Soul Dog


An excerpt from Soul Dog: A Journey into the Spiritual Life of Animals

This is much more than the story of a special bond with a dog. Many have experienced the depth of feeling that can develop between us and our four-legged best friends. What makes this story unique is that my search for a lasting and meaningful connection led me down a path that crossed over the boundaries of reason and concrete reality into the realm of the invisible.

My dog Brio inspired me — a born skeptic — to investigate the paranormal. In doing so, I discovered that there is much more to Heaven and Earth than I had ever dreamed of as a fact-driven investigative journalist. Once we become open to new possibilities, we become open to a new world.

I grew up on pragmatism and logic based on my parents’ teachings. I built my career in television journalism, trained as a reporter, and lived my life bound by reason and fact. I saw myself as a questioning rationalist and still do, in many respects — at least as I function in the everyday world. But I stepped beyond my “comfortable” world in which everything had its place and made sense and ventured into foreign territory.

No doubt, many people who develop particularly close relationships with dogs describe the connection as remarkable. But surely, far fewer embark on the kind of quest I undertook; they generally don’t question the nature of their pet’s spiritual origins. I came to contemplate the possibility of a wordless language between species. Moreover, I considered that such a conversation could take place across time and space, and even across the boundary of physical death.

I entered a world of animal communicators, psychics, and mediums. In the beginning, I would tell myself that it was a journalist’s drive to investigate that led me down this road. In truth, I was fascinated. As a journalist, once I began to see evidence of a reality I had never contemplated before, there was no turning back. I had to get to the bottom of it all. Then, after the communicators and intuitives succeeded in convincing me, I began to turn my journey inward and develop my own spiritual aptitude.

Of course, I didn’t come to this new way of thinking immediately. My beginning steps were full of doubt and suspicion. But when the psychics and communicators began to report on their conversations with animals with startling accuracy, I had to acknowledge that whatever they were doing, it was working.

As much as I questioned how the communicators could possibly know or hear or somehow see what my dog was “saying,” I couldn’t deny that they had access to information that I had not verbally given them, that they could not have known by ordinary means. I came to accept that something extraordinary was happening, though I could not explain how or why.

This is the story of a continuing quest, of efforts to test the communicators and psychics, to gather the experience and opinion of other dog people, including professionals. I spoke with respected trainers and handlers like Mary Benjamin, border collie trainer and author Donald McCaig, and Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, also a highly regarded trainer and author. Their insight offered invaluable perspective. Some professional handlers believe the idea of psychic communication with dogs is an insult to traditional training methods. Others are open to the possibility of an extrasensory language and even committed believers. Furthermore, some scientists I interviewed are convinced of a canine afterlife.

The voices of the animal communicators and psychics with whom I spoke were very important. Their tone and the beauty of their words were often as convincing as the content of what they said. It would be impossible to tell this story and convey the emotional impact of what I heard without bringing the voice of these translators as close to the reader as possible.

As the tale of an intimate relationship with a dog, this is not an uncommon story — not even as an account of personal change, even transformation, through that relationship. That is something many readers experience. My adventure is unique because it is an exploration into telepathy, afterlife communication and metaphysics that walks all of us on the journey out of skepticism, to curiosity, to the need to believe, the need to find proof, to a crisis of faith and, finally, into a new understanding of the unbreakable bond between humans and animals.

In the course of my journey with Brio, I have moved from being someone who feared close relationships, struggled with them, to someone who bonded deeply with another creature in life and death. I have become a more loving, engaged, open person because of the rich and uncomplicated bond I shared with Brio. Our journey together transformed me entirely, and seamlessly, through the power of unconditional love, and a deeply instructive spiritual connection.

I understand that the bond with Brio is unbroken even in death, not figuratively or metaphorically, but with an unshakable conviction that was once incomprehensible to me, and which brings me an enormous sense of peace and gratitude about my own life, its meaning and its transitions. There is gratitude also for the fact that my need to understand “just a dog” led me to explore aspects of existence that I’d never considered. Do dogs — do all beings — have abilities to perceive that go beyond the five senses? Do these “extra” senses offer ways to communicate within and between species in ways that the precepts of Western, materialistic science do not acknowledge?

One might say that mine was a journey on two parallel paths: rooted in the immediate joys of life with a dog, right here in the now, the walking, the running, the tail wags, the smiles, yet simultaneously leading me down a road toward tantalizing questions about who animals are and what they tell us about who we human animals are, as well. It’s a journey to revel in.

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Elena Mannes is an award-winning independent documentary director/writer/producer whose honors include six Emmy Awards, a George Foster Peabody Award, two Directors Guild of America Awards, and nine Cine Golden Eagles. She has written, directed, and produced series and documentaries for CBS, PBS, ABC, and the Discovery Channel, including The Amazing Animal Mind and the PBS primetime special The Music Instinct. She lives in New York City. Her new book is Soul Dog: A Journey into the Spiritual Life of Animals (Bear & Co.) Visit Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International,


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