By Devin O’Branagan
I have always wondered what a dog’s spiritual beliefs are. In my bestselling novella, Show Dog Sings the Blues, I had an opportunity to explore my own concepts. Told from the perspective of an Australian Shepherd named Talisman, the book tells the tale of a pampered champion show dog mistaken for a cowdog and her day of adventure on a working ranch.
Although primarily a humorous story, there are sections of great poignancy. An exciting scene details Talisman’s decision to protect a baby lamb from hungry coyotes. In this excerpt, two coyotes have cornered Talisman and Baby Lamb in a remote pasture. Talisman stands protectively over the newborn while pondering their fate. The ghost of her “heart person,” Val, appears to help her:
* * *
Val had been fond of telling me that Australian Shepherds didn’t have a give-up-gene. I reminded myself that I had once been the best damn Aussie in the world.
Then I heard the sound that made my blood run cold. The coyote couple did a call out for their pack—their howls summoning the reinforcements that would help them kill Baby Lamb and me. I was overcome by a desire to run away.
Val, I need you.
He returned. “I’m here.”
Tell me what to do. If I leave now, I’ll be okay. If I don’t, we’ll both die.
“Death isn’t the worst thing. Could you live knowing you abandoned her to die alone?”
I thought about it. Does it hurt to die?
“Nature helps. She’s more merciful than she seems.”
Will you stay with me when the time comes?
“I’ll never leave you. I love you.”
I love you too, Val. Forever and ever. You’re my heart person.
I heard the yips, barks, and yowls that were the pack’s answering call. It was on its way.
Val had spent his life on a spiritual journey, and he took me along for the ride. He spent countless hours God-bathing, which was how he described contemplation. I, on the other hand, sun-bathed—it required much less effort. Twice a day at certain times, Val went to his private chapel, chanted his sacred word, and disappeared into some inner space that provided him comfort. I randomly relaxed in the sun. On cloudy days, I still derived comfort from my ritual because I knew the sun was always there whether I could see it or not.
Val developed his spiritual system by studying the great mystics of all ages and distilling their wisdom. I developed mine by smelling things. My nose taught me that everything was unique. No two people, two animals, two plants, or even rocks smelled the same. Did all that uniqueness come from something or nothing? The answer was obvious to me.
I leaned down and smelled Baby Lamb, then I closed my eyes and felt the sun. That was my prayer. That was my hope.
* * *
Spoiler Alert: Neither Talisman nor her young charge are harmed in the telling of this story.
Capturing the nobility that I associate with dogs, this scene is my own personal favorite of all the fiction I have ever written. I could only hope that, in similar circumstances, I would demonstrate the same faith and courage as Talisman.
Show Dog Sings the Blues was nominated by the prestigious Dog Writers Association of America as best humor book of 2011. It is available as a paperback, an eBook, and soon to be released in audio. A portion of sales from all formats is donated to AussieRescue.org
You can find it at Amazon HERE.
I donate autographed copies for animal rescue fundraising events and cooperate with clubs to provide bulk copies for door prizes and auctions. Please contact me at Devin@DevinWrites.com