I was sitting in the kitchen minding my own business when out of the blue I heard my dog address me. The message was clear and concise: "My companion is ready. She’s a puppy mill dog. Go find her." I knew exactly what my Golden Retriever Zalee meant, because she herself was a puppy mill rescue. I had found her on the Golden Retriever rescue website a year before. When she directed me to "Go find her," I knew it meant I should look for her new companion on that same web page.

Her previous canine companion had been gone a few months and Zalee was alone and lonely, even though I work out of my home. She needed a dog pal. Somehow, she had been able to manifest one. Because I am a professional animal communicator I was able to hear her command loud and clear.
All day long Zalee reminded me, "Have you checked yet?" but I couldn’t get to the Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota (RAGOM) site until well into the evening. Scanning the section on puppy mill rescues, my eyes immediately froze on one dog and one name: Robin. Incredibly, this was the name of the dog I had just lost to cancer six months before! I stared at the photograph trying to absorb what an incredible "coincidence" it was when I realized that Zalee had directed me to this dog a few short hours ago. I quickly sent an e-mail to RAGOM inquiring if Robin were still available for adoption. I hardly slept that night wondering and waiting to see if Zalee had meant this dog.

The next morning I eagerly checked my e-mail to see if I had news about Robin’s status. There was nothing. I calmed myself in the realization that it was Sunday morning, that this was a volunteer group, and there would probably not be anyone answering mail until Monday at the earliest. I decided to go back and look at the photos of Robin and reread all of her updates. She had had a horrific fours years of hard time as a breeding mother in a mill in Missouri, but she seemed to be slowly adjusting to the real world according to her foster family.

Excited but knowing that I needed to be patient, I still obsessively checked my e-mail again one more time before signing off. Lo and behold, someone from RAGOM had answered while I was rereading the information! Robin was available – and if I wanted her, they would put me on the fast track because I already had adopted a puppy mill dog from them. I remember bursting into tears and crying like a baby. It was pure joy and the realization of an incredible destiny unfolding.

After the obligatory home visit and paperwork for adoption were complete, our path together was indeed on the fast track. We met a few days later. I’ll never forget the first moment I saw her and what she said. I was literally bursting with excitement and anticipation! I remember she looked very tired and worn out for a 4 year old.

Then I heard her first words to me. "Oh, it’s you." And with that she turned around to hide behind the couch again.

No big deal
I felt this was such a moment of destiny, but it was also honestly a bit anti-climactic with Robin’s matter-of-fact attitude. It was then I realized more fully that there are mechanisms and mysteries involved in animals finding "their people" in this world that we will probably never understand. From Robin’s point of view, she had set a strong intention to be released from the mill and she had manifested our connection and meeting. To her it was no big deal.

The actual adoption day also proved to be just as anti-climactic. I learned quickly that this dog, in spite of years of hardship, plays with the cards she’s dealt. She makes the most of life, living every second to its fullest, taking everything in stride. After the usual last-minute tips and good-byes, I beckoned Robin to get in the back of my hatchback with Zalee for the ride home. Her foster family said, "Oh, she’ll be much too afraid to get in by herself." Whereupon, she promptly leaped in back, proceeded to sniff every inch, and then settled in to hog the open window view!

I’m also a shamanic practitioner. I am very connected to the nature spirits of the land where I live. Robin had already become quite reconnected with her instincts as a hunting dog with her foster family, and upon arrival, she scoured every inch of my yard and woods, crashing around and putting the spirits of the land on notice that she was indeed a force to be reckoned with. In the span of 30 minutes Robin had made herself at home on the land, chewed on a huge raw beef knuckle, and attacked Zalee to steal her bone, as well. This was, and still is, one alpha bitch! Zalee was proud of her accomplishment in having directed this adoption, but I knew she wished Robin would take her homecoming a bit less intensely. I also had to wonder the next day when I discovered that Zalee had developed a huge blood blister where Robin had gone after her for the bone. That, of course, required a visit to the vet. Let the fun begin!

The next order of business was a new name. I continued to call her Robin for a few days but it was difficult, because of my previous dog Robin that I had recently lost to cancer. All of my cats wondered what my problem was, calling this new dog Robin! Because of the extraordinary events that had already taken place around her coming into our lives, I thought it would be a good topic for a shamanic divination journey, which is simply a way to access information on any given issue. The intention of my journey was, "Please tell me more about this dog and why she has come into our lives."

Part II: Robin becomes the Leader, Naca Na Cha
The shamanic journeys for information about Robin proved to be very enlightening. My compassionate helping spirits let me know that Robin’s coming signified the start of a new era in my life and healing practice. She would bring me many new clients, both animals and people. She was described as a leader in every possible way, during many past lifetimes. She should be called leader, but in another language. After completing the first journey, I decided that since the spirits hadn’t told me what language to use, I would pick the word that sounded best in French, German or Spanish. Then in a subsequent journey, I was shown a huge billboard with Oglala Sioux written on it in giant letters. I realized Robin’s name needed to be leader in that language. I had also started to notice just how much Native American energy she exuded. After many Google searches for word meanings in Lakota, I finally found a site where it was possible to post language questions. This is the answer I received:
"The Lakota word for Leader is: Oyate Wakaskeyuze and the pronunciation is: oh-yah-day wah-kah-shkay-yuh-zay. It literally means The People’s Leader or just say naca-na cha for short."
It was hard for me to imagine calling "Oh-yah-day wah-kah-shkay-yuh- zay, come!" at the off leash dog park, so I opted for the more compact Naca Na Cha. And so Naca Na Cha was born into a new family with a new name given to her by the spirits. Even this Lakota nickname for leader held part of the mystery. I taught English as a Second Language in St. Paul before beginning my healing practice, and the majority of my students were Hmong refugees from Laos. "Na" means mother and "Cha" means small, jumpy thing in the Green Hmong dialect. So even the language of her name was linked to me in an uncanny way.

This July we will be celebrating our three-year anniversary together. Naca, who is often referred to as Na or Na Na (grandmother!) continues to charge though life, making every second count. She still battles certain fears that are remnants of her time in the mill. Firecrackers make this otherwise stoic and Rock of Gibraltar soul go limp and melt into the ground. When I asked Naca about this, she told me that at her mill when dogs were sick, injured, or just too old to produce anymore, they were shot (to save money on the euthanization process I presume). She showed me blood, lots of blood, and gave me the feeling of how horrible those moments in the mill were. Once in a while when she is looking especially pensive, I ask her what she’s thinking. She lets me know that she is connecting telepathically with her friends who are still in the mill. At these times, I am completely at a loss for words. There is no comprehending the cruelty involved in the factory production of animals, let alone the fact that it is still so widespread in this supposedly civilized country.

Interestingly, Zalee has different fears than Naca, so they complement each other perfectly. When Naca is afraid, Zalee is the calm cucumber and a steadying presence. When Zalee has anxiety about something, Naca is there to crash through the situation and make things work for both of them.

Getting connected
How do people and their animal companions get connected in the first place? Do the animals make it happen? Or is it simply the universe in its divine timing and syncronicity moving the chess pieces here on earth so that we meet? And how does manifestation on the part of people and animals play into it all?

Since having this experience with how Naca came into my life, I have taken much more note of the myriad ways in which people and animals come together and are connected, for whatever length of time here on earth. As a professional animal communicator, I am privy to countless stories of how people and their animals meet. Even the most skeptical of souls will admit to at least a bit of destiny when recounting how they came to have their dog instead of the one they thought they would adopt. As a volunteer with the Retrieve A Golden of Minnesota group stated, "People always end up with the animal they are supposed to have."

This brings us to the ultimate animal mystery. Why are we with certain animals in our lives and what are we supposed to be learning from them? Many people actually pursue these questions during animal communication sessions, and the answers are as varied as the people and their animal companions. Many lessons from animals have to do with anger management and patience. Others are to build trust, to help the person open their heart again after an emotionally painful experience, and still others are to be a companion and true friend to someone who may have difficulty with interpersonal relationships. Unconditional love is the universal lesson taught by all animals. That’s probably the lesson most needed by the majority of people. An important part of this process is to learn from each animal and then bring that knowledge to the next ones who enter our lives.

My personal experience with Zalee facilitating the arrival of Naca Na Cha was a huge lesson in trust, faith and going with the flow of the river instead of walking against the water. Naca has brought an abundance of growth to my healing practice and her arrival did mark the end of my public school teaching career and the start of my new era as a healer. The journey we went on and continue to go through together is extraordinary, and I thank Zalee every day for bringing Naca into our lives. I thank Zalee for finding her way to me so she could do that. And I thank Naca for finding her way out of the puppy mill to both of us. I also thank God for the mysteries of the Universe and for the fact that we don’t really understand how any of this happens.

To see Naca and Zalee’s rescue and fostering stories, visit RAGOM.org and click on Adoption. Click on Adopted Dogs and click on the year 2001. Find Zalee as Jewel 01-132 in the second column halfway down. Naca is listed in 2003 as Robin 03-115 in the third column, fourth dog from the top. Meet Naca and Zalee in person in Lena’s animal communication booth at the Edge Expo on November 10-12, 2006.

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Lena Swanson is a professional animal communicator, psychic, shamanic healer, past life regression facilitator and Reiki master. She is known for her accuracy and wonderful rapport with both people and animals. Lena does phone consultations, teaches a variety of animal communication and shamanic journeying classes and is also available as a speaker for special events. She has spoken often at Edge Life Holistic Expos.

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