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Tai Chi NDEs Integrative Medicine End of Life Issues Reflections


Tribute To Hans

Communication across time and space between humans and animals

The dreams and visions began over a year ago. I would be in the midst of a conversation and suddenly I would find myself walking in the meadow with a giant black longhaired dog at my side. Always we would be headed toward the log house, ambling alongside the rushing river, taking in the fragrance of the sage as we crushed it under our feet with each step that we took. The sun shone gently and the smell of spring was in the air. The vision was never so intrusive that it interrupted the conversation; it simply lingered on the edges of my mind. At night, I would frequently have the same dream.

As I thought about the dog of my visions, it occurred to me that it was the reincarnation of Hans. Hans was the German Shepherd puppy that was born to my dog, Gretchen. Gretchen was bred to a champion German Shepherd male both as a small adventure and for a little money making. All of the other puppies sold early on, but Hans stayed with us until he was four months old. During that time he and I became very attached to one another. I would carry him everywhere, much like a Teddy Bear. He clung to my neck as we walked about the house and the back yard. I was devastated when someone finally bought him. Life went on. A couple of years later, I took Gretchen to obedience training at a park in the middle of town, far from our house. On the first day as I got out of the car, a giant German Shepherd came bounding across the field, put his paws on my shoulders and nearly knocked me down as he tried to leap into my arms. It was Hans! The embarrassed owner came running over to us, apologizing for Han’s odd behavior. I laughed amongst my tears and explained how it wasn’t odd behavior at all for the two of us. It was an old habit—he had simply gained 100 lbs since we saw each other last. I never saw Hans after that day, but his memory has been with me ever since. It seemed natural to me that he would have reincarnated as this giant black dog that was haunting my dreams and my waking life.

In June when my husband bought me a paint horse, we thought perhaps the visions would go away, but they simply became more intense. Clearly, it was not the paint horse walking by my side in my visions. It was Hans! I had many trips scheduled for the fall and no way to care for a dog, so I didn’t go looking for the dog in my vision. I figured that if he wanted me he would need to find me. As fall approached and the air began to hint of winter, the visions of Hans and the dreams became even more intense. I found myself telling him to wait until after Christmas when my trips were over. I would look for him then. The dreams only seemed to intensify.

When I returned from the First International Tai Chi for Health conference in Seoul, Korea on December 8, I looked forward to after the holidays and meeting Hans in person. I had a busy two weeks ahead of me with a couple of NDE talks and a visit from most of the family for a week. After I completed the first talk on December 12, I picked up the local liberal newspaper. I did that occasionally, maybe once or twice a year. As I flipped through the paper, there was Hans face looking back at me! He was featured as the “dog of the week” at the local Humane Society. When I saw his face, I knew immediately that it was him. I had a Grand Rounds presentation at the hospital the next day, so I went home to prepare for it, but a good portion of my mind was centered on Hans.

After the talk the next morning, I was scheduled to visit with a friend. Directly after visiting with her, I went to the Humane Society to visit Hans. It was love at first sight—all over again! This time he was the exact giant black dog that I had envisioned in my dreams. He did stand waist high and weighed 130 lbs when they brought him into the Humane Society as a stray dog in October. No wonder I had been dreaming about him so intensely the last six weeks! We spent 30 minutes together that first day. He lay down on his side and just relaxed while I stroked him and talked to him. It was as if to say, “Well, you finally got here. Finally, I can relax.” As I sat with him, I realized that I would need to have Mark meet him before I just arrived home with a 130 lb. dog. When he got up and walked down the hall away from me, I could tell that he had a significant gait problem. The girls who cared for him said that his gait and size did make him a little clumsy making him a poor choice for a family with small children. They referred to him as a “gentle giant” and I couldn’t agree more. Because I my 3 and 6 year old grandsons were coming to visit in 3 days, I said that I couldn’t pick him up until after they left at Christmas, but that I would get him the day after Christmas with my husband’s okay.

I left the Humane Society that day walking on air. Hans and I had found each other again over space and time! I couldn’t refrain from gushing about Hans at a Christmas party that evening. As I glowingly talked about him with our neighbor who is also a vet, he asked me to let him examine Hans before I took him. He explained that sometimes those very large dogs had back problems with nerve degeneration that caused enormous pain, incontinence, and finally the inability to get up. He would not be in his office for four days, but asked me to get an appointment so that he could see Hans before I adopted him. Those were sobering thoughts, but I pushed them aside that evening.

The next morning Mark and I were at the Humane Society when they opened at 10 a.m. He had his first surgical case scheduled for 11 a.m. but took the time for a quick visit before he went to work. As an orthopedic surgeon, he did a quick exam on Hans and determined that he did not have hip or knee problems. He doesn’t do backs in either humans or in animals, so he didn’t do a back exam. We talked with the head of the Humane Society and he agreed to take Hans to the vet on Tuesday when the vet returned from a long weekend. It was standard practice for them to pay for a vet visit if the dog had a questionable health problem. I agreed to pay for any X-rays since that was not a standard part of the visit.

We left as Mark needed to go to work. The next evening, my daughter arrived for a week from Chicago followed by my son, his wife, and the two grandsons the following day. We spent the weekend in Durango before heading out to our ranch in Pagosa Springs for a little “Christmas at the ranch” vacation, especially for the boys. On the way out on Monday, Joany and I stopped at the Humane Society to meet Hans. He was incontinent in his pen while we were there and I was impressed with the amount of waste products a huge dog produces. I asked the girls again if he was house broken and they said that he only had occasional accidents if he had to wait too long or if he was excited. Well, we were there at 10 a.m. sharp again and I just assumed that they hadn’t had time to take him outdoors yet after being in his cage overnight.

We went on to the ranch, but his looming vet visit was very much on my mind. As my medical knowledge, the incontinence episode, and the gait problems began to combine with my intuition, I came to be fairly certain that the news would not be good when Hans was examined by the vet. It was good that I had time to prepare myself because, indeed, the vet visit confirmed my worst fears. He had very significant spinal degeneration with wasting of some muscles and poor rectal tone. The vet’s prediction was that he would die naturally in the next few months, but that he was in significant pain at this time and the compassionate thing to do was to euthanize him now. I agreed with him and so the following day Hans left this world in this incarnation.

Since he died, I have not been having dreams of him nearly as often. I have felt his presence on occasion and have definitely invited him to reincarnate in the near future so that we can spend a whole dog’s lifetime together. I feel certain that he will return to me in the next two to three years, perhaps as a large black dog, but perhaps in another form. I have confidence if we could call to each other across space and time for me to be instrumental in his release from pain, we can call to each other across space and time to have fun together.

I have heard so many people tell me their stories of seeing beloved pets as they were dying or meeting a pet in a pet store or animal shelter that they already “knew.” Now that I have had my own experience of being called by an old friend, I believe those stories at an even deeper level.

Telling stories like this reminds me of some words from Jean Shinoda Bolen that I just love. In Crossing to Avalon, she says, “to bring about a paradigm shift in the culture that will change assumptions and attitudes, a critical number of us have to tell the stories of our personal revelations and transformations.” I believe that stories like this remind us that the human species does not have dominion over the animals but was meant to live in cooperation and union with the other species on this planet. That is one of the attitudes that I think must be changed as we move to a new culture that honors all of the species on this planet. Another assumption that it challenges is that we can’t contact each other across space and time whether that contact is between humans or between humans and another species. I invite you to remember and share your own stories of profound human and animal interconnections. It is one more way to move toward a paradigm shift!


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