With the birdhunting season quickly approaching and it being Sunday and all, I thought I would share a “spiritual” thought. To my understanding, there is a fairly common belief that animals do not have souls. A few months ago, Walter Bruning, another contributor to this blog, sent me an intriguing email with pictures showing a local protestant church and a Catholic Church (with a pet cemetery) disputing this very issue through the use of their church billboard signs. Interestingly, the debate got a little intense. Without meaning to offend, I wanted to chime in with my own personal beliefs on this issue.
The late Charles Alexander Eastman, or Ohiyesa by his Sioux name, wrote something about Native American religious beliefs in The Soul of an Indian which I think hits the nail on the head:
Naturally magnanimous and open-minded, we have always preferred to believe that the Spirit of God is not breathed into humans alone, but that the whole created universe shares in the immortal perfection of its Maker.
The elements and majestic forces in nature–lightning, wind, water, fire, and frost– are regarded with awe as spiritual powers, but always secondary and intermediate in character. We believe that spirit pervades all creation and that every creature possesses a soul in some degree, though not necessarily a soul conscious of itself.
My oldest daughter, Emma and Sunny. . . Soul Sisters.
Concerning this very statement, I wrote in my book: Heaven on Earth: Stories of Fly-Fishing, Fun & Faith (soon to be published):
As for recognizing the spirit in animals, all one need do is experience a day afield with a good birddog, when the spirits definitely connect, or catch and release a beautiful trout.
Nothing is more desolate, more sadly happy than to give a dog his final season before losing him. Those last seven months were an exercise in courage, with Briar leading Kay and me all the way. He had been gallant throughout his whole ordeal, making it possible for us to endure what seemed unendurable until we had gone through it, an Indian summer that lasted so long but went so fast.
Those who say a dog has no soul are defining soul differently that I do. Briar’s soul is with me among the hemlocks needle-sharp against flaming sunsets, and will be for as long as I am here. For those of you who have lost a dog, you have my word that this is so.
To sum it up, there is so much more underlying hunting and fishing than simply the pursuit and taking of game. As Ohiyesa described it, all creation shares, in some degree, in the glory of its Maker. All animals, including birddogs, have souls!