When I first met Gretta she scared the bejeebers out of me. I didn't see her when I first let myself into the back gate to my parent's house. Gretta waited until I was fully in the gate with it secured behind me before she stood up and barked

deeply and confidently. My heart skipped a beat as I almost jumped out of my skin! She was bigger than any three-year-old German Shepherd Dog that I'd ever seen; two inches over breed standard with a broad chest, dark muzzle and huge feet quite an imposing figure. After the initial panic, I slowly got the courage to introduce myself.

Gretta was the constant in my life. Adaptable, unwavering, gentle - that was Gretta. Together we learned obedience and other dog sports. We hiked the mountains on weekends. I took her with me everywhere, gave her the best care, and all the love my heart could give. She taught me the responsibility of living with a dog and she showed me unconditional love. For ten years Gretta and I were best friends. She passed away on New Years Eve day 1998.

Lessons in Passing
The grief was unbearable. I cried every time I thought about her. I dismissed the times I thought I heard her collar jingling after she passed. I couldn't have possibly seen her out of the corner of my eye when I came home. Or could I? I think it's fair to say she 'haunted' me. Though my mind reached for that word initially, to my delight I would soon realize the dialogue could actually work both ways. With the revelation would come a shift that changed my entire life.

One morning I heard an animal communicator on a local morning radio show. I was skeptical. VERY SKEPTICAL. This woman not only talked to animals, but also claimed she could talk to those that have died. Was it possible? I doubted it, but I wrote down the number anyway. I was still skeptical even through my first three consultations with Jane. She said Gretta would come back to me, don't look for her, Gretta would find me.

Looking back I see that one of Gretta's many gifts came after she died. Had I not loved her so much, I might not have called an animal communicator from a radio morning show. Her death opened me to new possibilities that I did not consider before she passed away.

As Gretta's student, I opened my heart and mind to the possibilities of a life lived through a deeper connection to spirit. I learned to interpret animal's needs and desires through heightened indicators of my physical senses and intuition. Today, I am a professional animal communicator. I am able to communicate with animals and guide people and their companion animals through behavior disputes, spiritual inquiries, and direct communication. Now, as a teacher, I help people strengthen their own intuitive abilities through expanded communication with their pets.

I've also come to understand - or perhaps my Spirit has come to remember - that we all have a purpose when we come into this life. And for animals it is no different. Sometimes they come to assist us or teach us. Sometimes they come with their own lessons and things to work through. Often it is a unique combination of both.

Faith Returns

For six months after Gretta died, I was adamant I would not get another dog. I didn't want to invite more heartbreak into my life. The thought of reuniting with Gretta only to outlive her once again was unbearable.

Eventually, of course, I found myself searching. I talked to a lot of breeders and met a lot of dogs. I searched shelters and rescues, but none of them had the dog I was looking for - a big German Shepherd with a broad chest, dark features and huge paws. I was disappointed that I couldn't find a dog that seemed just right for me. One day a friend pointed out to me that I was looking for Gretta. It wasn't intentional, but in my heart I knew he was right. I gave up looking for the "one" and put a deposit down on a litter that would be available in August.

Not surprisingly, as soon as I relinquished control in trying to find the just the right dog, a shift occurred. A local breeder called me. She was importing two female German Shepherd Dogs from Germany. She was keeping one, would I like the other? When I met them I KNEW one of these puppies was Gretta's spirit, but which one? I decided to get the bigger one, because Gretta had been a big dog in her previous life. My heart fell when the breeder told me that they were keeping the big one. I brought home the smaller one, and later received confirmation that she was indeed Gretta's spirit in a new body.

When an animal comes back to us they come with a new body and a new purpose. It's important not to expect them to be the same dog they were before. My new little puppy named herself, Faith. It was the only name she would respond to.

Faith was diagnosed with renal failure hours before I was supposed to leave to be the maid of honor in my sister's wedding. Plane ticket in hand, I stood in the exam room at the University of Minnesota Small Animal Hospital calling my sister to tell her I wasn't going to make it to her wedding. I couldn't leave Faith to die in the hospital and she wasn't ready to go yet.

My sister, a Registered Nurse in a Labor and Delivery unit in Colorado, was understandably disappointed and wonderfully supportive. She checked the med dosages against the puppy's weight finding that they were being administered the same way as they would be for a human baby with similar issues. She explained in layman's terms what the veterinarians were trying to accomplish with Faith. Over the course of the weekend' she called 5-6 times to help determine how I could keep Faith comfortable.

With Faith at home, I followed the care regimen outlined by the vets at the University Vet hospital, sought advice from holistic veterinarians, prayed and cried.

August 14, 2000 was the day my puppy, Faith, died. It also was the day my faith was reborn...

This time I understood her passing wasn't "The End." I was sad, of course. It's never easy to lose a friend no matter how long you have known them. But I now had a strong belief that the spirit goes on and can indeed return in whatever form it chooses. I wasn't surprised when I felt Faith 'walk across my bed' that night after she passed away. I knew Faith would be back.

I was honored by the sacrifice Faith made for me. She taught me about faith. And fearlessness, hospice, holistic care, kidney failure, love, family and death. There were a lot of lessons in her 6 weeks with me.

It was no accident that Faith became ill exactly on the weekend I would have to deal with family dynamics at my sisters wedding. Despite all of my psychological, emotional and healing progress around formative familial issues, I didn't have the spiritual strength to be part of the family interactions and deal with old cycles while being my authentic self. Yet, from a safe distance I was able to experience an unusual connection to my family through the very emotional events of a wedding and a death. What might have stressed a sibling relationship, brought us closer. After all, I did choose my dog over an important event in my sister's life!

In the hospice I provided for Faith I summoned the strength to administer injections and subcutaneous fluids, as directed by my veterinarian. I learned about renal failure, and the benefits of coordinating Western medicine and holistic vet care. Most importantly, I discovered I wanted to work with companion animals.

In Search of Faith

One of the most difficult questions I face as an animal communicator when a client's animal companion crosses over is, "Will my animal friend come back to me?" It is a question filled with emotion and riddled with ethical dilemma. The answer is unique to each individual animal soul.

It is possible that all the lessons are completed in one lifetime and it is not necessary for the animal to come back to us. If this is the case, we should take comfort in knowing that we have graduated beyond another life lesson. Perhaps the lesson is in the grieving for the passing of a dear friend.

If the animal chooses to return they may come with a different life purpose. They may have unfinished business with their human companion or they may be embarking on a new lesson. They will be in a different body with a different personality that requires being treated like the new individual they are.

The inevitable follow up question to, "Will they come back?" is, "How will I find them?" The answer lies with my client, not with their deceased animal. TRUST.

Listen to your HEART. You will KNOW.

We must respect the path the animal soul chooses. If they do not return to us, it may be a matter of timing, or there may not be a benefit for us to be partnered again at this time. In loving and letting go, we must also honor their soul's decisions.

That said, when Faith died I so wanted her to come back to live with me.

Around the summer of 2001, I began getting confirmation that she would be returning to earth as another German Shepherd. Although this was the message I'd been waiting to hear, it was distressing to me, because I didn't have room for another dog in my life at that time. It never occurred to me, that she would be returning for her own purpose - which might have nothing to do with me.

Around that time, while visiting a breeder friend, I helped vaccinate a litter of puppies. One female struggled through the vaccination and needed to be held for a second insertion of the needle. I also spent a lot of time with a male from a different litter who was not vaccinated that day and wondered if he was Faith. I was sure Faith was in one of these two litters, the energy seemed right, but I couldn't identify. I was trying too hard to figure out which one was Faith.

Had I let go of my desire to find her, I might have received an answer and been able to spend more time with her.

Instead I did what my clients do, I employed the help of other animal communicators. I received confirmation that Faith was in one of these litters and she had seen me. She was a girl puppy that had been vaccinated that day and I held her longer than any of the other puppies in that litter. She was feisty. She conveyed that she was glad to see me, but had things to do first and that she could not be with me now. All the puppies from that litter were already sold, so I couldnít have brought her home, regardless. Divine intervention.

I told my breeder friend that if a female is returned from that litter in a few years, I would like to have the option to buy her. I'm fully aware that things change over time, and the dog may not be returned to the breeder for a myriad of reasons. I have to honor that Faith has her own lessons to learn. It's all part of our interrelated-ness as we help each other through our lessons in Earth school.

I think of Faith from time to time and wonder when we will meet again. I KNOW Faith and I will have more time together, I just don't know 'when' in Earth-time. The 'when' that I do know is 'when the time is right.'

© 2004 Marilyn Tokach