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My good old dog buddy Zak is getting ready to leave his body. He's 18 years old—a very long life in dog years for his special blend of golden retriever, cocker spaniel and samoyed traits.


Zak's slow down came on gradually. His hips got creaky and undependable. We'd take care to walk up the stairs behind him so he wouldn't fall backwards. Later, he had trouble going up or down stairs at all. By this time, his hearing and eyesight had diminished, and he had trouble controlling his bladder. So, we moved him into the garage. Max, our big black lab, agreed to spend his nights with Zak. I made Zak a comfy dog bed with a thick cushion and covering, though in the morning it was often Max who was laying there. This was typical Zak; his preference was to rest on the cool concrete or floor.

At first I felt badly about my old friend banished to the garage. I held some guilt about this until Zak said offhandedly that he was glad to "finally have my own den." I had to laugh. This, too, was typical Zak. No fuss, no judgment, simply Zak observing his life through the clear lens of who he is.


It's been more than a year since Zak began his extended exploration of the death process. He has trouble getting up and moving more than a few yards at a time. Mostly, he appears to sleep. I brush him lightly in the mornings when I feed him, and stroke his golden fur at night when I bring him dinner. He gets company during the day, my husband puttering around the garage, or me checking on him, sitting with him, sometimes talking, sometimes just being quiet.


"Zak, is there anything you'd like to pass on?" I asked him recently. "Something you'd like to share with me or other humans? Anything you want to remind us of, my friend?"


He begins by showing me an image of himself as a small pup. I feel him tap into my memories: how I lifted his warm, wriggling body from a cardboard box in a grocery store parking lot, held him close to my chest, and wouldn't let go. Slowly, I watch the scenes shift and start to see life through Zak's perspective: a puppy-eyed view of the woods outside our northern Wisconsin home; snippets of smells and sights, textures and sounds—tree trunks and loamy earth, sharp scents: squirrels, rabbits, other dogs marking their territory. I feel his body falling from a pier into the shockingly cold water of a lake, his legs scrambling for purchase. And again, falling from the side of a rowboat, and how this set the stage for his mistrust of large bodies of water. I feel him running—running through a vast expanse of hard, white ground. I smile, recalling how we snow machined with friends to a remote cabin near the Denali foothills, how Zak ran and ran alongside the loud machines, with the other dogs, the group of us a peculiar pack of wildly racing creatures.


He shares so much, as if we are watching a fast-forward version of his life. Near the end, Zak reminds me of an image he showed me a few days prior: a trampoline. I thought this odd and wondered what it had to do with Zak, since it is Max who always barks at the trampoline. But Zak, in his ever wise, patient mode, asked me to stay with the image. Nudging my thoughts once again, he intimates that this image holds the answer to why he is staying in his body for so long.


Like a Zen koan, the image didn't make any sense to me. My mind wandered and I began to recall all the times during the past year I had told Zak, "It's okay to leave whenever you are ready. Let me know if you need help." Sometimes when he seemed in pain, I would tap his head gently at the top of the skull, reminding him he could gather up his spirit energy and sail right through. After doing this a few times, Zak informed me that this was an old Egyptian way, not his style at all, so I needn't remind him of something he didn't plan on using anyway. His comment made me laugh. Here I was trying to be wiser than the wise one; when would I ever learn?


I sat with the image of the trampoline for several days. And then one night, just as I was drifting off to sleep, I suddenly saw: Zak was using his earth body as a trampoline. The second I 'got' it I felt Zak present, nodding and agreeing. He showed me how he used his sleep time to travel to other places… dimensions, lives, realities. I'm not exactly sure where my intrepid dog friend traveled, but he was often away. I knew that. What I hadn't understood is that, according to Zak, his earth body was very useful as a 'jump' between certain inter-dimensional places or events.


"Think of it as a secret place inside a worm hole," Zak told me. The conventional human idea is that we can use wormholes to travel through space very quickly. They are shortcuts in a sense, connecting one place to another through a fold of space-time. What Zak was showing me, however, was a 'trampoline' within a wormhole that allowed him to 'bounce' from within the speeding tunnel of the wormhole to an entirely different space-time-dimension.


Whoa! I wasn't sure if this was Zak's unique perception or his own creation, but at that point I'm pretty sure I heard him chuckle. He knew how little it took to push me beyond my comfort zone—and this business of sub-alternate realities within wormholes…


"Why do you call it a sub-alternate reality?" he asked. "There is nothing 'sub-alternate' about it at all. Like death on the earth plane—not an end as some humans guess, but an opening to a range so wide you can hardly imagine all the different experiences and modes of being."


Zak then reminded me of something he said a long time ago: that the openness of what is before us—our range of alternatives—is in direct correlation with how open we are inside ourselves, how wide and deep and vast we allow ourselves to stretch our imaginations, our views of change and possibility.


This, he said at last, is what he wished to share with every heart: this feeling-sensing-knowing of the infinite. And how everything is really, truly, alright. That as we feel a blossoming of connection—knowing we all are part of All—in our hearts and minds and souls, then we, too, cannot help but be balanced, knowing that we are right exactly where we need to be, we are really and truly who we need to be. There are always signs for us to remember, to follow, to feel our way home. Signs reassuring us that all is well. That the universe has a deep and wonderful sense of humour. That we all have our own uniquely perfect paths, and it is all right, right here, right now, all ways.

~ ~ ~

Read Part Two.

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