Whether we’re aware of our spirit guides or not, they’re ever present in our lives. I’m blessed that I can hear my guides, and that they physically interact with me, but I wasn’t always aware of them. Gegu, my guide, is sitting beside me now, and I’m comforted by his love and belief in me, but when I was younger, there was another teacher in my life.

Before I tell this story, I’d like to share that I now appreciate life as being the ultimate teacher. Every day we’re presented with opportunity and choices. The emotions and events that hurt us should never hold us back. They’re as enlightening as moments of inspiration. Our battle scars, not burdens, are the evidence of a life fully lived.

Often people marvel at my connection with spirit, but everyday the spirit of the earth, of the universe communicates to us. A ray of sunlight, a bird’s song, a trail of industrious ants, a stranger’s grimace or smile are spirit guides communicating to us. We, with our senses, our emotions, our conscious and unconscious thoughts, create the conversations of the present, and our’s and the world’s future.

This is a story about the universe talking back.

Many years ago I worked as a shepherd, and I had an old farm dog that I communicated telepathically with. This dog, Tip, knew what I was thinking, and what I needed before I knew myself. One day, while driving home exhausted and deep in thought, Tip climbed from the back of the van, onto the back seat, and placed his head on my shoulder. I was in pain, physically and emotionally stretched to breaking point. Tip knew he wasn’t allowed to be on the back seat, but silently, and balancing against the twists and turns of the road, Tip’s love for me defied his training.

Farm dogs need to be well trained and disciplined. The welfare of livestock and the economies of a lifestyle are at stake. Tip was observant, he reacted to my body language, watched the surrounding countryside, and all his senses worked harmoniously. I’d trained him to walk behind me, and he was so good at it that no matter how quickly I turned, he manoeuvred with me. When I wondered where he was, because most times he padded along quietly, he’d touch my hand with his nose. He’d also touch my hand when my mind was chaotic, when I was sad, thoughtful, and aching from physical labour.

I copied his silent gait, walked around not through plants, felt the earth before placing each step. I moved without disturbing the ecosystems I trespassed. I was already a natural animal tracker, and Tip heightened this trait. On the farm we were purposeful, in the bush we were ghosts. Looking back I marvel at how in sync we were, with each other and the land.

Tip looked me in the eye, which is rare for his breed, he made me laugh, he amazed me, and no matter what my mood, and some weren’t great, he stood beside me. He was brave, intelligent, compassionate, and loyal.

The greatest gift Gegu and Tip gave me was forgiveness. I was an intense teen, and at times I disciplined Tip physically. I could use the excuse that that was the way others, old farmers, had shown me, but it was unnecessary with this dog. Tip looked me in the eye and tried to tell me, and then forgave me and loved me regardless. His voice and reasoning invaded my mind, causing me to pause and re-evaluate my actions and our relationship. I chose to be different than my forefathers.

Late in our relationship, we lived in town and commuted to the farm we worked on. When we were home, Tip, followed my movements in the house: if I was in the bedroom, he sat outside the bedroom window, when I showered, he sat at the bathroom window. Tip and I lived with my first partner, and Tip was attentive to her needs also. When our baby cried, Tip moaned to alert us. He followed our child when she was outside playing, and when I wasn’t paying attention, he watched over my daughter, and stared at me until I looked up.

He wasn’t allowed in the house, but when my partner left for some chore, he pushed the sliding door open, walked in and lay at my feet. I’m certain he commanded his hair not to fall out and betray him. He heard my partner returning before I did and he’d wander outside, sit on the porch, and wait to greet her. He respected everyone’s rules and made up his own.

The only time I left Tip in someone else’s care he ate through three inches of wood to get out of his kennel to find me. I almost lost him that day. Stray dogs wandering on farms are shot and some farmers shoot indiscriminately. He looked like a stray – hollow from not eating and stress, bloodied mouth and paws from wood splinters and jagged wire-netting.

There are no coincidences in life – we live in a communicating field. My dog was lost. Where was he? Five minutes after discovering he’d gone, my neighbour, unaware of what had happened, pulled in the drive and told me he’d seen a dog that he thought was Tip. The location was a shooting gallery. After months of dog attacks on livestock, angry farmers were shooting everything that moved.

Tip was searching for me. His instincts had taken him in the right direction, but his anxiety had dulled his insight for danger. I drove like a WRC driver to the location and found him. When I called him, his head spun around and he loped towards me. He looked embarrassed, confused, and he cried. Upon seeing me his training had taken over, he felt he’d done something wrong, but he didn’t know what it was. I let him travel home in the front seat beside me.

Tip was strong, he’d pull down anything I commanded him to, and he was without fear. Once he ran up a flight of stairs on the wool-shed, jumped off the patio, almost three stories high, to head a group of steers. He landed like he’d just stepped over a log and on the run. I’d teased him by glancing at the bullocks, indicating that I wanted him to round them up for me. He trusted me, and responded to my gesture. He taught me to be mindful.

The Entanglements of Life

Tip’s here now. His nose is resting against my legs. He’s looking at me wondering if I’ll write about his death. Gegu, watching us, looks peaceful. This isn’t what I had intended to write, but I’m comfortable with not being in control.

Tip was already a teenager when I got him. A dying man gave him to me from his hospital bed. A priceless dog, a priceless moment. I’d separated from my partner, and it was time for me to move on. Tip was old, he wouldn’t survive being parted from me, he wouldn’t be happy away from the land.

If this moment hadn’t happened I’d not be a healer today, I’d not be the father of five children, and I’d not be writing this article. Those things could end as quickly as they manifested or propel me forward to new adventures. There is never a negative experience. All experiences are positive. Consciousness is an entanglement of pluses.

Tip and I went hunting one last time. We moved as stealthily as the mist rising from the forest canopy. Water dripping from silver ferns covered the noise of our heavy breathing. We tracked deer, stuck our noses in rabbit burrows, and drank side by side crouched over a crystal clear stream.

When we rested Tip looked greyer than I thought him to be. We sat together in the sun on a rise overlooking a bush covered valley. Native trees competed with invading wattles, gorse, blackberry vines, and ragwort. A pukeko hen and European quail searched for bugs on an embankment. Everywhere I looked I was reminded of the impact white settlement had had on New Zealand. I felt disorientated realising that my life too was out of balance.

I scratched at the earth with my shepherds knife, a curved twelve inch blade that always hangs sheathed on my hip. I don’t recall how I made this decision, I hadn’t planned to end the day this way. I moved the dirt with my hands and Tip watched me with curious smiling eyes. After the hole had been dug Tip leaned against my shoulder and we watched three deer flitting in and out of the forest on the hillside across the valley.

Tip made the decision that I couldn’t. He got to his feet, licked my face, moaned his love for me and lay down in his grave. The gunshot echoed around the valley forever. It still echoes in me. Tip still keeps me company. He has forgiven me. He loves me. It is the two gifts he and my guides always have for me.

Life has been my greatest teacher.