I’ve loved animals since I was a kid. I didn’t have siblings around growing up, so I spent my spare time with the animals on our farm, domestic and wild.

My first dog Duke was a troublemaker, always up for a game of ball or chase. He’d let me poke and prod and tease, and hug him so tight he couldn’t breathe. Running around barefoot and dirty, we were fearless together.

The cows in our field would stampede to the fence line, even when a five-year old called for no reason. I’d stare into their big eyes and babble about random things. When I was brave enough to jump the fence, I’d climb trees and call from up high. They were part of my tribe. When I was old enough to understand, I’d cry when they had to go.

One time I accidentally imprinted on a gosling that followed me everywhere, thinking I was his mom. Baby geese take their Mama-bonding seriously. As he got bigger I had to draw the line at the bus stop—because he was determined to go to school. Not cool.

Catching and releasing painted turtles from our pond was the best adventure. Mom had to explain I wasn’t doing them any favours by keeping them at the house in pails of water. Dear turtles, please forgive my idea to write your name on your belly with liquid paper before I released you. Oh God.

Animals are listeners, communicators, thinkers, and feelers. They’re intuitive, instinctual, and wise in ways we can’t understand. Every goose, dog, cow, skunk, raccoon, whale, vulture, and deer has a unique personality and purpose. They are more than the sum of the herd, pack, or litter.

Every animal has a soul.

Perhaps some of these souls come to earth to work for us, or to nourish us and become food—I don’t know. I’m not here to judge. All I know is the winged and furry ones have intelligence, divinity, and a life purpose, just like you and I.

First Nations honoured the souls of the animals they hunted. We have lost that teaching, and lost heart in the process.

Anyone who hasn’t had the chance to be loved by an animal, whose been traumatized by an encounter, or had to distance themselves for other reasons (to raise, eat, or serve meat, etc), I hear you. I also feel for the millions of people in countries where there isn’t enough food to feed the children, let alone the animals.

Before I share Jaiya’s story—

I refuse to apologize for my love of animals, and for choosing the path of a fur-mama.

I’m aware of the judgment toward women who bond with animals (e.g. crazy cat lady). It’s not welcome here.

One expression of love isn’t superior to another.

Whether you teach, farm, supervise, labour, write code, manage, raise kids or animals—you are serving the world your way. I’ve dedicated almost 30 years of my life to counseling children and families and serving our beautiful humanity. Having children is not my destiny—mothering animals is.

Jai and I

Four years ago when my second marriage ended, I was gluing my life and my heart back together. It must have been crazy-glue, because I was punishing myself for falling hard, being impulsive, and for the adrenaline of the past two years. My spirit was cracked, making me want to do nothing but work and hermit.

I’d lost my sparkle and wasn’t even sure I wanted it back—it got me in trouble.

We were teaching in Costa Rica when this little blue-eyed canine trotted up and leaned in for snuggles. Over the week, my friends and I kept meeting up with her bouncy spirit, at outdoor cafes, on the beach, and around the yoga pavilion. She looked too healthy for a street dog; we all thought she had a family.

I dropped to my knees every time we met—I was a goner.

One afternoon while the rest of the house napped, my 8-year old friend Anabel and I saw Jai’s photo pop up on my media feed. It was an alert from a friend’s rescue organization, flagging us she needed a home. She’d had two failed adoptions and was back on the street.

“We know that dog! She needs a home!” Anabel and I did cartwheels on the bed. My old sparkle was awakening and it felt good.

I needed a solid second opinion before acting, so I did what any reasonable person would do—I consulted Anabel. When adopting puppies, always ask an 8-year old for advice.

After a reunion with Jai at the shelter, animal-angel Sara quickly made arrangements. Over the next weeks, Jai and I got to know each other. The vet told me she’d been hospitalized for a month from a snakebite that almost cost her a leg. He called her a “spaz,” something I’d later come to adore. I called her Jaiya, which means victory.

She was wild, silly, vocal and true—kinda like all those disowned parts of myself.

The vet confirmed she had ehrlichia, a South American tick disease (kind of like lyme) that wears these poor pups down. I tried to treat her, but the medications made her violently ill. When the meds wore off, she was back to her bouncy self, ready for Canadian citizenship.

We booked her flight, and she landed to the shock of a snowy Toronto. She tried to make a run for it at the airport—we assumed it was the snow. But I’d learn that no matter where she was, she’d try to Houdini her way out.

Nevertheless, we built a life together. She loved us up, playing, snuggling, swinging her leg open for belly rubs, and annoying her big sister Luna.

We called her Birdie because she flew all over the place.

It was a tough adjustment at first, but Jai brought freedom, flight, and joy back into my days. She needed to be loved, touched, and babied at times, which fulfilled something in me I didn’t know was missing.

She was always chasing something. Once I blinked my eyes and she’d killed a squirrel on a snowy downtown street—while on leash. Bloody nightmare for me, victory for her.

She was a runner, hunter, lover, fighter, spaz, and charmer. She was terrified of brooms, but one day she decided to trust that demon-wand. That day was a victory for us all.

Jai loved everyone. She loved being part of a family. When I was packing up to travel, her little eyes followed my every move.

“I’m not going to leave you, little birdie.”

After a two-week fight for her life, Jaiya left us on September 11th.

She died of severe kidney failure, combined with a number of other problems. In the end, all her organs were shutting down. It was painfully hard, but she gave us so many signs she was ready to transition.

I’m still grieving and some days are tough. We lost so much when she left.

But life and death situations breed miracles.

On a moment’s notice, my niece Cindy got on a plane and flew across the country to help look after Jaiya. She helped make decisions when I hadn’t slept, cleaned up dog-messes, and interpreted vet recommendations. We cried and laughed, and she did tons of energy work with Jai. In her last hours, Jai used all her strength to reach her head into Cindy’s hands and thank her for everything.

Carolyn, one of Jai’s other Mamas, helped arrange Cindy’s emergency visit and supported us through every decision. She cried and hoped and cared from afar, even though she and her kids were grieving too. Near the end, Jai’s tired little body could barely move, but when Carolyn talked to her on speakerphone, Jai swung her little leg open for one last virtual belly rub. She loved all her Mamas.

Step-in Mama Jen looked after Jai during our meditation retreat, allowing me little breaks from care giving. Getting out to teach on the ocean, and meditate on the pinnacle of Mount Maxwell kept me sane. For a few moments I forgot my bedroom was a hospital and my little girl might not make it. My retreat guests showed Jaiya so much kindness and understanding during their time on Salt Spring. I’ll never forget the beautiful experience we all shared.

Love is the Safety Net

We animal lovers are hyper-aware we’ll likely outlive our babies; we take nothing for granted. They give us the gift of not attaching to forever. So, we love them like mad while they’re here.

After I adopted Jai, a friend asked if I was getting a second, younger dog in case something happened to Luna. My answer was yes. It was hard to reveal that clutching inside, but it was true. I thought we had many more years together.

Death is the ultimate reminder that no matter who or what we love, there are no guarantees. All our carefully built safety nets are flawed, because anything can happen.

The first night we came home without Jai, the pain was unbelievable. Cindy and I cried and talked and cried more, nothing separating us except heaps of Kleenex.

In the morning I had a gnawing, dead feeling inside. I tried to push away the daylight, hoping it was a bad dream and she was still alive.

But when I opened my eyes, my first friend in the world, Cindy (who came into my life when I was one year old) was lying across from me.

She was lightly holding my arm, just like when we were little kids.

It was going to be okay.

Love had built a safety net.

Thank you for holding our story,
Love, Tamika

Gratitude: Thank you to everyone at McKenzie Vet Services in Victoria, especially Dr. Helen Rae and Kamala. Jai couldn’t have picked bigger hearts to guide her last day. Ananda and Brenda—I felt you every day. Kristi Corlett—thank you for rolling up your sleeves and journeying—I love your shamanized soul. Coryelle Kramer, animal communicator, you’re a wild treasure. Jonnelle, Wade, Merek and Comrade, Jai loved you so, her second family. Ron D’Amico, thank you for being a lighthouse in the dark. Huge love to friends and family who reached out—I know you’ve had your share of loss. I’m so glad we’re on this earth ride together. xx

Comments

Kaitlin says

Oh Tamika, I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story and your beautiful loving heart. Sending love.
Kaitlin

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Tamika says

Thank you so much, Kaitlin. I feel your embrace of support and comfort—love you xx

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Ginette Demers says

Tamika, this is a loving tribute. I am so sorry for the loss of Jaiya and for the pain you are experiencing. She truly was a special companion, may she rest in peace and light. xo

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Tamika says

Thank you so much for "seeing her," Ginette. So much love to you! xx

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Chris Heikkila says

Tamika so sorry to hear about Jaiya. That dear sweet dog with the brightest eyes. I can still remember her following us all over while on retreat in Costa Rica. There was a reason you came into each others life and I'm glad you had the time to celebrate every moment with her. She was so very lucky to have found someone like you to be her forever person.

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Tamika says

I love hearing stories about Jai! Thank you Chris for sharing your memory. I'm so glad you got to meet her on retreat. Thank you for reaching out—it means so much. xOM

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Reina Tendler says

Blessings to you dear Tamika
I remember Jai, may she rest in peace and her memory bring great comfort and joy..
Much love to you sweet one
Reina

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Tamika says

Love it that you remember her, Reina. The stars aligned for us to be in Nosara at the same moment—you are very special and I love you so.

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Allison says

Tamika, I am very very sorry for the loss of your sweet baby. With tears streaming down my face I honour and feel the absolute LOVE That pours from your heart and from deep in your soul. as a fur mama to 2 senior fur babies, and many that have walked with me before, the depth and breadth of the bond is indescribable and the pain and wound so deep, it seems insurmounatable, but a confirmation that your love was deeper and wider than even that. What a beautiful story and a beautiful tribute to your little Victory. Thank you for sharing, and sending you a big hug from me and my babies to you and Luna. May the Goddess watch over Jaiya as she can bounce and fly higher than ever on her wings of Victory.

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Tamika says

Your words bring sweet tears, Allison. Thank you for the gift of opening your heart up here; it honours Jai and I. We both love you and thank you. xx

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Jena Tryfiak says

Ahhhh so many tears of joy and sadness over here. What a beautiful girl, what a beautiful symbiosis. Bless your heart sweet Jai. And love to you Tamika xo

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Tamika says

I know you understand an animal lovers heart, Jena. Thank you for reaching out in love and support. So many blessings back to you!

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Cathy says

i am so sorry tamika for you loss of another loved one.
but, i am glad to hear luna is still a part of you
i live in calgary now, (long story and willing to share) but had to leave hank behind
my heart is broken and i feel the loss daily. im crying now as i write
but i made a decision and im so much better for it
i hope the pain will lessen. not sure how i will survive when hanks time to pass comes
thanks for sharing and listening
i miss your presence

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Tamika says

It brings me so much comfort to know Hank is still bouncing around out there in the world! It's so hard to leave them, but I believe he absolutely knows you are doing what you need to do. As one of your protectors, he wants you happy and healthy, more than anything. Love transcends time and space. I'm so grateful you shared. You are an amazing fur-mama! xx

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Maggie says

Tamika - this made me cry right out-LOUD!!! <3 A beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul !!! One of the most soulful poochies I have ever met. I am so grateful for and enjoyed my time I spent with Jai Jai y Jai and Luna Tuna Buna so much - they were a HUGE part of my healing<3
Our fun children leave us too soon, but leave behind them paw prints on our hearts that continue to grow.
My heart touches yours and Luna's know that I love u all <3 <3 <3

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Tamika says

Fur-mama, you know this sweet release too well. I honour your spirit-babies and your sweet, deep heart. Jai loved you very much. Always love, Tamika xx

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Lindsay says

I'm so very sorry for your loss. The connection between animals and humans in this way is so deeply profound because it is all based on feelings. They are family members. Sending you love.

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Tamika says

Feeling your love and understanding, Lindsay. Thank you so much for your beautiful words. xo

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Brenda says

OMG thank you for sharing this & so much of your heart. I cried several times as her story melted my heart. I feel she holds a very special & wild piece of my heart.
I'm also feeling inspired & empowered by your unapologetic approach to your life - which I struggle at times to be true to me in mine.
Thank you for your vulnerability and heart.....
I am so grateful for YOU and Jai ....
my cup is full....xoxoxo

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Tamika says

Our wild hearts, empowered and grieving and learning together. Your words mean so much, Brenda. Thank you for being a part of this beautiful journey. xoxo

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Catherine says

Such a beautiful tribute to such a sweet soul and a special connection. Animals are such a gift and it fills my heart that you advocate for, and love them so fiercely. It is so painful to lose one of these treasures. I had tears streaming down my face as a read your heartfelt words and watched that beautiful video. My cat fur-babies came and snuggled me as I cried; they are so intuitive. Sending you huge hugs and so much love. ❤️❤️❤️

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Tamika says

Thank you for loving the animals, Catherine. Thank you for sharing in this experience so fully...you've touched my heart today in so many ways. Love you,

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Brenda McMorrow says

I love you Tamika and hold you deeply in my heart. This is beautiful.

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Tamika says

Vrinda, I feel your love and feel so held. Thank you for all the love you give this world, including the gemstone that is Anandamayi. Your music is healing to all, even Jai. xx

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Coryelle Kramer says

Jai & you are both gifts to this world, and I have immense appreciation that I've gotten to know you both and Luna. The video was magnificent.

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Tamika says

Thank you for your love and devotion to your work, Coryelle. You made our lives (and so many others) so much richer. Everyone needs a little Coryelle in their fur-family! Sharing a link to your work here for anyone looking for an animal communicator. PS- if you're reading this comment-I've been working with Coryelle for many years, in times when I need to get to the bottom of an issue, and it's always an enlightening experience.

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Jay says

Beautiful. What a great little creature Jaiya was.

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Tamika says

Thanks for honouring her, Jay XO

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mandara says

Dear Tamika,
As we approach the day of honouring ancestors, I honour that victorious one named Jai.
much love,
Mandara

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Tamika says

Thank you so much for your kindness and love, Mandara! xOM

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