so difficult for some people to recognize love? You feel like absolute hell, like your heart has been ripped out, because your heart has been ripped out. You’ve lost someone you love.

I was further annoyed because, despite the article’s implication, this grief is not confined to the loss of a canine love.

Have you ever been around a woman who has lost her horse? When my Nikos died, my grief was so intense that I wanted to float out of my body to be with him. Now, 16 years later, I still cry when I say, or write, his name.


Two of My Animal Loves

My Nikos gave me “unconditional, uncritical positive feedback.” He also let me know when I screwed up. He was very clear about it. He could be very stern. He was am amazing, gentle, powerful teacher.

My Elika, the beautiful American Eskimo mini who came crashing into my life—my spirit sister, my teacher, the beat of my heart—loved me with such intensity that it sometimes took my breath away. When she died, the void was vast, stretched to the other side of the universe.

I left her bowls on the mat outside the kitchen for over a year, until I moved to another apartment, not because my routine had been shattered, but because my heart had been.


No Rituals

In his pain, the author of the piece wrote that American culture has no rituals for mourning the passing of our dogs, no roadmap for navigating the grief. This truth, a truth that left him resorting to research to ease his pain, eventually banished my annoyance and allowed me to feel compassion for this man.

I thought of Jerry, the elder owner of the barn I was leasing for my horses some years ago, who had come out onto the porch to tell me that his dog had died. I knew how much he loved that dog. When he told me, he started to cry. I quickly moved in to hug him.

He said, shaking his head,” I don’t know why I’m crying. It’s just a dog.”

When my Elika died, I received nearly a hundred kind, supportive, loving messages from my Facebook friends. One incredibly kind woman, Elika’s dog walker, called me every night for a month to see how I was. As soon as she would ask, I would start crying and then tell stories about Elika and then cry. She would listen. And then she would call again the next night.

When my Nikos died, a friend suggested and then helped me plan a memorial service. We held it in the barn, about 30 of us and Elika, the horses right outside. It was a beautiful service, filled with love and remembrance. Afterwards, we went into the house and shared a gorgeous pot luck supper. The house was filled with love and laughter; my heart was filled with hope.


We Can Help

We—I and all of you animal lovers reading this—are the lucky ones. We know that love is love. We make the time to grieve the loss of a beloved, no matter the package she or he lived in: dog, cat, horse, rabbit, bird, pig, ferret . . .

So here are the asks:

  • Are you brave enough to tell the people in your world that love is love, to share stories of your relationship with your beloved animal companions without feeling silly or apologetic?
  • Are you strong enough to hug a person who has recently lost a beloved animal? To give a condolence card? To listen over a cup of coffee?
  • Are you generous enough to help a friend plan a memorial service—nothing fancy, just a gathering of friends and stories and food?


When my Nikos died, I took a week off from the fiction workshop I was teaching on Saturday mornings. When I returned the following week, I was uncharacteristically fragile. One of my students, a young woman who had recently lost her husband, and whose stories had exhibited a marked lack of understanding of the human/animal connection, looked at me with sudden recognition. “It’s like losing a person,” she said softly. “I’m so sorry.”