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#88 Friends Along The Way

Hello, my dear listeners.

Today, a year ago, my life changed.

It was the morning after Christmas. Cup of coffee in hand, I looked out the window and saw our three horses standing by a big round bale in the field. I exhaled because that is what I do when I see everyone standing and content.

Something seemed weird, though. My light grey mare Shana had one of her hindlegs cocked, meaning she took all the weight off that leg, and from the knee down her leg was muddy brown. Had she stepped into mud, my brain wondered? It was 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The ground was frozen. There were no mud puddles.

I threw on a jacket and stepped into my boots. I had to take a closer look.

As I headed toward the gate, all three horses looked up. I called out, 'Hi, everyone," but as I said those words, I could feel they landed differently than usual. Cutter and Monarch put their heads down and continued eating while Shana nickered quietly toward me.

My stomach tightened. Shana usually neighs loudly when she sees me. Why the quiet nicker? My hand shook, opening the gate. As I got closer and closer to my girl, I noticed that the brown leg was actually deep red. Thick rivulets of darl blood had dripped down her leg from a wound right inside of her hock, her left knee.

What followed has been a life-changing journey.

I am writing an audiobook with Shana and a few other furry guides who showed up along the journey. I am taking time this winter to finish writing the story and start recording it for you to hear.

I just mentioned that several furry guides helped me get through the fear, the concern, the ups and downs of this injury, and Shana's recovery. There were also a few unexpected humans who came into our lives in early 2023. One of them spoke with animals and helped me understand how much animals are friends along the way.

Let me back up and fill you in.

Until recently, two days a week, I worked at a very cool art gallery called Fire Arts, in Brattleboro, VT. The gallery attracts a lot of creative, unique, eccentric, and tuned-in people. For someone like me, a true introvert-trained extrovert, it was a great way to meet curious, open, and creative people. During Shana's accident and recovery, one person stood out to me.

This gentleman came every so often and bought one of my books for a friend.

The first time he came in, he had seen my books and asked what I did. I said I communicate with animals, and he replied, "Of course you do; I just chatted with the geese down the street in the field by the river."

I laughed, and because I wasn't 100% sure if he was joking, I said, "Haha, did you?"

"Yes," he said.

Well, and that was that.

This guy totally got it. He was not joking.

He was talking with geese.

Another time, he came in and told me he had house-sat for a friend. And the friend's cat had joined him on the deck one night. There he had sat and chatted with the cat on the deck … surrounded by fireflies … and as he told me, the cat came into our chat. He shared some great ideas for this friend he made on the deck. I drew it all out on paper, and after the guy left the gallery, I sat down and exhaled. Cat on the deck, fireflies, … magical.

When Shana got injured, I told this guy, who now felt like a friend. I mean, he got it. How often do we meet someone like that? If not a friend, he is at least a kindred spirit, right?

So I shared with this kindred spirit that birds had been showing up for me. Birds would show up every time I drove to see Shana at the hospital. Hawks, Bald Eagles, Herons, Osprey, Raven, and more hawks. And not just one or two. Eight, ten, fourteen. One day, I asked a haw sitting on a branch on the right side heading down 90 east, "Why are so many of you showing up?" And the hawk answered, "We're friends alogn the way." And with it came the visual of me going up and down the highway day after day, visiting Shana. These birds were aware of that and how taxing it could be. And so they showed up as friends along the way.

In podcast #53 My Wild Life, I talk in more detail about the experience. Check it out.

So, as I told my new friend that the birds had mentioned they were friends along the way, he nodded and said," Yes, yes, yes."

Shortly thereafter, my friend started to send me videos of intelligent animals. Not dogs who tap buttons with their paw or noses or horses who are sea-sawing in unison with a pony. He forwarded me videos that illustrated the animals' innate wisdom. The videos would show how animals, wild animals in particular, are reaching out to us to warn us, to ask us for help, and to get our attention for the betterment of all involved.

I loved it.

Because I spend so little time cruising through social media content, I was always excited to see what he sent me. It was another example of how much closer we can still grow with animals if we stop, breathe, wait, watch, and are open + curious.

Seeing animals show up in heroic ways in those videos made me even more grateful for the feathery friends that showed up along the highway. And for the human friend I made along the way because he was enthralled and inspired by the feathery friends.

And what a relief to understand we can call our animal companions friends.

I sometimes struggle calling myself or naming another human an animal's parent, mom, dad, brother, or sister. Especially when the animal is regal, dignified, or a master at their purpose. I can't belittle the animal by calling the people their parents when they hold the family together. See what I mean here?

So, I always call the humans the animal's people. Your people, your person. And that works.

But I have learned that we can most authentically call our animals friends along the way. Because aren't our animals precisely that? Our good, challenging, straightforward, tough, and best friends along the way?

With coffee in hand this morning, I walked out on the deck; Shana was standing right below in the pasture. Left hind leg cocked. But only to relax.

Here we are a year later, and my life is changing again.

Just days ago, I heard that my human friend along the way had unexpectedly passed away. What a loss for me and for the other friends he made along the way.

Life is precious, my friends.

Let's breathe it in and live it out.

For 2024, let's make friends along the way. Good ones, challenging ones, easy ones, tough ones, and those who lift us up and inspire us to go farther and wider.

As always, open and curious.

And as always, I can't wait to be back with you next time!

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