/ animals

In memory of Paco: gifts from our beloved dead

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"Open your eyes and look around the room at your brothers and sisters of the Craft," the recorded meditation instructed. I slowly opened my eyes to the harsh autumn sunlight and gradually returned to my body. My two dogs, Paco and Nico, stared back expectantly, as though they had been meditating along with me: my Craft siblings.

Paco was 16 years old. Like too many rescued dogs, he had a sad beginning to his life, and we did our best to compensate for it. In his early adulthood he resembled Anubis: pitch black, shiny, with keenly expressive ears, and a definite intensity that was not so much reflective of power as an insatiable need for love (and fear of it being withheld).

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His favorite color was blue—I know this because he would collect only the blue clothes out of the laundry hamper to take back to his nest. At age 12, he grudgingly decided to love Nico, the energetic one-year-old pit mix we adopted.

As the years passed, his grey spots expanded into white, perpetually concerned eyebrows that eventually suited his high strung personality.

Being with him every day, it was hard to see how much his quality of life was diminishing. He had mobility problems from injuring his back legs early in life, and had a lot of difficulty standing up and climbing stairs. At a certain point, I knew that we needed to start thinking about saying goodbye.

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Through mutual friends, I found a reputable animal medium who facilitated a conversation with Paco during what ended up being his last summer. He said that he was content with his life and he knew the end was near; that it was a struggle to stay in body. He revealed that he was in a lot of pain, so I sought in-home acupuncture from a practitioner who also does in-home euthanasia and a variety of herbal and prescription medications to help manage it.

Last November marked one year past losing him. It was a rainy new moon night; the 31st anniversary of my paternal grandfather's passing, I would later learn. Interestingly, one of the few things that could soothe Paco's anxiety other than my constant presence was Alice in Chains. I couldn't help thinking of their song "Rain When I Die" that evening; it felt eerily prophetic.

We all gathered in the living room to play his favorite music, to hold him, to give him his favorite treats while he rested on his favorite cushion. I cleansed the house with frankincense and myrrh incense and asked the God, Goddess and Great Spirit to help him cross over.

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That night, I felt called to read tarot for him. The cards I drew were

  • The Subject: 4 of Pentacles, inverted. To me, this represented his attachment to mortality even when it was painful. He was so attached to us and his life that it was difficult for him to cross over on his own.
  • The Past: The Wheel I interpreted this as showing that a cycle had ended. His life force had waxed, and was now waning.
  • The Present: King of Swords. This reflected to me that the decision to euthanize was just on an intellectual level, even if it hurt all of us on an emotional level.
  • The Future: Page of Cups. This represents an opportunity for love, perhaps a surprising one. This helped me feel some optimism about his spirit's path. I felt relieved to deliver him from his pain and fear.

I wasn't prepared for how devastating it would be to lose him. The next few days were the hardest, especially since I work from home and was used to caring for him all day. I felt I had lost my shadow.

We built a remembrance altar for him above the corner he used to sleep in, and hung an Anubis ornament for him on the Yule tree.

Several months passed, and our remaining dog, Nico, was clearly feeling the lack of a canine companion. We felt emotionally ready to adopt again. As soon as we contacted the rescue, strange things began happening.

The first strange occurence was that several days in a row, birds flew into the windows—an indication of the dead having a message for you, according to some folk traditions. I also began having distressing dreams about him: that he was still alive somewhere but I couldn't find him. That he had secretly survived euthanasia and was abandoned. That he was alone and in pain.

After a week of this, I reached out to the medium again to see if Paco might have a message for me. She connected with him easily. The message was immediate and definite: "I'm coming back." He said the bad dreams and the birds were designed to get my attention and he was thrilled that it had worked.

I learned that he had connected with the puppy we were planning to meet that weekend and that it had agreed to switch souls with him. "You have my whole heart," he said. "How could I go on without you?"

We adopted the puppy on the spot, and I know that he carries Paco's spirit: there are many signs and small habits, and Nico accepted him without any issue, in an almost matter-of-fact way, like she was picking up where she had left off.

I couldn't be happier to have my boy back, and I never could have imagined that it was possible. I feel especially blessed that I didn't try to control the situation and that Paco came back of his own free will. All spirits have work they need to achieve; it is not for us to influence or stand in the way of another soul's destiny.

This experience was one of my first indications that attunement to Spirit was powerful and real. That dream work, divination, and trusting the messages you receive can help you to move through life gracefully and gratefully.

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