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What I Have Learned From My Animals

AN ANGEL FROM THE FIRST DAY I MET HER

I adopted my sweet Ellie, a Golden Retriever-Terrier mix, from a local shelter. They said she was found by the side of a road in eastern Colorado. I wondered if she was lost and somebody was looking for her. My teacher overheard me mentioning this to a friend and gave me Terri’s name, suggesting she was someone who could communicate with animals and help me know Ellie’s story.

Soon after, I scheduled a call with Terri. Not knowing what to expect since I had never done anything like this before, I was completely astounded within the first few minutes of our conversation. Terri told me that my sweet baby had been dumped along a highway in eastern Colorado in the middle of the night. At that moment, I knew this was “real” – that Terri truly had a connection with my Ellie.

Over the years that I was lucky enough to have my Ellie with me, I had several consultations with Terri. The connection Terri had with Ellie was absolutely amazing. She described how “sweet” Ellie’s energy came through. And, she certainly was a very sweet dog! She was also wise, funny, gentle, bossy, intelligent and “Zen”. All of these other parts of her personality came through during my conversations with Terri and Ellie as well. Whether I was calling about her tummy troubles, her arthritis, an infection, being scared of the dark and rain, or simply to check in with her, Terri’s ability to communicate with Ellie helped tremendously.

When I would look into my sweet dog’s eyes, I felt like I just knew her. I felt like we got each other, down to the very deepest part of our souls. She was my best friend, my comfort, my touchstone. And, I hope I was all that for her. Throughout our years together, I learned so much from Ellie.

I tend to worry a lot. Through her “Zen” spirit, Ellie taught me that life really is too short to worry. Her motto was “worrying doesn’t help anyone, all is as it should be, and everything will work out in the end”.

Also, I have a tendency to feel like I should always be accomplishing something, crossing things off my to-do list. Ellie taught me the magic of what it means to just be still, both physically and internally. We would go to our mountain cabin, put our feet (her four and my two) into the water of the creek, and experience pure joy and peace. She truly taught me so many things about myself and the ways of the world.

She and I would sit in what I called our “spa spot” for endless periods of time. Ellie showed me how to become still enough to listen to the beautiful song birds and also the multitude of sounds of the water. We would watch all that surrounded us… bugs, butterflies, birds, and more. Being soothed by the sights and sounds of nature was our favorite thing to do together.

Most importantly, I learned the true meaning of total and complete unconditional love from my sweet angel. To love someone so much that your heart aches, feeling like it might explode from the joy and happiness you feel when you are together, is to me – your soul-mate.

Toward the end of Ellie’s long life, I became very unsettled. It is so difficult to prepare for losing your beloved companion. While it is not Terri’s job to tell us when it is time to let go of our precious friends, she helped me understand how Ellie was feeling as her journey unfolded. This invaluable help allowed me to work through this difficult stage of life and know when it felt right to help Ellie transition to the other side.

While I miss my sweet girl every single day, I continue our loving connection through Terri and in ways of my own. These communications offer me continued healing and bring me a sense of deep peace. I know Ellie’s spirit lives on. And, I know she is experiencing much joy and love. I trust she is 100% “ok”. Ellie is so much more than her doggie body. She is a very special soul who will continue to help others. She will bless them as she blessed me. Without a doubt, she is an angel.
-Carrie Stern, Denver, CO


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EVERY DAY IN GRATITUDE

I didn’t grow up with horses. I didn’t take lessons or beg my parents for a pony. Yet horses have changed my life forever.

Well into adulthood I found myself faced with serious kidney issues. After years of dialysis treatments while waiting for a kidney transplant, I got tired of the restrictions dictated by doctors and decided to spice up the life I was working so hard to save. The one thing that felt right – that felt both therapeutic and a tiny bit wild – was to get myself on a horse. I needed to be under open sky and surrounded by beings that are everything power, balance and grace. I began to dream of having horses with my husband, Bruce, at our home in the foothills of the Rockies.

Always having loved animals, we were living with three cats that proved some of my best friends and teachers. Cezanne, a beautiful chocolate point Balinese we’ve had nearly the entire twenty years of our marriage, uses his big voice to teach me patience. Our blue point Balinese, Amarette, always seemed more ether than flesh and led by example in unconditional love. Pantoufle, our audacious seal point Siamese/Snowshoe, lives out loud with a confidence and authenticity we could all learn from. She came to earth to be here, really be here, and she’s taught me how to not leave my body. She’s taught me how to stay. Collectively they have been my guiding arrow, always pointing true north, during some very tough times. Through my growing intuitive understanding and our sessions with Terri who maneuvers the practical to the esoteric with love, reverence and humor, they helped heal my heart.

To be able to drape the structure of words over the myriad of dynamics and wisdom going on between animals and humans is a gift like no other. Through Terri, we were even able to have contact and insight from Amarette after she passed away. Each animal communication session continues to yield treasures long after they are over.

Eventually a kidney transplant became a reality. What followed was like a parting of the sea of obstacles. As Bruce and I continued to let go of the many things we couldn’t control, life fell smoothly into place. Thanks to the gift of kidney donation, I became strong enough to take the leap I never thought we’d have the guts for. We said Yes to the idea of having horses come live with us. Terri’s presence and input during that transition was immeasurable. She infused questions, doubts and confusion with clarity. Then, any remaining nervousness disappeared the day I met Matteo, a magnificent nine-year-old Missouri Fox Trotter.

We also fell for a second horse, another Fox Trotter and herd-mate of Matteo named Sunny. Young, playful and naughty, he challenges Bruce to show up and claim his power. Since the horses arrived, this bonding herd of equines, felines and humans has been on an unprecedented adventure of growth and joy.

Alongside training and exploring mountain trails, I believe in spending time with the horses without asking them for anything. I practice didgeridoo in their corral and Sunny aligns himself with the instrument where he most wants the healing vibration. Matteo and I do deep breathing together where he makes his inhales and exhales audible and synchronizes them with mine. I chant to them and they lie down, bliss out and dream.

Meanwhile, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet the family of the angel whose kidney lives on inside me. The horses have carried his brothers on their backs, knowing full well why they are special to me and why they are sad and in need of healing. Neither boy had ever been on a horse but with Sunny and Matteo’s awareness and gentle kindness (plus just the right dash of friskiness), the boys felt safe enough to relax, enjoy and connect into the spirit of the moment.

Every day Matteo teaches me to be present with all of myself, not just safely selected parts. When he won’t walk across a scary bit of black plastic come alive from wind, his refusal is asking me a question: Will you show up? Will you be my leader – or will I have to take over because you are too distracted or afraid or clinging to a past that’s no longer serving to step into your true self and shine.

And I am answering. Every day in gratitude I am answering.

- Nicole Siegel, Boulder Heights, CO


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BEAUTIFUL FROM THE INSIDE OUT

It's so hard to lose a family member so precious. In my initial sorrow, I would sit and think of the many great and endearing stories about my girl, Anna. That helped me get through the sadness of missing her in our lives. Now, I celebrate her and how she has changed me forever.

Many years ago, my life changed for the better when I finished my design degree and decided to get a dog. Being single and moving forward in life, I knew a dog companion would be perfect. That’s when I met Anna, aka Trowsnest's Shall We Dance (from the movie the King and I), on a snowy night in New Hampshire. She was more than a dream come true.

Within a month of sweet Anna arriving into my heart, my Dad became tragically ill. The doctor told us that he probably wouldn't live through the night...oh but he did! Anna’s love and presence helped my father live. And, that is when Anna and I decided she would become a therapy dog.

Anna's claim to fame was her love of people especially children. She was in every sense a healer. She was the best therapy dog I could have ever asked for. As soon as I put her vest on, she knew exactly how to “work”. Often, Anna would seek out family visitors of the sick children realizing they need her help too. It was beautiful to watch.

Anna worked as a pet therapy dog for ten years. Then she officially retired, having accumulated hundreds of volunteer hours. I guess you could say she had achieved her PhD in therapy work. Because Anna liked loved to be fussed over, we decided for her retirement years she could help children in a reading program called "See Spot Read". We travelled to some local elementary schools to sit with children individually as they would read to her. She was a seasoned listener having been in my son’s Gabriel's presence while listening to me read since he was an infant. This new “work” was a match made in heaven.

My joy in life was always enhanced by her joy. Life included beach days with dog body surfing or retrieving her water toy "bongo". She embraced life to the fullest at all times. At the end of a fun filled day, her head would bob at night trying to fight off sleep. She didn’t want to miss anything. We would laugh when her head would finally drop and she’d go into a deep slumber.

I could go on with hundreds of other stories, as so many who love their animals can do. What’s most important is to say that Anna and I were entwined spirits that were blessed to have danced together for 13 years. She was a magical healer for me, my family, and for many other people lucky enough to cross her path.

Anna changed my life by showing me how to appreciate and live in the present. It's tough not to be consumed with too much of the past or wonder about the future. This is a hard lesson for humans but dogs seem to be able to do this naturally. Anna showed me that it's okay to savor the moment and stop rushing from place to place. Dogs don't fret about the events they might have missed at the end of the day. Living in the moment is simple for them. I guess you could call it dog mindfulness.

Thank you my dear Anna…You'll forget the sun in the jealous sky as we walk in fields of gold. You raised me up so I could stand on mountains...which made anything possible.

We now have a new member in our family, Finegan. People ask us with all the pain we went through losing Anna why would we do it all over again....we just say, why not- because the wonderful memories surely outweigh the sorrows.
–Laura Burke, Raleigh, NC


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