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My Spirit Animals
~ Rick Theile
We can experience what I would call, our
Spirit Animal, and that is an animal where
we, the human, and the animal develops
a deep unconditional bond, a trust, and
love for each other. It is not ordinary, but
goes beyond ordinary. It moves from
the form, into the formless in this relationship.
The Spirit Animal can take on many form, a dog, a cat, a horse, a gorilla, an elephant, a dolphin, and even an octopus. It can be any animal. These relationships are built on trust, and an unconditional, unspoken love.
Animals have the ability when young, to imprint with another animal of a different species, or to the human. Even a very young animal that has lost it’s mother, and finds a substitute mother that in normal conditions would have it for a meal. Or just being an odd match, like a tortoise and a new litter of puppies that creates a bond. But something miraculous happens in unexpected times, where an animal that would in it’s natural instinctive response would kill it, instead, takes on the responsibility of caring for it. Or simply having it as a playmate, like polar bears, and huskies playing on the winter snow in the far north, or a dog, and deer frolicking in an open field.
But, there is one animal that has been seen for thousands of years, as having the closest relationship with humankind, an animal that is forgiving of the human’s faults, a protector of his or her human family, and can provide comfort, and calm to their owner, as with many other positive qualities. An animal that immediately bonds with the human at any age of it’s life. A truly symbiotic relationship between the human being and their dog – a human being’s best friend in the most deepest sense of the word.
I would like to share a little bit of my story about my canine companions.
One of these wonderful dogs that I had, his name was Shiloh, a Native American Indian Dog. It was back in 2009, and I was dealing with hard financial times due to the 2008 financial collapse of the world. We spent one month camping at a regional park campground close to where we lived. We were homeless.
During that month camping, Shiloh and I experienced a deeper bond with each other, and being out in nature, sleeping out in a tent. We spent a total of 74 days camping that year, and spent 28 days in the Sierra Nevada wilderness (For the most part alone). Being out alone in the wilderness gave us even a deeper experience with each other, a deeper connection with each other, and created a greater appreciation, respect, and a deeper reverence for the natural world. Then in 2010, we return with a friend to our favorite area in the Sierra Nevada wilderness for another two weeks. And in November of 2011, I lost Shiloh. It was a devastating moment in time for me. I had lost my best friend, and companion. I thought I would never recover from that loss. I was hoping for many more adventures with Shiloh in the wilderness, but it was not meant to be.
In January, 2014, I picked up two new pups from the breeder, for a journey I was planning on taking back into the wilderness to live in nature.
My two canine companions, Takota and Nanook (Native American Indian Dogs), and I finally began our journey into nature on October 29, 2017 and finished on September 10, 2022.
We lived in a tent full time for close to five years, and traveled through eight western states, simply to experience nature.
On our return back into civilization it gave me the opportunity to focus on writing about our experiences, as with other writings I wanted to do. I had thirteen journals to rewrite, with many photos to organize. It seemed a daunting endeavor, and yet it brings me back to those many wonderful memories being with my canine companions.
I was getting a bit tired of living in nature, dealing with people, the impact climate change was having on the planet, and on us, with the weather extremes we were experiencing, the potential dangers from these uncertain weather conditions, including forest fires, and with the choking smoke they created, and the end of non-reservation campgrounds. And the fact that I had little money left. Otherwise, we loved living in nature, it was like being home to us. It was our way of life for nearly five years.
I had images of being in a cozy cabin in the woods, with a fire going in the fireplace, writing about nature, and our experiences, with the boys laying next to me on a comfortable thick blanket or throw rug.
We are now doing this, but not in a cabin, but in a small, old run down, and unfurnished house, that is keeping us protected from the wet, cold winter of the Pacific Northwest. The only furnishings we have is a table and chair for writing, a cot for me to sleep on, and the boys having their new dog beds they fully enjoy – presents they received for Christmas from my Sister. Nanook lays next to me while I write, or sometimes looks out through the large front window for any squirrels or rabbits scampering around. Takota likes to stay in the bedroom most of the time, but he is venturing out more. And spending more time with his brother and I in the living room where I do my writing.
During our time camping, and when I could, I would leave the tent door open for him to go in if he wanted some alone time. Takota loved his quiet time in the tent.
While I write about our present moments, and our recent past living in nature, I have been feeling a strong and inseparable bond with Takota, and Nanook. It isn’t that I haven’t always had this bond with them, but it seemed different now. Maybe because I am writing, and seeing in my mind’s-eye, and in the many photos of all the experience, and memories, we have had during those special times in nature on our journey together. And feeling a gratefulness for all they have shared with me, with their companionship, and unconditional love.
This bond began when my friend and I picked these 71/2 month old sibling puppies up from the Kennel in Michigan. Once we began camping together it truly opened up a new relationship with us. We would soon be fulfilling a dream of mine, with them in that dream, with all three of us being immersed in nature. They became excellent camping companion, and provided great company.
Takota and Nanook easily adapted to tent living when they were 10 months old. We spent three months camping in a tent during the autumn months. They loved being out in nature, and so did I, especially with them. It seemed we were meant to do this together.
I was observing their young developing personalities during this time. Both were very protective of our camp from anything passing by. Takota was shy toward most people. He was a tad bit smaller than his brother. Nanook was a lover. He would always want to greet the people, and give them loving licks, and in return some loving scratches, and maybe a treat for good measure. He always enjoyed the attention. The boys would quickly make people friends, and always enjoyed seeing them, and greeting them with howls. They would soon take on different roles in camp. Takota took on the role of camp protector, making sure no suspicious characters would come into camp. He wouldn’t do anything if someone did, but he could be intimating, especially with Nanook next to him. Nanook took on the role of hunter. He always had his sharp senses on the critters around us. I would watch Nanook when on a trail and he would give me indications that their was a deer, or rabbit, or some other critter close by. I would usually spot them, especially deer if I focused on where Nanook was looking. I began to notice when they were a bit older, that when they would walk side by side, and close enough where their bodies would touch, and if Nanook was very focused on some unseen creature in front of him, it seemed Takota was reading Nanook’s senses, by watching Nanook off and on when he wanted more information on what Nanook was sensing. Pretty incredible how they were so in tune with each other, as with to nature.
At night when it was time for bed, Takota always wanted to sleep next to me. If Nanook was there first, Takota at some point would wake me with a nudge, and stand there, looking at me, waiting for Nanook to move. Nanook never resisted, he always moved for his brother.
With the dark dreams I had experienced every night for four years, Takota helped me get through them by being by my side and with my hand resting on his side giving me comfort, and calm.
Each morning they had their own loving ways of waking me up. They had their own personalities that set them apart, and made them so unique from one another. There would be times I would be talking to them, and it seemed they knew what I was saying through the looks in their eyes. Other times I would be totally silent in thought, petting them, and feeling a deep connection with them.
One thing out of many things I enjoyed about them is that they never barked for the most part. We always had a quiet camp. If I left camp for a short while to talk with some campers or go to the toilet, they would howl, letting me know it is time to come back to camp.
Living with them in different campsites, sleeping with them in different tents, moving from campground to campground, from state to state, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, on a journey we did not know where it would take us, just as long as it was in nature, we knew the routine. And the boys would recognize the campgrounds, and campsites, and the Hosts, we have visited before.
In our near five years doing this, I could not have done this without their love and companionship, and the joy, and comfort they gave to me. We truly developed a deep relationship with one another, a deep inseparable bond. I couldn’t imagine being without them for a second. They were a part of me, and I was a part of them. What made our relationship so special was that we were always together, we experienced being in nature together, just the three of us, creating an everlasting bond that will never be broken.
As I write these words, and other writings, it can be a very slow, and tedious process in writing a story about me and the boys, from the many journals I have accumulated over this span of time. Sometimes my writing seems to flow like a gentle river, and other times, like a raging torrent of turbulence, turning every word every which way in endless confusion. But in these writings, I see, and feel these beautiful experiences in nature I have had together with these two wonderful companions. And being deeply grateful for being able to share these wonderful experiences with them in the natural world.
Maybe it is because I am reliving these experiences in my mind with the memories flooding into my consciousness, feeling this deeper connection with the boys, while writing, and their presence near me. A connection that is deep and unbroken.
These incredible creatures, these spirit animals that seem to have been made to be with us. To teach us. They ask for so little, and yet they give us so much. I would have to say they are the perfect animal companions for the human species. That is not to say other species of animals can’t teach us unconditional love. Our canine companions can understand what we say, and ask of them. They can sense what we feel when we show anger, sadness, joy, and calm. They can teach us how to live through their unconditional love. They greet us at the door after a hard day at work, that brings a smile to our face. They are a big part of the family unit, and adds so much to the family structure. And yet when they leave us, they bring a huge void in our lives.
Because we were always together 24 / 7, our bond, and relationship became strengthened beyond measure. Words can’t seem to be found in the special relationship we have created with each other. To me, they are my spirit animals.