October 2004--When we asked Beliefnet readers to tell us about their pets' impact on their spiritual lives, we didn't expect the flood of inspiring-and unusual-stories we got. Throughout October, the month when many religious traditions honor animals, Beliefnet will feature our readers' extraordinary stories of how pets bless their lives. See this week's amazing crop.

Healing the Heart's "Nicks and Scratches"
My darling Jake, who is a combination of Boxer, Pit Bull and Ridgeback, is warm, sweet, powerful beyond belief, and is one of the greatest teachers I have ever had. ...having this dog, the first dog of my life, has healed all the tiny nicks and scratches on my heart that I've passed over in order to heal what I've thought of as "more serious" wounds. (This pic was taken at Winter Solstice a couple of years ago. He hated wearing the halo so we took it off right after taking the pic.) --Reya M.

Nero, the Yoga Pug
My two-year-old pug Nero is with me virtually all the time. ...it is in the early morning that he is my spiritual companion. My day begins with yoga and meditation. I begin with asana, and he joins in the fun, offering toys for me to tug on or toss while holding a pose. When meditation time comes, he quiets, and curls into a little ball in my lap, being still until I close my practice. His mindfulness, joy in being alive, and unjudgmental heart are reminders to me each day of what is important in this life. --Judi E.

God, St. Francis, and Chai the Cat
Here's my cat Chai, a Lilac Point Siamese. Chai was undernourished, hit, and not taken care of in his old home. ...He has shown me how any creature, given enough love, can blossom and become a real joy. And I get back more than I give-he's an endless source of enjoyment for me-and love. If, as they say, God is Love, then Chai's transformation is a glorious example of that love! I'm including a traditional blessing/prayer to St. Francis, my biggest spiritual inspiration and hero:
Good St. Francis, you loved all of God's creatures. To you they were your brothers and sisters. Help us follow your example of treating every living thing with kindness. St. Francis, Patron Saint of Animals, please watch over my pet and keep my companion safe and healthy.
--Mary R.

Balder, the Bible Dog
This is Balder, an eight-year-old neutered female Jack Russell Terrier. She sits beside me when I read my prayer book, my sacred study materials, when I pray, and when I am silent listening for God's word to me. Often the sound I hear most clearly is her steady breathing, which comforts me.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Balder to me to remind me that I am at my best when I look outside of my own needs. You bless me through the constant affection she shows me. Protect her, Lord, even when she digs up the back lawn looking for moles. Protect the birds, squirrels and bunnies from her. Please incline my neighbors' ears to ignore her barks. I am watching out for her, God, just as you are watching out for me. Amen.
--Anita L.

"They Love Me When I Ignore Them"
Jock, a Yorkshire Terrier, and Lucy, a Chihuahua, have taught me the true meaning of unconditional love. This is the same kind of love that Jesus has for us. They love me when I'm mad, sad, up or down. They love me when I ignore them or get cross with them. They still love me when I don't talk to them or pet them. That is the way our Father is; He loves us no matter what. --Flo W.

"A Whole World We Would Never Have Known"
My husband and I adopted Faith from a tough Jersey City shelter (Faith was the name the pound gave her). Neither of us believes in a conventional higher power, but there is no question that Faith has linked us to a whole world we would never have known without her-from a homeless man who keeps his dog, Foxy, better than he keeps himself, to David, the bread delivery guy who gives Faith Italian rolls, to people who fear our dog because of the way she looks-until Faith kisses them. Faith befriends, regardless of party affiliation or income-and so I do, too, a little more. She has made our hearts big-which is what I believe a spiritual path is supposed to do. --Martha G.

"She Immerses Herself in Today" Poupon, a Gray Tabby, is a constant companion. She has taught me so much about life; especially in how to handle stress-she sleeps! ...She does not stress about tommorrow or yesterday, she immerses herself in today, this hour, this minute. She embodies the notion of being in the present. --Beth M.

"A Kind, Strong Spirit"
Onion is one of a kind and a very strong spirit. All of my pets are blessings and there is no greater joy than having them. Their unconditional love, daily humorous acts and affection have gotten me through many difficult times in my life. This is a special Protective Blessing for Cats that I would like to share:
Protective Blessing for Cats

Bast, Beauty of Grace,
Protectress of the Feline race,
Shield [name of cat] from all hurt and harm
Always keep [him/her] safe and warm.
Watch over [name of cat] each and every day
Guide [him/her] home, if [he/she] should ever stray
Grant [him/her] great happiness
A good life free of strife and stress.
--Pamela R.

Amen Corner
Dobie, a miniature dachshund, 10 yrs. old, is truly a blessing to us. She is funny yet very obedient. She prays before meals and won't raise her head until I say "Amen."

I thank the Lord for her often. We almost lost her in 2000. She became paralyzed. She was operated on and can run and play again. Many were praying for her recovery. The Lord blessed us. --Darlene "They Never Hold Grudges"
His name is Joe Skunk Go, a registered Quarter horse, and he is 32 years young. He has been there through several tough times in my life and always given me the peace that comes from God.

I have dogs and more cats and 3 more horses and all of them just show me how much God really loves me. They never hold grudges, or remember when I yell-they love me and show me love all the time-just like my father God does. --Melodie C.

"Let Us Pray that She Doesn't Over-Preen"
This is "Pretty Bird," a Pearl Gray Cockatiel around 14 years old. ...We don't have children, but she is like a child and a huge blessing to us. Let us pray that all her feathers grow back, that she doesn't over-preen, and that she has a long life-up to 25 years! --Kyle T.

God "Seems More Obvious When I Look at My Dog"
Here's a picture of Marley (as in the Great Bob Marley). I think I must be dyslexic because when I look at my DOG I see GOD! Unconditional love, support, patience, etc. I know God is in everything, but it just seems much more obvious when I look at my dog. --Janice P.

Jesse, God's Gift
I talked about getting a kitten ever since I moved away from my marriage ... My sisters kept urging me, 'Bev, you need a kitty to come home to at night.' I remarked that I had put it in the hands of God and when the very right kitten came along, the Lord would send him to me. One day soon after, an email came saying there were a family of baby kitties that needed a home. There was only one left, and he had me at hello. I looked for the right name for him in books of names. I came upon Jesse, which means God's gift. The perfect name for my new baby kitten. --Bev K.

A Heaven-Sent Dove
A really good friend of mine passed away this past August '04. I had told him how I wish I had a pet... at his funeral they were going to release the dove, usually represented as a symbol of serenity and peace, but the dove kept on flying back. At the reception my friend's mother asked me if I would keep the dove. I said of course! I just knew it was my friend's doing. It helped ease the pain tremendously. --Jackie

Irish for "Simple Happiness"
My dog's name is "Cady," which is Irish for "simple happiness." Cady came to me at a time when my life was pretty empty & I was at a crossroads. Her arrival has brought me stability & joy. I feel "full" when she's around & just her presence makes me notice & appreciate the little things around me. The sound of her breathing at night makes me feel that God is close by. --Renee P.

"God, Keep Their Noses Cold"
Pete and Bob, domestic shorthairs ...help me remember to give thanks. Blessings that meow to be petted or hop into my lap for a cuddle are wonderful in themselves, and also light my spirit's way to knowing that I am blessed. Thank you God for my little reminders, and please keep their noses cold. --Jane R.

"Offering Comfort to His Buddy"
Blue is a rescued greyhound. He came into my life at a time when I needed hope. My first greyhound, Jessie, was dying of osteosarcoma (bone cancer). Blue and Jessie were instantly best friends. Blue cuddled next to Jessie, offering comfort to his buddy. Blue carried toys to Jessie when Jess couldn't walk. Blue walked next to Jess, propping him so Jess could get around. ...I no longer look up to heaven and ask "why me." Now I've learned to thank God for His many blessings and accept that I can't control everything. --Marian F.

Inspiring a Vegetarian Conversion
My pet's name is Punkin. He is an 11-year-old Siamese mix cat. ...I fell in love with him, and eventually, promised him I would never eat an animal again. I have kept my word, and not only have I not eaten animals, I have also enlightened many people on the evils of the factory farming business. My love for Punkin has grown to include animals of all kinds, and my love and compassion for human beings has increased 100%. I believe that spiritually, I have grown tremendously because of my cat, Punkin. --JoAnne R.

"When I Needed Someone to Hold"
My dog Louie is a Brittany Spaniel. She came into my life when I needed someone very small and warm to hold. I lost a baby at six months into my pregnancy. [Louie] filled a void that I didn't think would ever go away. She helped me heal by just being there for me to hold. --Sondra M.

"Joyful in Small Things"
Dylan is a Springer Spaniel who was very ill when we got him as a puppy. ... He had a surgery on his shoulder and can walk like a normal dog most of the time now. Dylan has taught us that you can be joyful in small things despite adversity. -- Liza R.

Maximizing Bible Study... and Sobriety
This is Max... He likes to sit on my lap while I read my Bible, and it has become a habit; because dogs love routine and with that I developed the habit of reading my Bible a lot more and for that I am so grateful. ...I strongly believe as well that our dog has helped my husband and I in our sobriety because we also have both been sober for over ten years now. Praise God! He is so good and I love Him so. --N. Leal "Such a Simple Peaceful Animal"
This is Kasey. She was my potbellied pig. I had her for 13 wonderful years. She was very smart and unique. As with all my pets, they keep [me] grounded. I would call her name and she would answer with a grunt; loved her belly to be rubbed. She was always happy and wagging her tail. I loved to watch her eat. Such a simple peaceful animal and watching her gave such joy. --Gail

"I'm So Glad God Sent Him"
My pet is an orange tabby named Geddy. My son and I adopted Geddy from our local animal shelter when he was a kitten. We were going through some very difficult family matters which caused us a lot of anxiety and depression. ...Geddy has been a part of our family ever since. I tell him all the time that I'm so glad God sent him to live with us. He gives us such love and attention. I believe he truly is a blessing and we are so grateful for such a wonderful gift from God! --Marilyn S.
"Nothing I Do Escapes His Approval"
My dog Xuong (Chinese name for bear, roughly pronounced "Shown") is approximately 15 years old. Once I wrote a poem about him. It wasn't great literature, but one line expressed his nature beautifully:
"Nothing I do escapes his approval"
Many nights when I lay awake worrying about a problem or mourning the loss of a loved one, I have reached my hand out in the darkness and found he was standing beside the bed awaiting my touch, sensing my sorrow or perplexity and wanting to be close to me. My dearest wish is that I may someday become the person he thinks I am! --RLNance
"He Got Me Interested in Living Again"
This is me and my strawberry roan quarter horse Bacardi. I had him given to me when I was going though a really bad state of depression due to my other horse getting killed by a drunk driver. This guy has so much personality that he got me interested in living again and now we are competing with a lot of success in Cowboy Mounted Shooting events. --Ruth

Keeping a Family Connected
This is Calli, a Calico cat. She is a joy to have around. When my kids became older, it seemed like it was the cat that could keep us all connected, when any of us may have been feeling disconnected. Pets can add a great deal to your spiritual life. They give you a reason to stop, relax and be thankful for their gentle nature and in turn help us to be more gentle in nature too. --Debbie E.
Preparation for Motherhood
I got our female German Shepherd, Abby, when she was only 5 1/2 weeks old and just fell in love with her. I didn't want children at the time and my mother-in-law gave Abby to me as a Christmas present. As Abby started growing, I started thinking about how much I enjoy being her "mommy" and started thinking about having children. As time passed, I prayed that God would give me a child of my own. I believe that God put Abby into my life to get me prepared for motherhood. Now, I have a 1-year old daughter, Reagan, and Abby & Reagan love each other. I pray daily for both of them and I know God hears my prayers about both of my girls. Both girls are the biggest blessings! --Kim W.

Comfort During Chemotherapy
This is our dog White Eagle Talon, an American Eskimo. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in Aug. 2002, he was a real blessing for me. On the days after chemotherapy I would be so sick. I would pray for the strength to get through the chemotherapy and survive for my family. Talon would always come and sit with me while I prayed. He seemed to know that I felt horrible and tried to comfort me. I would pet him and let the stress flow out of me. He's a great little dog and a part of our family. --Carol

"What We Learned from Him Is Immeasurable"
Max, a Yorkshire Terrier, was a rescue. He passed away on 9-1-2004. We only had him for 5 short months, yet he made such an impression on us. What we learned from him is immeasurable... we loved him, and he taught us so much about love. We miss him. Our tiny pet angel. --Tina B.

"God Bless You with Chewy Toys and Squeakies"
Shelby was a Shetland sheepdog. Shelby had congestive heart failure and died at the age of ten. He brought so much joy to our lives. At the end, we asked God to make the choice of when Shelby should be taken. He was very ill and had pulmonary distress. God chose the time so that both my wife and I were home, and he didn't pass alone. I truly believe that God can answer prayers even about our furry kids.
Our Prayer to Shelby: Thank you for being such a wonderful part of our lives and being such a great buddy. We miss you and love you, but we know that you are at God's feet waiting for us. May God bless you with all the chewy toys and squeakies.
--Rbren Waiting Patiently for the Prodigals
This is my Jack. He is a Jack Russell mix. Pretty original name, I know. ...Jack is a better judge of character then I could ever be. He can see what I can't, or in some cases don't want to see. Jack's devotion, unconditional love and dedication to me, my safety and my independence and emotional well being reminds me of the devotion that my God has for me. The world lets me down, or vice-versa, Jack lets me know that he loves me and is always there for me. ...When I come home he wants to be with me, he lets me know that I was greatly missed, and that he was waiting patiently, quietly for my return. Once I have finally come home he will not be a quiet bystander but wants to be ever-present to me when he can... sound like anyone else you know? God does much the same thing. The gospel story read the week I decided to reenter a church after years of being a non-practicing Catholic was the story of the prodigal son. God has a funny sense of humor and impeccable timing. He gave me the slap and kiss. The slap of reality telling me I am the prodigal son, and the kiss saying "I know you have gone, but welcome back, my arms are open and you always have a place to come home to." --Leanne D.

Guardian Angel
Magick is Himalayan and half lynx. I soon after finding him went through a very nasty divorce and Magick just knew how hard it was for me. He seems to be a healer as well as a watcher ... to just guard me and my children. At a time in our lives when we where being threatened by my ex-husband constantly, Majick just always seemed to give us a heads up. --S. Ruby

"With You Wherever You Go"
Shiloh is just great, our golden retriever. When she is ready for a walk, she grabs her leash and collar off the peg at the front door and the when we are walking her she carries her leash in her mouth and just walks with you wherever you go. --John

Proving "Humans Are Worth the Effort"
This beautiful Dalmatian was abandoned and left to die on the mean streets of Miami when my daughter found her and took her home. Candy has been with us for 8 years now and has been a great companion and protector. Her name describes her sweet disposition which despite being treated with extreme cruelty she is able to love.
Dear Lord:

Please watch over our humans, they are so weak. They have no claws or teeth, they can't run fast or fly away, neither can they burrow or build a nest in which to be safe. They smell bad, do strange things that aren't altogether intelligent, have no real ability to communicate with us, although we are able to figure out what they want.

...Please allow us to continue proving the humans are worth the effort. You placed these humans in dominion over us, but you charged us with the task of caring for them and showing them your love every day, through us. --Author Unknown

--Mercedes G.

"We Would Be Lost Without Her"
We got Taloola, a Beagle, in an animal shelter. She was very quiet and walked with her tail between her legs. When we took her home she got used to us. She was able get along with the cats we had. She is such a loving dog. She brought so much love to this family. We would be lost without her. --Kelly

"They Stay Alive to Care for One Another"
The sweet little face above is Tiny, an aged Yorkshire Terrier. The one below is Falcor, a youthful cross of Cairn, Dachshund and Dennis the Menace. Tiny belongs to my mother who lives with us. She's 83. In dog years, I know he's much older. I think they both stay alive to care for one another. Each day mom gets herself out of bed just to let her Tiny out. Tiny too, drags himself out of his furry bed to follow mother through her morning routine. They wait on each other; mom in her wheelchair, Tiny on his bent crippled legs. I don't know how they keep going, both so arthritic and so full of pain. Somehow they inspire each other to live each and every day. -- Deborah D.

Blessed--with Rats
I'm blessed with 4 wonderful male rats! Their names are Dobey, Huggy, Mac and Teddy. Rats are PERFECT little pets, loving and fun - the only downside is their short lifespans. My boys know their names and other words (like 'treat'!), mostly use their litter box, and interact with humans in the most delightful ways! Most pet rats have the intelligence of a 2 1/2 year old child, and I've often been outsmarted by one of my little ones! --Melodi R.

Remembering Lost Friends
This is Moe. I found him (or he found me) at our local humane society seven years ago. He and my dad were especially close. Moe was a huge comfort to dad after my mom passed away, then sadly eight months later my dad went home to heaven. Moe still sits in front of his chair as if waiting for him to come sit down and scratch his ears for him. Moe is definitely a huge blessing in my life and I love him dearly. --Phee B.

"I Hope There Are Cats in Heaven"
Weiner is just one of many cats and other animals I have, but he is the sweetest. ...He is such a little trooper, but I know the end is about to come for him. One thing above all that I have learned from Weiner is unconditional love, he shows it every day of his life.

My prayer request is that he go easy, without suffering... and that I can remember the good times with him, and not the sadness of having to let him go. I hope there are cats in Heaven... Ween will be right there to meet me. --Beverly

"As Much as We Rescued Her, She Rescued Us"
Our 14 year old longhair Chihuahua mix, "Judy," is so happy and loving, no matter what, every day. Unspoiled and unfazed by the sometimes awful things that occur in our lives and and in our world. Truly an angel in a furry little doggie suit.
Father, thank you for this precious angel you sent us. When you placed her there on the side of that road we didn't know then that as much as we rescued her, she rescued us too. Thank you for this gentle kind loving spirit ...bless her and keep her happy and healthy in Jesus' name.
--Suzy J.

"Helping Me Through the Rough Days"
My pets, Benjamin and Daphney, are two Papillions. I know they are angels sent from above to help me through the rough days. I come from a family that consists of a mother who abused me, and a father who abuses alcohol. Sometimes I think it is so unfair that I have the family I do, but then I look at my dogs and realize how lucky I am to have them. They are my rocks and they keep me going on days when I feel like giving up. --Rachel C.

"Dogs Are Not Our Whole Life But They Can Make Our Lives Whole"
O'Laf Hans Harrell II ...has taught me about unconditional love. My husband and I have no children at home anymore and O'Laf and my two other weimaraners are our children. I come from a broken home ... I did not feel loved my entire childhood. This continued through to adulthood and has made it difficult in my relationships. I since have been spiritually filled with God's unconditional love and truly feel loved because of this inspirational bond that I feel my O'Laf has for me. Dogs are not our whole life but they can make our lives whole. --Phyllis H.

"He Reminds Me to Be True to Myself"
This is Monster, a ferocious-looking Persian cat. His huge underbite draws giggles from all who meet him and is the reason for his name, but Monster is actually very sweet-natured. Monster reminds me of what it means to be geniune and sincere. He reminds me to be true to myself and accepting of others. --Rachaelle L.

Visiting Shut-Ins
My dog Sadie is an adorable mutt--half Chihuahua and half Yorkie, with the emphasis on Yorkie. She loves to be around older folks so we go at times to a retirement/nursing home to visit the shut-ins. They adore her, because she is so gentle and affectionate with them. She keeps me in the real world by forcing me to think of others, especially her! When I have a headache or the flu, she is there to comfort me, but to also make me stir around and not just retreat. --Hollie G.

Comforting the Terminally Ill
Kylie was a three-month-old puppy adopted in July 2003 from a rescue house by my daughter Karen. Two months later, Karen was diagnosed with lung cancer. By Nov. 2003, I lost my beautiful daughter in spite of all our efforts to save her life. Kylie comforted Karen during her 3-month ordeal and became my sweet little pet. Kylie is my lifeline and charms everyone who see her, as did Karen during her life. I believe that Karen's spirit is with Kiley and I am so thankful for her company. --Pat D.

Dream Cat
My cat Gabrielle is a two-year-old Himalayan seal point. I'm a 24-year-old female with severe bipolar manic-depressive condition well as a heart condition. It was Gabrielle who came to me in a dream and listened to me talk, as she usually does anyways, but in my dream she could talk and she answered my questions and helped me like no human ever could. She rarely lets me out of her sight these days and is watching me type this right now. Gabrielle truly is a blessing to me. --Sarah L.

"He Taught Me to Love and to Forgive"
Mugsie, a 14-year-old Chinese shar-pei, is a gift from God. In my darkest hours he has taught me to love and to forgive. --Vivian G.

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