Category Archives: animals as teachers

Dog Day Afternoon

I embraced my inner Henry David Thoreau and took to the woods, away from civilization, where I could commune with nature.

While the coolness of autumn has arrived, her colors are not quite here. It may be a couple of weeks before things peak.

The trail, though well-trodden, showed no other signs of hikers. I had the entire canyon to myself, a personal Eden.

Or so I thought.

As I squatted on a footbridge to angle my camera for a photo of the stream, I heard the pitter-patter of feet coming toward me. And then it licked the side of my face. Yuk.

It was a black lab.

On point, waiting for me to throw a stick.

I looked around for its owner, but saw no one. I waited.

And waited.

No one came to claim this dog.

I crossed the bridge to a shelter, thinking the dog would take his leave. He didn’t. I took mine instead and headed deeper into the canyon. To my surprise, the dog stayed with me, leading the way, always looking back to make sure I was still there, as if saying, “Follow me.”

So, we bonded. He grabbed a stick and dropped it at my feet, staring. He wanted to play. I threw the stick and he fetched. This went on for an hour. When we made it to the second shelter, we played fetch in the stream so he could cool down and drink. I fed him all of my beef jerky and half of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Another kiss. Yuk.

The shadows grew long. Time to head back. My dark furry angel remained with me. We spent four hours together, sharing the woods, playing, and bonding, but I knew it would eventually come to an end. We headed back toward the entrance of the preserve, where I gave him more water. I petted him and thanked him for his company; he thanked me yet again with licks to my face. Yuk.

And then off he sauntered to the mystery from which he came. A piece of my heart went with him.

Like Thoreau, I went to the woods to live deliberately, if only for a few hours, and as I did, I found it bursting with the colors of Spirit; Spirit made Itself known in every moment, from the scented breeze that I breathed in, to the falling leaves that baptized me in nature’s cathedral, to a dog’s sense of play and adventure that unleashed my own.


If you’ve lived with animals on a daily basis, you know intuitively that they have souls. They live through their senses, are curious about the world, serve as companions, and are great teachers of life. To some a dog is nothing but a carnivorous quadruped, the canis lupus familiaris, of the family Canidae. To others the dog is a study of intelligence, loyalty, unconditional love, obedience, and protection. Examine your view of animals.

If you have a family pet, spend time with it and observe it throughout the day. What can you learn from it? Or, if you don’t have a pet, go someplace where you can observe pet owners interacting with their furry family members. What do you notice?

Another exercise is to choose one way to help animals in need. You can visit a local animal shelter and volunteer for a day. You can walk the dogs, pet or feed the cats, or simply socialize with them. Or, you an volunteer to pet sit for a neighbor. Maybe you can plan a fundraiser for abused animals. Let your heart guide you.


Related Posts:

Read the introduction of 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to all posts in this series.