By Sharon Callahan

     I often counsel people who are grieving the loss of a beloved animal companion. Without exception, each shares with me how deeply their souls were touched by the animal's depth of love and devotion and how much they learned about love during their life with the animal.

     In my own life, being touched by animals on a deep soul level is a daily occurrence. I work at home in the company of my cat Lily. Lily has been my companion for fifteen years now and I am still discovering her many wonderful attributes. Just to see her fur glistening in the soft morning light brings joy to my heart. With her brown and black stripes, she almost disappears into the pattern of my oriental rug. She keeps me company all day, coming to check on me between her outings in the yard. When she feels that I have spent an unhealthy length of time writing at my computer, she sits right on top of it, leans over and licks my forehead to remind me that there is more to life than words could ever say.

     Some time ago, during a year long illness, Lily was the only living soul who freely chose to stay with me. She kept a vigil near my bed and kissed away my tears with her warm pink tongue. Late into the night she purred sweet healing songs into my pillow. Often she had to wait for days for her favorite food, but her devotion never wavered. She would lie on my body where the discomfort was the most intense and pour so much loving energy into me that soon the pain was gone. I have known few human beings of such devotion.

     All through my life animals have been my wise friends and spiritual companions. Dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, mice, birds and more recently a fox and a coyote. They each had a sacred gift to share with me. Sometimes just looking in an animal's eyes I have been transported beyond space and time to a place as close to God as I can get and still be in a body. I feel at peace around animals.....safe, warm, companioned, honored, seen and close to heaven. People report having these same feelings around saints and sages.

It is popular these days to be searching for angels, spirit guides, gurus, twin flames, teachers, therapists, ascended masters, and totem (dead) animals. When not searching for these we attempt to better ourselves by attending workshops, seminars, intensives, vision quests, retreats, recovery groups and OM circles. I fully understand this longing for spiritual guidance, but perhaps we look too far afield, or possibly our sights are too lofty. Maybe we should try looking down for a change...toward the Earth!

     Who is that little furred and bewhiskered friend at our feet? The one who runs to greet us with an open heart no matter how late we come home; who keeps us company when we are sick and feeling ugly; the one who offers unconditional love and who consoles us when all the therapies have failed, our boy friend has left and our check book is empty. Who is that in the little fuzzy jacket anyway? Perhaps we should take a closer look...a look through the eyes of the heart.

     In my own life, animals have been some of my greatest teachers and my life has been profoundly enriched by their presence. From them I have learned about joy, spontaneity, humor, acceptance, surrender, devotion, fidelity, death and resurrection. Although there have been times when I have envied friends who traveled to far off places to visit gurus and spiritual teachers, looking back, I can see that I have been surrounded by gurus and teachers all along . . . little furry ones!

     And when it comes to angels . . . I have begun to realize that many angels have whiskers and wet noses . . . and even those winged ones sometimes have beaks! This morning when I looked at Lily sitting in the morning light, I thought I saw the faint glimmer of wings and a tiny golden halo set rakishly over one ear.

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