I had a totally different post planned to put up, but then I found this trailer on Twitter. Have your tissues ready.
I watched this and thought it one of the most heartwarming trailers I’d seen. It’s based on the book of the same title by W. Bruce Cameron and it spent 52 weeks on the NYT Bestseller list! So I was more than a little startled to see some haters calling this trailer “horrible” and “depressing” and “worst dog movie ever” because, you know, the dog dies.
Sorry. Spoiler alert. But maybe the title of the blog post was a clue?
The hardest thing any pet parent has to face is the loss of a much loved pet. The very worst part of letting an animal into your life and heart is the sure knowledge that you will eventually bid them farewell. I’ve done this more times than I want to think about, and with more species than your average pet owner.
There was Pagan, and Domino.
And that’s not even half. Each one takes a piece of your heart when they go, you feel like that spot in your soul will never again feel right. I have been so fortunate to have a deep bond to many, many animals, to experience the love, communication and understanding that looks magical to an outside observer. I know I’m not alone in this. I know that I’m not the only one to have a much loved pet return to me either, both in a body and in spirit.
What if the premise of A Dog’s Purpose were true? What if our pets (and us too!) come back to experience life after life? The above-mentioned haters also found this tragic. I’m sorry for them. I think it’s beautiful. It means we, collectively, never truly die. That we get do-overs, and a chance to explore every delicious, beautiful, and yes, painful, facet of life.
Reincarnation as a spiritual concept is found throughout many ancient, sacred texts. Even the Gnostic Christians claimed that reincarnation was the true, secret teaching of Jesus. The number of people who believe in reincarnation is staggering. Just counting those who claim to practice religions with reincarnation as a fundamental tenet you’re looking at about 25% of the human population. Even some quantum physicists are now saying our consciousness moves into another universe when we die. First Law of Thermodynamics, right?
But that’s humans. What about animals? Do animals have souls? Just ask that of anyone who’s had a pet that they loved and lost. You can read about how my cat, Magic, came back to visit after I lost her to bone cancer. The internet is full of stories about how the spirits of pets come back, both as ghosts and reincarnated into new, furry bodies.
But how do you know? Truth is, I can’t offer up any proof that would satisfy a cynic.
Answers to the most perplexing questions in spirituality are at their core inexplicable. They must be experienced. They must be lived. It doesn’t matter how many holy books you read, how many churches you sit in, or how many drum circles. They can guide you, point out a path, but you’ll never really know unless you make contact with the numinous.
I have. I know that everything has a soul. A spirit. That spark of the divine that is never extinguished. From the trees in my yard, to the cat curled in my lap, to the wolf puppy that greeted me with recognition in his soul. We had known each other in lives past.
How? You have to be willing to still your mind and listen for those subtle clues. You have to be willing to put in the time to practice – whatever method you choose. Yoga, meditation, dance, journeying all can help you with quieting the mind so you can hear the messages from your soul. More than that though, you have to trust the knowledge that comes to you.
That is the hardest part. Trust. Your mind will want to tell you you just made it up. So will science. So will some of your friends. You have to trust the message and put it into practice in your life. There is a certain element of surrender with this, because sometimes it’ll probably be pretty scary. Not in the ‘you should spend all your money on this stock’ sense. No, this trust usually involves risks of the heart.
Sometimes your heart will break. Sometimes the one you love will leave you. But what if the purpose of life is to experience love in as many different forms and varieties as possible? That’s pretty difficult to accomplish in just one lifetime.
Maybe dogs are the lucky ones. They have so much love to give, and we have so much to learn, that they voluntarily return to us again and again, helping to open our hearts and teach us about unconditional love. And loss. And how to love again after heartbreak.