Wednesday, October 6, 2010

October 6 - Katie

I had a best friend for 10 years who was part-shepherd, part-lab, and part-human:  Katie.

Some folks think she was named after me, but in fact I was named after her.  Up until I was about 25, I went by Kathy (hard to believe; she is a different person than I am now), but loved the name Kate (after one of my heroines, Kate Hepburn).  So when Katie was (literally) dropped in my lap, I decided to name her my favorite name.  It wasn't until 5 years later that I made the shift myself into a Kate.  

She was a CRAZY pup... all ears and legs and a strong, independent will... and as we grew together over the next 10 years she was my companion and protector.  I was able to live by myself as a single woman, go where I wanted to go, and do what I wanted to do because of Katie.  She was always game for anything.  And she was always watching me:  ears perked, eyes alert, her head resting on her front paws as she rested relaxed but ready for whatever I was going to do, the way dogs do.

There are lots and lots of stories about Katie, some of which I will tell during this month.  But for now, I have my most recent story of Katie to share.

Katie contracted cancer in her mouth, and after two surgeries we had to let her go.  She is buried in the backyard of my former country home south of Charleston, SC.  It was Jan. 26, less than a month after the love of my life Andrew moved in (on New Years Day 1984).  I am blessed that occasionally she visits me in my dreams.  This is such a tale.

In 2000, on the Spring Equinox after my mom's passing in February, I committed to a Vision Quest.  With my fellow questers, I prepared for six months in order to enter the woods for three days and nights when we would seek our visions.  It was a powerful process that springboarded me into my current spirituality.

As is true of other questers, the closer we came to our Quest date, the more nervous I became about going into the woods:  not from a safety concern but from a fear of not receiving a Vision.  I'd worked so hard and it all pointed to this special weekend (Labor Day... in every sense of the word!)!  Two nights before the Quest weekend began, I had a vivid dream:

I was walking in a forest of beautiful, lush green pine trees along a soft path thick with fallen russet pine needles.  All was silent.  I looked down to my left, and there was Katie walking beside me!  It was so like old times when we would walk together.  My heart leapt for joy at being with her again!  I was so excited that I started running along the path, and she ran alongside me.  Then she changed into a black bear, also running along the path with me.  This excited me so much that I lifted off my feet and started flying alongside her.

I woke up, jubilant that I had spent time with Katie/Black Bear, and knew my Quest would be a safe and successful one.

Two days later I went into the woods, early on a Saturday morning, in silence.  My teacher had selected my spot under a huge, beautiful old pine tree where the ground was blanketed in layers and layers of soft pine needles.  There were small pines scattered along the perimeter of my circle as well as some fallen pines peeking through the carpet of pine needles.

I spent 3 days in the woods, just me and Nature.  Each morning, my teacher would bring me fresh water for the day and to check to make sure I was ok.  That weekend, it rained 4 inches... and I stayed snug and dry under my tarp in my sleeping bag.  I felt Andrew and our kids sending me love and strength all weekend.  It was as if Andrew was there beside me saying, "OK, first put up the tarp, now set out..." guiding me in his wise woodsmanship way.

always curious and alert
On Sunday, I was writing in my journal, recounting the dream I had had the few nights before.  I am thankful to have had the journal as I wouldn't have remembered most of my Quest experiences since I was in an altered state (which I didn't think about happening...).  As I looked up from my writing, my eyes rested on a small pine that had fallen over years and years and years before.  The base of the tree was all that was showing; the roots had been elemented away over the years, and the remaining base poked up in two soft peaks from the pine straw.  As I looked at it, I realized that it looked just like Katie did when she would watch me to see what I was going to do next.  And as I looked at it more, I realized it WAS Katie, still there companioning and protecting me.  I was -- and am -- so grateful for her presence.

I miss Katie so much.  I miss how she would howl with excitement when I would drive into the driveway; my very own one-dog chorus of joy.  Her salutations would literally lift her front feet off the ground!  Now THAT's love!  I miss her smell, the feel of her coat as I would pet her, her talking to me, the look in her eyes when she was having fun, her joie de vivre, her humor, and her undying love.

Well, I still feel her undying love.

There have been other puppies, but there will never be another Katie.

I hope that a memory of a loyal and loving animal will fill your day today.