“Heart Dog” is a term that I first heard 5 years ago, when my beloved “bassador” (basset hound/labrador retriever mix) Mia was diagnosed with lymphoma. She was (and is) my heart dog. It is a concept that has continued to resonate with me as well as with many clients I have had the privilege of knowing. “Heart Animals” are not limited to dogs. Each of us have had that special animal that touches our heart and soul with a connection that pushes us to become a better version of ourselves and transforms us through how they live their lives and how they navigate or embrace their death. Heart animals can be dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, birds, or any other species…they come in all shapes and sizes and personalities. It is challenging to put into words exactly what a heart animal is because each connection is so unique. So many people have strong connections with their companion animals (emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, physically) on different levels. Many individuals can experience difficulty sharing about the nature of this bond out of fear or concern that others will judge them for “being too attached”. Connection is connection, whether that be with a human or an animal. It is about relationship and who we are in relationship with other human beings and with our animals. Having a heart animal in your life is a testament to your connectedness and your willingness and capacity to open your heart.
So, what exactly is a heart animal? A heart animal can be thought of as your furry (or feathery or scaly) “soulmate”. He or she can “read” you (and you, them) in an instant just by looking into your eyes. Your communication is on a level that is known and understood, yet indescribable. He or she is one that changes you…your way of thinking, of being, of even existing. He or she touches your heart in a way that few (or any) humans ever have. He or she sees you through different transitions or challenges in your life…whether that be over a period of weeks, months, or decades. He or she teaches you powerful lessons…lessons that shake up your world and have a long-lasting and far-reaching impact. Heart animals live a life of legacy for you…one in which you feel immense gratitude and that you feel you must pay forward to others.
Here’s one of the most profound things about heart animals. And this will help you if you are currently grieving the loss of your own heart animal. You can have more than one, and each one is different. You see, that is one of the most beautiful legacies that heart animals give us. Yes…their gifts of who they are result in a heartbreaking void when they pass away. However, this same void also deeply opens our hearts with much greater capacity to love others (both human and animal) and learn powerful lessons needed for us to grow. You can and will find lasting beauty and legacy in the brokenness. Finding an enduring connection after your heart animal’s passing is absolutely instrumental to your healing….and will help you if perhaps you invite another heart animal into your life.
Rachel Wright, MSW, LSWAIC, CDP
Veterinary Social Worker
For further reading on this concept, check out the book: Heart Dog: Surviving the Loss of Your Canine Soul Mate by Roxanne Hawn.
The following article is very touching, and also explores opening our hearts to this concept:
Do you have a story about your heart animal you would like to share? We would love to hear it!