Tuesday, October 26, 2010

panting among us

When I was growing up in small-town Pennsylvania, my parents brought me to church every Sunday. As a little girl, I couldn't really comprehend the complications or beauty of the Mass, but I did listen to the stories and remember going to summer Bible camps and CCD classes. One thing that always stuck with me, even at such a young age, was the concept of guardian angels. At home, at church, and even on television and movies this idea of a benevolent spirit watching over me, keeping me safe, was a big deal to me. I just didn't buy the whole dude-with-wings concept. They didn't seem all that tough when it came to protection. The angels in the church literature looked like George Stephanolopous in drag with a harp fetish. I did not want to be caught lost in the woods or in a dark alley with that guy watching my back. Since I didn't care much for literal interpretations: I went with my gut on this one.

So as a little girl when I got scared, or worried, or felt bullied at school I would just close my eyes and ask for my angels. In my 6-year-old brain I didn't see people with wings and harps but a pair of large wolves at my side. They were the size of lions, talked like people, and when they growled the earth shook. If I was scared walking home in the dark I'd imagine one walking on each side of me, padding along with their heads low, scanning the streets of Palmerton for danger. If a ghost, monster, or mean kid was out there they would scare them off. I remember imagining my hands on their thick coats, feeling the fur of their manes under my fingers. As I grew older I never really lost this mental image. I think I trained myself into it actually. When I learned to drive a car they were loping along outside as I drove. They weren't as clear as they were as a child, more like milky shadows or afterthoughts, but still there. When I moved out of my parents house and into college dorms and apartments I'd have dreams of two giant wolves outside the door, sleeping like golden retrievers, keeping watch.

Now I'm all grown up. I rarely think about lupine guardian angels anymore, but I did realize something last night. As I sat on my couch watching a scary movie, I instinctually reached down to hug Jazz, who was asleep on my lap. His giant head resting, breathing on my thighs. Annie was curled up at my feet, like a fat little fox with her tail over her nose. The two large dogs had thick coats, prick ears, sharp teeth, and wolfish figures. (Jazz especially looks like a wolf, with yellow eyes and huge canine teeth.) Together these two gentle beasts have been by my side in every state, every farm, every adventure. I had held their necks shaking and crying when I was terrified or heartbroken. I had held their paws and danced in happy bliss to the kitchen radio. I had ran beside them, slept beside them, and I miss them when they are not by my side. I can not imagine a day without them...

Had my guardian angels finally found me after all these years?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is such a lovely thought, that the animals we love the most and who protect us might really be angels on earth. I live with three rescue cats, and my oldest, Rennie, always knows when I am feeling sick or down. She appears with a bossy presence to "nurse" me back to health. Rennie mothers and smothers with equal care.

My mother and I have often posed if there is an animal heaven. Most of our Southern religious neighbors would have a fit if they thought cats, dogs, birds, and horses could share God's heavenly kingdom, but weren't the animals created before man? I know I say a silent prayer for each little critter I pass on the highway, frozen in rigor mortis on the side of the road. Saying prayers for roadkill? Well, it's the least I can do.

I wrote about my father's experience growing up on a sheep farm, if'n you'd like to read it. It's here at: http://simplegifts.typepad.com/blog/

Sarah Rachel

October 26, 2010 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger Hopeful said...

sounds like you've had your guardian angels in your home for a long time! glad you recognized them. nice post.

October 26, 2010 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I went to a psychic years ago who told me that I have an old wizardy man (she said he looked like Dumbledore from the Harry Potter books) as my guardian angel. I was never a wizardy, fantasty-novel kind of girl, but for some reason that image felt very calming instead of weird or creepy. She said he claps his hands for me when I do something good, which I like to picture every once in a while. Not as cool as wolves, but still kind of nice. ;)

October 26, 2010 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger Odd Ducks Farm said...

Beautiful, Jenna. Absolutely beautiful.

October 26, 2010 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger Dani said...


It sounds like your guardian angels sent something more "earthy" to keep you company, to give you solace, to protect you and to play with. To remind you that they are always around.

You are blessed.

A lovely posting - thank you.


October 26, 2010 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger E said...

Animals bring so much into our lives if we let them!

You are braver than I am - no scary movies here!

October 26, 2010 at 12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful picture of Annie!

October 26, 2010 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Cool images for your guardian angels. Really.

October 26, 2010 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

You have a beautiful soul.

October 26, 2010 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Flik said...

I'm reading a fascinating book called "Animals Make Us Human" by Temple Grandin, and there's an explanation about dogs and wolves and the similarity in appearance marking similar behavior. (http://www.grandin.com/inc/animals.make.us.human.ch2.html)

Also she says that dogs are immature wolves - they never quite grow up. So you may actually have your two giant wolves, just in pup form.

October 26, 2010 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Flik said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 26, 2010 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Yep! I like your vision of guardian angels better. And yes, I do think some animals are sent here to be with us. Great post. Loved it.

October 26, 2010 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Yes, they found you, and you were looking for them without realizing it.

October 26, 2010 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger Robbie Knight said...

I WEPT, Jenna. Beautiful post. I love my "wolves", too. They've made me a Mommy. I'd be lost without them.

October 26, 2010 at 3:41 PM  
Blogger Patti~~~ said...

I deeply believe in the power of guardian animal spirits. When my son left for Iraq, it brought my husband and I a sense of peace believing that the "special guardian" we called on to watch over our son and protect him would do the job we asked of it. Now, after hearing some of our son's stories, we KNOW that his guardian was working overtime!! Belief is a powerful thing. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful post, Jenna.

October 26, 2010 at 6:14 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Maybe your imaginings as a child is what brought huskies into your life. At any rate, it is pretty cool.

October 26, 2010 at 8:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this. I don't suppose you'd mind if I filed this away to use as a winter illustration project? If I do make it, I'll send you a copy! I love the picture of a small girl with two huge wolves protecting her.

October 26, 2010 at 9:44 PM  
Blogger Tracy Bruring said...

I love my retarded guardian. (ok he's goofy not retarded). I sleep like a baby when I hear him growl or bark mean in the night. I know I am being protected and so is my stock!

October 26, 2010 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Okay, that does it! I've got to get another dog!!

October 26, 2010 at 11:54 PM  
Blogger Katie said...


October 27, 2010 at 12:28 AM  
Blogger Manzanita Farms said...

Dearest Jenna,

We have so many dogs I can't even say the number to myself. In addition to our original group I have brought home 4 strays (there are a lot of strays where we live) and each one has been a blessing beyond belief. They are all gentle, get along with the other dogs and each bring their own special gift. Believe it or not, I just found another stray today wondering on a country road going up to the cars that were slowing for him. I will post pics around town in case he lost his family. So far he is a gentle, regal boy who laid his head on my lap tonight while I petted him like he had been on a long trip and was happy to be home. All animals are amazing and they know so much more than we think they do. I'm glad your guardian angels found you and they take your protection very seriously.

October 27, 2010 at 1:02 AM  
Blogger debi said...

Your best post ever. And yes, your angels have found you. I love the idea of this.

October 27, 2010 at 5:00 AM  
Blogger Plant City Homestead said...

Wow, Jenna. Your writing angel was with you when you were writing this post. I think your vision of wolves is more like some of the angel stories in the Bible. Some of them were great warriors. Have you read "The Chronicles of Narnia?" Your story reminded me of it. Maybe there is a short story in this.

October 27, 2010 at 7:35 AM  
Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

Again, you have left me in awe, Jenna. Absolutely beautiful; the writing, the picture, the concept. Like Dani said...You are Blessed. Namaste

October 27, 2010 at 8:51 AM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

Okay..you got me. I sniffled. Wonderful post.

And Sarahrachel--me too. Thought I was kinda looney to do it, but I do the same thing for each creature on the roadside.

October 27, 2010 at 9:35 AM  
Blogger 6512 and growing said...

Jenna, how lucky you are to have your wolf angels and even more so to realize it.

October 27, 2010 at 12:13 PM  
Blogger CK said...

As a child, my favorite sibling was our dog. I've been on my own a while, but last year a dog found her way into my life and I can't remember what life was like without her! Loved your post. It made me think of Aslan in The Lion The Witch & the Wardrobe. If you've never read the series by CS Lewis, they're great reading for any animal lover...especially on a crisp fall evening wrapped up on the couch.

October 27, 2010 at 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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October 27, 2010 at 4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 27, 2010 at 4:05 PM  
Blogger bookjunky said...

You chose them.

I can understand the instinct. I have two Great Pyrenees. They make me feel safer, and calmer. Much like watching the sheep.

It's good to choose real guardian angels, ones that exist in the here and now, over imaginary ones.

October 27, 2010 at 8:08 PM  
Blogger Future Farmer said...

This is fantastic. Whenever I am sick, my Labrador Retriever sits right by my side.
Not to be considered spamming, but I am just going to give my blog address, if you don't mind.


It's about being fed up with society, and the yearning to farm.

October 27, 2010 at 11:19 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

This post is so touching. I can just feel your love for your "furbabies".
We have 4 "furbabies".....Yellow Lab, Black Lab, Saint Bernard and a Great Dane. They all bring us so much joy.
Blessings to you,

October 27, 2010 at 11:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 28, 2010 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger ThiftedBliss said...

Jenna. this post took my breath away. Your writing is something to behold. Sarahrachael and Maggie-I too do this-comforting to know I am not alone in this. Karen from CT

October 28, 2010 at 7:03 PM  
Blogger Alisma said...

Jenna, this reminds me of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass in which everybody has an animal companion who is the physical embodiment of their soul. When they're kids, their animals (who are called daemons) change all the time depending on their mood. Around puberty, the animals "settle" as the people settle into their adult personalities. They go everywhere together, are dependent on each other, and love each other like crazy. (It's an awesome trilogy for other reasons, too).

October 28, 2010 at 10:50 PM  
Blogger River said...

Geri and Freki that's all I'm saying

great post !

Denise in TN

November 1, 2010 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Yes. YOu have your guardians with you. You are lucky to have them in a physical form to love, pet and hold onto.
Once, when cycling in the foothills of a New Mexico town, I met a lobo. All I could say was, "You are so beautiful, you are so beautiful." as I looked into its clear eyes and then it turned tail and loped away.
Later that night I met the man who would be my husband. Who knows what form positive energy takes?

November 5, 2010 at 8:50 PM  

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