Her name was/is Trivia. She left her physical body almost 20 years ago, yet she is still with me every day. When I first met her as a 5-week-old puppy born next door, I had no clue that she would change my life forever. She was the type of dog that everyone loved – even those afraid of most large breeds. She just assumed that they would know that she was not a threat and that they could accept her with no reservations.

Trivia would have been a great therapy dog, but I didn’t even know those wonderful ambassadors even existed then. I was the one who was dense, career-focused, and oblivious to the divinity that shines within all.

While Trivia was alive, outside appearances were much the same from year to year. Inside however, doors were being opened and seeds were being planted that would affect not only my spirituality, but my mission in this lifetime. For 14 years she gave me the unconditional love that my soul needed to heal and feel safe. It was a time of preparation and strengthening for a future of upheaval, pain, confrontation and awakening.

The two-by-four motivation to change actually occurred after Trivia died. My first marriage was built upon alcohol, and both of us used it as a crutch to shore up our emotional defects of character. The best example of this was that my husband could not support me in the decision to let Trivia go. He refused to be with me during the process and stayed late at the bar instead, leaving me to grieve alone. That was an "ah-ha" moment as I realized how many times she had given me unconditional support when he was unable to.

It was the beginning of the end of the marriage, though I didn’t recognize it until later. Even in death, she gave me the priceless gift of awakening to the reality of my life at that time. Being honest about it came later, after a significant health crisis, counseling and Alcoholics Anonymous.

Trivia continued to be a major influence in my life even after I adopted another dog. As I negotiated my way through the divorce process, struggled with the self-definition puzzle and began to investigate new ways of thinking, being and doing, she watched over me from her picture on my bedroom wall and came to me in my dreams. She moved with me to a new home and then into a second marriage, this time with my soul mate. It was when I attended my first animal communication class and talked to her spirit-to-spirit that I realized that she had been the catalyst, the change agent, for my new life path.

Many of us have had the honor to experience a soul relationship with a special animal. We all know that we are changed for the better because of this, but I’d like to specify some of the lessons I learned from Trivia, my heart dog:

• Be honest with yourself and others. Animals don’t lie, and they are certainly not phony. They are often our mirrors, reflecting back to us our true natures.

• Live in the moment. Be truly present with yourself and others. The greatest gift you can give someone, especially your animal companion, is your undivided attention.

• Take care of yourself. Giving is blessed when it is done from a place of health and wellness, it is a form of martyrdom when done from a place of depletion.

• Compassion is felt from the heart and soul, not necessarily from emotion. If you want to effect change in our world cultivate compassion with detachment. You’ll get more accomplished by not being emotionally distraught.

• Give unconditionally, without having something invested in the outcome. Animals do this naturally – except cats, of course. They always want to know what’s in it for them.

• Most of all, keep growing, learning and integrating. Give yourself credit every day for every step (even the tiny ones) you’ve taken towards your own self-development. We all arrive a little every day.

Mary L. Stoffel is an Avatar® Master, animal communicator, and shamanic practitioner. Her mission is to help others achieve their fullest potential and happiness through delivering The Avatar Course®. She is also the author of The Practical Power of Shamanism: Heal Your Life, Loves and Losses. For more information about the Avatar program, contact her at 763.444.8146, email mlstoffel@innovatord.com or visit www.avatarepcmn.com.

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