My experience with animals has been rich, and it has come in all shapes and forms. At one time I owned a large all-breed stallion station and racing stable complete with a tack and feed store. We had some cattle, dogs, cats and other farm animals, including our mother goats who would adopt orphaned foals. I share many stories in my book "What Does That Mean" about my animal friends and what they have taught me about life, spirituality and kinship. Many of you have written to me about those stories, for some of them are tearjerkers, while others cause goosebumps.
From my experiences, I have found animals to be intelligent companions, sharing with us a consciousness that in some ways is far superior to our own. They are aware in ways that astound me. For example, I once had a mare teach me something really important. It's a long story and one that I tell in "What Does That Mean?" but today I will condense the story to the bottom line. This mare died in my arms. It was around midnight and there were some 50 horses in my barn. They were all turned away from the alleyway where I sat with the mare, her owners and the ranch hands close by. The moment her eyes rolled back in her head, all 50 horses turned, came forward in their stalls, put their heads out over the stall gates into the alleyway itself, and in unison began neighing. My foreman, who was standing some 30 feet away with the rest of everyone present, shouted to me, "What's going on with the horses?" My answer: "The mare just passed." How do horses connect this way? How is it that they all knew what had happened the moment it occurred?
Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, the notable biologist and researcher, has appeared on my radio show, and we have spoken about his research supporting his belief that animals have a consciousness that goes beyond the so-called local event. His work has suggested that many animals know in advance when their owners will return, when they call on the phone and much more. I remember a dear friend of mine, Geoffrey Chambers Hughes, who boarded a thoroughbred in my barn for years. He called this horse "Cupcake." Geoffrey owned Silk Willoughby Farms and bred Aloma's Ruler, a Preakness winner. The name Cupcake and Cuppy, as Geoff nicknamed him, always seemed somewhat ill-dignified for a horse from the lines of Legionnaire. Nevertheless, I remember a trip Geoffrey made down the Amazon. He sent letters to Cuppy. We would read the letters as they arrived and then pin them to the door of his stall. The horse seemed to know what we were reading and that the letters were from Geoffrey. Not only that, he would sometimes just sort of nuzzle the letters, and if one fell off the stall door, he would set up a fuss until it was pinned up again.
I do know that certain animals, those that we share a bond with, seem to know what we are saying. I remember having to shoot a large vermin that was killing our chickens. My friend Lady Balto (a German Shepherd) had the animal cornered on the railing of my deck. It was large enough that it could well have attacked Balto. I pulled the shotgun to my shoulder and yelled a command to Balto that I had never used with her -- one word: "break." (I had used this command with my bird dogs during my hunting days many years ago.) The minute I spoke, Balto dropped back, clearing my shot as though she had been trained to break away on that command.
Animals are truly amazing, in my view. More and more people recognize this today. One morning about 15 years ago, my dog Duke came in with a 22-250 gunshot wound in the stomach. He died later that same day. The thing is, he never complained. He came when called and wagged his tail and jumped in the truck to go to the vet's office. You see, the wound was not obvious, but Duke's behavior wasn't normal. So when we went to the vet, it was without any suspicion of a gunshot wound. To the very last moment, it has been my experience, your animal friends continue to give, not complain.
As humans we go through life taking many things for granted. I believe one of those on the "for granted" list is our animal friends. I would urge everyone to be more cognizant of our kinship with all life.
One of the early animal movie stars was the German Shepherd named Strongheart. When Strongheart passed away, his handler, John Allen Boone, wrote a book titled "Letters to Strongheart." In this book, the dog spoke to Boone about many things that he had learned during life. One of Strongheart's remarks that I remember very well goes like this: "It would be a horrible sight to see faces walking down the street as incomplete as their human minds."
I would hope our minds would become more complete by recognizing our animal friends and all that they have given to us. Let me know your thoughts; I'd love to hear stories about your special animal friends. Together we can truly raise the level of awareness.
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